Jorge Martin Sets the Tone on Day 1 at COTA

April 12, 2024Ray Milton
MotoGP

Jorge Martin appears to be emerging as the man to beat thus far in 2024. Martin narrowly edged out Maverick Viñales by less than a tenth of a second in practice on day one of the US Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. However, Martin’s pace was record breaking; shattering the lap record by half a second. Marc Marquez also appears to be on the move up the table after finishing P3 in practice after a battle with Reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia.

Despite the early success Martin will need to carry his pace through the weekend. Martin has yet to show up on both Saturday and Sunday to secure maximum points on the weekend. With an 18 point lead over KTM Racing’s Brad Binder, Martin will look to break away from the pack in the points standings. Doing so will put the pressure to perform on the other Ducati riders; especially Francesco Bagnaia. With Martin and Bagnaia battling back and forth last year; they set the tone for 2024. Bagnaia currently sits 23 points behind in the championship race and looks to narrow that gap tomorrow in the Sprint Race.

Of note, rookie Pedro Acosta led the KTM riders finishing P5 in Practice. Brad Binder who sits in second place in the championship finished P14. A far cry from his form thus far this season.

Full Practice Results Below

This weekend at The Circuit of the America the US Grand Prix with take place for the 3rd installment of the 2024 MotoGP season. Thus far we have had two different Grand Prix winners in Francesco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin. Early indications suggest that we will have a fight for the title from the beginning this year. The riders finished the 2023 season in dramatic fashion which Martin received the short end of deal. However, Martin leads the 2024 championship with 60 points after his win in Portugal. Bagnaia currently sits in fourth place.

Located in Austin, Texas, Circuit of the Americas features 20 turns and two long straights. Construction of the 1000-acre facility was completed late in 2012. MotoGP lined up at the track for the first time in 2013. One of the known features of the circuit are its multiple changes in elevation and rough surface which makes tire management an extreme factor. The driving direction is counter clockwise. The circuit has a total of 20 corners with 9 right turns and 11 left turns.

Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas Track
Circuit of the Americas Map; Courtesy of Dorna

MotoAmerica King of the Baggers Joins as Support

MotoAmerica is North America’s premier motorcycle road racing series. Established in 2014, MotoAmerica is home to the AMA Superbike Championship as well as the King Of The Baggers (KotB) championship. The KotB class will be featured as a support class this weekend with MotoGP. The class features touring motorcycles from Harley Davidson and Indian that are heavily modified to meet the demands of road racing. Thirteen riders have entered the competition at COTA. Eight of those are Harley-Davidson Road Glides with five Indian Challengers.

The weekend format is as follows:

Day  Event(s)  
Friday  First practice, Second practice  
Saturday  Third practice, Qualifying One, Qualifying Two, Sprint race  
Sunday  Grand Prix  

Fabio Quartararo has signed a 2 year extension with Yamaha to extend his stay in MotoGP. Quartararo won the MotoGP championship with Yamaha in 2021. He then followed that championship up with a second place finish in 2022. Since those triumphant years Yamaha and Quartararo have struggled with maintaining performance in MotoGP. In 2023, Quartararo finished an unfamiliar 10th. Quartararo spoke on the new approach at Yamaha which has him confident for better results in 2024.

Fabio Quartararo Excited for Contract Extension

Quartararo said, “I am super happy to announce that I am going to continue my adventure in BLUE! Last winter Yamaha proved to me that they have a new approach and a new aggressive mindset. My confidence is high: we will be back at the front together! Six years ago, they gave me the chance to step up to MotoGP, and since then we have achieved great things together. We still have a long way ahead of us to start fighting for victory again. I will work hard, and I am sure that, together, we will achieve our dream once more!

Yamaha made Quartararo the highest paid rider in MotoGP with the deal. He will make a base salary of €12m.

Tim Jarvis Managing Director, Monster Energy Yamaha Motor Racing MotoGP

“We are very pleased that Fabio will remain a Yamaha rider,” he said. “Keeping Fabio as a part of the Factory Team is integral to Yamaha’s MotoGP Project. Fabio is an exceptional talent, a hard worker, a great team player, and he has many competitive years ahead of him. Yamaha Motor Company, Yamaha Motor Racing, and the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team are sparing no effort to ensure a bright future with Fabio by taking a more ‘aggressive approach’ to bike development.

We have already made significant changes to our organization including a new internal management system, recruitment of top expertise within the industry, new external technical partnerships, increased development budget, and an intensified testing program. All these changes are designed to speed up the process for us to return to winning ways.

Fabio has understood this commitment, and this has given him the confidence to make his decision to stay with us for the coming years. Fabio has been with Yamaha since 2019 and with us, the Factory Team, since 2021. In a relatively short time span of just four years, we achieved many successes: 8 wins, 21 podiums, a MotoGP World Title, and a Vice Champion Title.

“We are the first to admit that there is much work to do to get back to the competitive level we were at in 2021 and the first half of 2022. But with Fabio you know he will always put in 100% of his best effort. It also comes natural to him to create harmony and a good atmosphere with all staff members. He can count on the Team’s and Yamaha’s full support every step of the way as we challenge to win more championships together.

The US media conglomerate Liberty Media announced an acquisition of 86% of Dorna. Dorna, a Spanish company has been the long lasting owner of MotoGP since 1992.

We are thrilled to expand our portfolio of leading live sports and entertainment assets with the acquisition of MotoGP,” said Greg Maffei, Liberty Media President and CEO. “MotoGP is a global league with a loyal, enthusiastic fan base, captivating racing and a highly cash flow generative financial profile. Carmelo and his management team have built a great sporting spectacle that we can expand to a wider global audience. The business has significant upside, and we intend to grow the sport for MotoGP fans, teams, commercial partners and our shareholders.”

“This is the perfect next step in the evolution of MotoGP, and we are excited for what this milestone brings to Dorna, the MotoGP paddock and racing fans,” said Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna. “We are proud of the global sport we’ve grown, and this transaction is a testament to the value of the sport today and its growth potential. Liberty has an incredible track record in developing sports assets and we could not wish for a better partner to expand MotoGP’s fanbase around the world.”

From Liberty Media

“Liberty Media will acquire 86% of MotoGP with MotoGP management retaining approximately 14% of their equity in the business. The transaction reflects an enterprise value for MotoGP of €4.2 billion and an equity value of €3.5 billion with the existing debt balance at MotoGP expected to remain in place after close. The equity consideration to sellers is expected to be comprised of approximately 65% cash, 21% in shares of Series C Liberty Formula One common stock (Nasdaq: FWONK) and 14% of retained MotoGP management equity.”

About Liberty Media Corporation

Liberty Media Corporation operates and owns interests in a broad range of media, communications and entertainment businesses. Those businesses are attributed to three tracking stock groups: the Liberty SiriusXM Group, the Formula One Group and the Liberty Live Group. The businesses and assets attributed to the Liberty SiriusXM Group (NASDAQ: LSXMA, LSXMB, LSXMK) include Liberty Media’s interest in SiriusXM. The businesses and assets attributed to the Formula One Group (NASDAQ: FWONA, FWONK) include Liberty Media’s subsidiaries Formula 1 and Quint, and other minority investments. The businesses and assets attributed to the Liberty Live Group (NASDAQ: LLYVA, LLYVK) include Liberty Media’s interest in Live Nation and other minority investments.

Following the Portuguese Grand Prix an investigations Bagnaia and Marquez will avoid further penalty after their incident at the Portuguese Grand Prix. While the riders blame each other for the incident the FIM stewards have deemed the incident a no fault racing incident. “When Marc arrived, he tried to overtake me, but he went wide,” Bagnaia told MotoGP.com. “I just tried to close the line, he tried to close his line, and we collided. So, unluckily, we ended up scoring zero points, and at the next race we have to fight back to close the gap a bit.” I didn’t expect that mistake from Pecco in this race,” Marquez said, “because we were fighting for fifth position.”

It’s clear there is no ownership of blame in this incident. The important outcome is that both riders appear to have emerged from the incident without injury. Other riders weighed in on the incident.

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing)

“I saw it in a replay. For me it’s a racing incident. It’s always a difficult corner to negotiate. But I think Pecco could give a bit more space to Marc in order to avoid the contact.”

Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)

“I kind of could because early on in the race when we went out of Turn 5 those two were absolutely banging each other, coming out of Turn 5 they hit into each other and every time they probably touched three or four times through the acceleration through six, and every time they’re hitting the one on the outside was losing the front and the one on the inside was almost high siding and I was behind trying to obviously go with the group, but I was just waiting for an absolute aeroplane crash in front of me.

There was no love lost there, they’re all pushing hard at the beginning as we all were, but it obviously all boiled over there at the end. It’s a hard place to pass this track, to pass nicely, and it’s unfortunate what happened but that’s racing and I’m sure those boys will be back to fight in Texas.”

Prima Pramac Racing rider Jorge Martin won the Portuguese Grand Prix to bounce back from missing out on extending his Sprint race record yesterday. With the win Martin took over the lead in the riders championship. Coming into the race Francesco Bagnaia led the championship but he failed to score point in the Portuguese Grand Prix after crashing out of the race in an incident with Marc Marquez.

In second place came Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo). Bastianini’s 2024 season has gotten off on a very positive note as he continues to demonstrate that he has the pace to compete for podiums. Last season Bastianini had to sit out as a result of a major injury. By the time he returned to the grid a championship contending run was long over. It is a new year and Bastianini looks like he means business. He currently sits third in the championship behind Brad Binder by 3 points.

Pedro Acosta Continues to Impress

MotoGP rookie, Pedro Acosta continues to impress as the the rook secure his first podium of the 2024 for Red Bull GasGas Tech3. “There is nothing to say about today,” he said. “The team did an amazing work until the end of the race. Today wasn’t the tyre, today wasn’t the arm, today it was just riding. It’s true we need to improve in many areas, we need to improve in qualifying and also in Sprint races, but we have the first podium. Look at these boys! Today is not red Ducati, is red GasGas! There is nothing to say. Thanks to mr. [Stefan] Pierer, to Pit Beirer, to Hervé [Poncharal], to all the guys from the team, to Pol [Trevathan] – my crew chief – to everyone who is working behind this project. Because we knew it was not going to be easy, but we have the first one!

Full Portuguese Grand Prix Results are Below

MotoGP Standings After Portugal

Maverick Viñales dethroned Jorge Martin to become the second Sprint race winner of 2024. Viñales cleared the second place finished by 1 second when the checkered flag flew. The win marks the first win and second podium of the season for Aprilia Racing. “I am truly happy about this first win with Aprilia and the great job the team is doing this weekend,” he said. “I feel good on the bike. We are really in tune and I had a lot of fun in this Sprint Race. This is a very special moment for me. I closed a circle. I knew that sooner or later I would be back to winning – I had absolutely no doubt.”

The battle with Jorge Martin and Marc Marquez was sensational with Marquez getting the better of the “King of Sprints” diving down underneath in turn 5. Martin wouldn’t recover from the move and had to settle for P3 in the race. This season seems to be anyone’s championship as the top three has been mixed up for every podium thus far this season.

Francesco Bagnaia Has an Off and Loses P1

Bagnaia lost out on the podium after a mistake on the down hill into turn 1 with 9 laps to go saw him run wide and relinquish the lead of the race falling down the pecking order.

Bagnaia was able to save the bike but finished outside of the podium points. With the finish Bagnaia still retained his championship points lead by 2 points over Jorge Martin. Brad Binder sits in third despite his off in the Sprint race resulting in a DNF.

The Portugal Sprint Race Results Are Below

In a stark contrast to the beginning of the 2023 season this year Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo) is back, healthy and ready to compete. Bastianini led the field setting a 1m38.057s. He finished ahead of Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) by just over a tenth of a second. Bastianini said
“It had been a while since I last was on top of the timesheets! It was a day of constant improvement: we didn’t start on the right foot, but we kept making progress lap after lap. We continued to work on the set up especially with regards to the issues we encountered in Qatar.  We did really well with the soft tyre, while there’s still work to be done with the medium compound. The track was very dirty this morning, so the important data will be the one from the afternoon session; I feel like I always make the difference on corner entry, and I feel really comfortable with this bike.”

Practice Results From Portugal

Ducati Announced that they have signed Moto2 racing prodigy Fermin Aldeguer for the 2025 MotoGP season. His destination team is yet to be determined but Ducati didn’t want to take any chances on losing out on him to a competitor after Aldeguer has shown promise with his recent race results.

The following statement was released by Ducati

Ducati Corse and Fermin Aldeguer are thrilled to announce their agreement, which will see the Spanish rider move up to MotoGP™ from the Moto2™ category in 2025. Fermin will ride a Desmosedici GP for the next two years, with the option to extend the contract for another two years.

Aged 18, Aldeguer, hailing from La Ñora (Murcia, Spain), made his debut in the World Championship in 2021 directly in the Moto2™ category, and he ended 12th in his debut race at Mugello (Italian GP). In 2022, Fermin completed his first entire season, and last year, he claimed his maiden victory and secured a third-place finish in the riders’ standings with five wins (four consecutive victories in the final four races), seven podium finishes, and three pole positions.

This year, Aldeguer continues to establish himself as one of the key contenders in the Moto2™ World Championship, which commenced recently with the Qatar GP at the Lusail International Circuit.

Luigi Dall’Igna (Ducati Corse General Manager)

“I would like to welcome Fermín to the Ducati family warmly, and we can’t wait to see him riding our Desmosedici GP. I am thrilled with this agreement because Aldeguer is one of the strongest riders in the new generation of MotoGP. Over the last few years, we have followed his evolution; during the last season, he showed incredible speed. He is a very young guy with the potential and characteristics to do well, and we will give him all the technical support to help him grow.”

Fermin Aldeguer

“I’m ecstatic to have this opportunity; thanks to Ducati, I’ll realise the dream I’ve pursued since childhood. The time has arrived to take the big leap and compete with the world’s finest riders, and what’s more, I’ll be doing it with the best bike on the grid. I want to express my gratitude to Ducati, especially to Gigi Dall’Igna, for their faith in me from the beginning of our discussions. I extend my thanks to Luca Boscoscuro for everything we’ve shared and for what lies ahead of us this year.

I’m also grateful to my family, my manager, Héctor Faubel, and everyone who, in one way or another, has contributed to my journey here. Now that I know what the future holds, it’s time to focus solely on this season, where I face a significant challenge in Moto2. I’ll give my all to leave this category with my head held high, aiming for the best possible results before embarking on the new adventure in MotoGP.”

After falling short in the Qatar GP Sprint Race to Jorge Martin, Francesco Bagnaia took the win in the first Grand Prix of the season. The race was delayed due to an issue with Raul Fernandez’s bike on the starting grid. As a result Fernandez had to start the race from the pit lane.

At the start Jorge Martin lost two positions after starting on pole. The advantage was Bagnaia’s after just one lap of racing. Martin had fallen to P3 with Brad Binder making a sensational pass to get ahead in the second sector. Binder’s teammate wasn’t as fortunate. As the pack headed into turn 1 jack miller crashed out of the race. Miller sprang back up immediately and wasn’t injured in the crash. He was forced to retire however ending his race.

Raul Fernandez DNF, Acosta Shows Glimpses of Brilliance

After starting from the pit lane Raul Fernandez made a surprising jump up the pecking order. However, he ended up retiring from the race with 4 laps to go. Paul Acosta showed early promise in his MotoGP main event debut. He made challenges for the top 5 early but his efforts proved to be futile as he cooked his tires early in the race and his pace fell off substantially in the late stages. After reaching as high as a battle for P4 briefly. Acosta had to settle for P9. The experience of the other riders and their tire management in the early stages are really what set them apart from Fernandez falling back.

Mac Marquez Falls Short of the Podium on a Positive Note

Even though Marc Marquez didn’t finish the Qatar GP on the podium. The 8 time champion will take the race weekend in Qatar as a positive. Marquez finished P4 and had formidable pace during the Qatar GP. Likewise his brother and teammate Alex Marquez finished P6. While not ideal the team walked away from this weekend on a positive note. “I had a go at the podium. I wanted to preserve the front tire in order to have a little extra at the end of the race, and almost bridged the gap to Martin,” said Marquez.

“Almost, but it’s good this way. If at the Valencia test they’d told me I would have finished fourth today, I would have signed for it. This has never been one of my favorite circuits so fourth place is a good result. We will analyze the data now: Bagnaia finished three seconds ahead of us and he’s the reigning champion. It’s from him we need to learn to further raise the bar.”

Qatar Grand Prix Result are Below

World Championship Standings After Round 1