Joan Mir (Repsol Honda) in the sandwich of Miguel Oliveira (front) and Raul Fernandez (both Trackhouse Aprilia), behind Augusto Fernandez (GasGas KTM) and Luca Marini (Repsol Honda). The start of the MotoGP on the second weekend in March was quite strange, if not questionable (© HRC Honda).

Puzzling incidents at the MotoGP season opener in Qatar

We recently reported in detail about the 1953 Motorcycle World Championship. At that time, before the fourth round of the German GP, when drivers and officials were inspecting the track together, a decision was made that was extremely regrettable for the spectators. It was raining and it was decided to cancel the 350 cc and 500 cc Grand Prix races on the dangerous Schottenring road course. As a result, the only second real world championship (the German pilots and factories had only been admitted since 1952 as the most successful nation in the last pre-war years) only had 8 instead of 9 rounds in the premier class and only seven in the 350s. Nevertheless, this decision can still be understood today because falls back then very often resulted in death or serious injuries. The following year the GP entourage returned to Solitude near Stuttgart. 71 years later, however, a decision was made at the Qatar Grand Prix that is not so easy to understand.

Marc Marquez (Gresini Ducati) was in a class of his own in the wet at his debut on last year’s Ducati on Friday evening. In the sprint race, the six-time MotoGP world champion fought for the podium until shortly before the end (© Gresini Racing).

No rating for the second training session due to rain

With today’s safety regulations, falls are approximately 80 to 90 percent harmless. Nevertheless, it is not wrong that for several years now, when it starts to rain, people switch to a so-called flag to flag race or training is interrupted if it gets too wet. However, driving with treaded tires in the rain has been completely normal in road racing since its inception. However, it is extremely strange, if not questionable, that the training session, which normally counts towards direct entry into Q2, was completed but not counted accordingly. Due to the onset of rain, the race management decided, after consultation with some pilots, that it would be too dangerous to carry out a classification for qualifying in wet conditions that were occurring for the first time in the desert state. The second training session on Friday, which was only suitable as a test session, became virtually meaningless and the usual tension was gone. It’s actually quite strange that people have always raced for points in the rain, but now suddenly a practice session that would normally count towards qualifying is too dangerous due to the wetness. Rain specialists like Marc Marquez (Gresini Ducati, Repsol Honda until 2023) and Johann Zarco (LCR Honda, last year at Pramac Ducati) demonstrated their skills in FP2 despite switching to their new make and would have easily qualified for Q2 straight away, which was the day Only the exceptional Spanish expert was able to do so in the dry.

Johann Zarco (LCR Honda, back left in the picture) chasing Alex Marquez (Gresini Ducati) was the hardest hit victim of the decision not to allow the second training session to count towards direct entry into Q2. Sixth in FP2 and P10 in FP3 missed by 11 thousandths (© Gresini Racing).

Defeat for Bagnaia in the sprint race – Jorge Martin remains sprint king

While KTM ace Brad Binder made a brilliant start from row two, as he often does, only polesitter Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati) was able to keep the South African behind him at the first corner. This order at the front didn’t change until the finish 11 laps later. Behind them, Bagnaia, Bastianini (both Lenovo factory Ducati), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and Gresini Ducati newcomer Marc Marquez fought for third place. A small mistake cost the eight-time world champion from Catalonia his chance of a podium finish in the fourth-to-last of 11 laps when he was in P4. Sonnyboy Aleix from Granollers, a neighboring town of Montmelo with the Circuito de Cataluña, was able to inflict the first painful defeat of the season on Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia. The Aprilia rider obviously had a lot more grip in the corners than the reigning world champion and so the likeable veteran took third place behind Martin and Binder. The only failure was last year’s winner, Fabio Di Giannantonio (VR46 Ducati), who suffered a painful crash . For sprint specialist Jorge Martin it was already the tenth victory in the Tissot Sprint Race.

As in WorldSBK since 2019, only the first 9 of the sprint race receive points. While Yamaha and Honda had no chance, as was usually the case last year, Ducati, KTM and Aprilia shared the top three places. Rookie Pedro Acosta (GasGas KTM) scored his first two points in eighth place ahead of Aprilia ace Maverick Viñales.

The not very exciting first MotoGP Grand Prix of the season

Just like the day before in the sprint race, there was a clear and safe victory at the start of the race on Sunday. Similar to the last two years in WorldSBK, the spectators got the impression early on that the reigning world champion was controlling the race at will. Whenever necessary, Francesco Bagnaia was able to set a faster lap to keep his pursuers at a distance. The only icing on the cake were the fights for the podium and the strong performance of Pedro Acosta (GasGas KTM) until the second third of the race. But as in the sprint race on Saturday, the trees in the Qatar Grand Prix didn’t grow to the sky for the young talent from Murcia in southeastern Spain, who is not even 20 years old. This was the second time this weekend that Brad Binder pulled the coals out of the fire for KTM. At the same time, the South African also ensured that only Ducati riders were represented in the top six. As feared, the Japanese factories remained virtually toothless and with places 12 in the sprint and 11 in the GP, Quartararo was, as in the previous year, the best of all, but still had a frustrating weekend. Unless something changes in the coming races, reporters will have to be creative to talk about supposedly exciting sport.

The first Moto2 Grand Prix of the season

For the rookies and numerous top drivers it was a weekend to forget. For the reigning Moto3 World Champion Jaume Masia (Pertamina Mandalika GAS UP), Xavi Artigas (KLINT Forward Factory Team) and Ayumu Sasaki (Yamaha VR46 Master Camp), who fell early, the trip to Qatar was a huge disappointment. Only Deniz Öncü on the Red Bull Ajo Kalex scored a tiny point, although the Turk benefited from the tire problems of established drivers such as Tony Arbolino (P20) and Filip Salac in 21st place (both Elf Marc VDS Racing Team). For the same reason, pole sitter Aron Canet, the two Dutchmen van den Goorbergh and Bendsneyder, and Somkiat Chantra ultimately had no chance. A race that is primarily decided by the lack of quality of certain types of tires is certainly not a glory for the manufacturer Pirelli. The Italian company is also the standard supplier for the WSBK, where the Australian round was also overshadowed by tire problems. Due to the lack of tire durability, we had to drive flag do flag, i.e. with a compulsory pit stop halfway through the race. This is very bad advertising for Pirelli and motorcycle racing.

For the Belgian Barry Baltus, the season opener in Qatar brought relief with finally the long-awaited first podium finish of his career. For chassis manufacturer Boscoscuro, the first Grand Prix of the year with 3 drivers in the top four was of course also a huge success against the industry leader Kalex, who is used to success.
Our shot behind the main stand of Losail. It was fitting for a very unsuccessful weekend in the desert state of Qatar, which ironically was even named and honored as the best organizer of the previous year by MotoGP rights holder Dorna and the team union IRTA. A bad joke if you think about the fact that traditionally the lowest number of spectators are reported here and the only place for visitors is the start/finish grandstand.

The first Moto3 Grand Prix of the season

Unsurprisingly, the spectators saw the only really exciting race of the season in the smallest category. With a total of 5 crashes, it was also the Losail Grand Prix with the most crashes, but with a convincing David Alonso (CFMOTO Aspar Team) as the narrow winner, which meant that the national anthem of Colombia could be heard at the winner’s ceremony. The last three places went to Noah Dettwiler (CIP Green Power) from Switzerland ahead of Josh Whatley (GBR, MLav Racing) and Tatchakorn Buasri (THA, Honda Team Asia). The young man from the Alps, who is coached by former world champion Tom Lüthi, and the Englishman may be expected to score their first points in the near future. As in Moto2 after the rise of Pedro Acosta, there will definitely be a new world champion in Moto3 after Jaume Masia’s move to the middle class. In any case, a lot of excitement can be expected in most of the races here, after the first 7 in Qatar were within 1.15 seconds.

What happens next – in two weeks with the Portuguese GP

Instead of preventing WorldSBK from taking place on the same weekend as MotoGP, Dorna and FIM prefer to ensure that there are at most minimal collisions with the Formula 1 calendar. It has been a nuisance for motorcycle racing fans for years, but several experts and insiders explained to us years ago that those responsible for the two motorcycle world championships were basically only interested in making as much profit as possible. We therefore experience the first collision at the European opener with the second round with WSBK in Catalonia and MotoGP on the Algarve coast in Portugal at the same time. It is with mixed feelings that we recommend that racing fans take a trip to Barcelona, although when it comes to production-based motorcycles, the Ducati MotoGP Replica, a motorcycle designed purely for the racetracks, still enjoys clear advantages over the real superbikes. As is so often the case, this could mean that the competition on the long straight of the Circuito de Cataluña has no chance, even against the private Ducatis. In Portugal, two weeks after the Qatar GP, it is hoped that Yamaha and Honda will make rapid progress in order to make the world championship more exciting again.

Our combined calendar of MotoGP and WorldSBK with the Grand Prix of Kazakhstan in red letters, which was once again in question like last year. After the cancellation of the Argentine GP, there could again be a maximum of 20 rounds as in previous years.

Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© MotoGP).