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MotoGP Preview: Grand Prix of Qatar

Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

It has been 112 long days since Francesco Bagnaia crossed the finish line in Valencia, to become the 2023 MotoGP world champion. With that recent yet distant memory etched in history, it’s another opportunity to make history, as the 2024 MotoGP season begins this weekend in Qatar.

Image Credits - KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images

The Losail International Circuit is where our riders will draw battle lines, a racetrack that has become modern day classic, and the host of many a battle, the race which is the only night race in the calendar is always a fixture to look forward to.

16 turns go round the circuit, a blend of high and low speed turns string together seamlessly, before leading to the kilometre-long start/finish straight. 

The many successive corners leading to a singular straight is reminiscent of the traditional American racetrack design, of an infield section and the “home straight-away”. Much like the American tracks, no major elevation changes warp the desert track.

21 of the 22 riders return to the gauntlet, the sole departure being Pol Espargaro, replaced by fellow Spaniard, and Moto2 champion Pedro Acosta. 

Heading into the opening round, Ducati are favourites to win based on recent form. Though it is a new season, the Bologna Bullets are expected to carry their advantage into the new season, but whom upon the Italian bikes will lead the charge?

Francesco Bagnaia has made it a theme to prove doubters wrong. The now double MotoGP world champion enters the season as the defending champion, and the self-proclaimed goal of becoming one of the greats, and some would argue he's well on his way, if not already there. 

A few garage doors away is last year's title challenger, also aboard factory machinery, Jorge Martin. The “Pocket rocket” Spaniard tasted the agony of defeat in the season finale, and will be yearning to bounce back. With the sprint format favouring the Spaniard’s blistering pace, he should be regarded as a threat to usurp Bagnaia’s throne.

Perhaps drawing the most attention would be Marc Marquez. The most successful rider on the grid has had a rough string of results since 2020, with 2023 being his worst season to date. This prompted a switch from his longtime home at Honda, to one of Ducati’s customer teams, Gresini. 

Image Credits - Steve Wobser/Getty Images

It should be noted that Marc Marquez will be riding a year old version of the bike, albeit with several updates. While this is to be considered a mechanical disadvantage, he is still Marc Marquez on the bike. One of Grand Prix racing’s all-time greats, it would be greatly irresponsible to count him out.

It is impossible to win a race at the start, much less the entire season. However once the dust settles in the dunes of Losail, a tone will be set, a marker drawn, and a message set by whoever crosses the finish line first.


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