Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati Racing) was the standout figure of the second round of MotoGP in Portugal. The Spaniard made no mistakes on the course on which he was seriously injured in his rookie year in 2020 and traveled back to his neighboring homeland very satisfied. The second to last weekend in March brought a lot of drama and was particularly embarrassing for the reigning world champion Bagnaia, similar to the previous year at the French GP.

Interesting MotoGP weekend at the Autodromo do Algarve

Qualifying had already been a bit of a surprise when both Aleix Espargaro and local hero Miguel Oliveira (both Aprilia) and Fabio di Giannantonio (Ducati) got stuck in Q1. Afterwards, defending champion Francesco Bagnaia didn’t make it to the front row, while his factory team colleague Enea Bastianini even took pole position ahead of Maverick Viñales (Aprilia) and Jorge Martin (Ducati). Gresini Ducati newcomer Marc Marquez was ultimately only on row 3 after a crash and next to him were GasGa’s KTM rookie Pedro Acosta and Fabio Quartararo, which was not to be expected after Yamaha’s rather modest performance at the season opener in Losail (Qatar). With Jack Miller in P5 and Brad Binder two rows behind in starting position 10, the KTM factory team was also represented in the top ten. The latter is extremely feared by the competition for his excellent starts, which is why the starting position before the sprint race promised a lot of excitement.

MotoGP start at the Autodromo do Algarve near the coastal town of Portimão from a spectator’s perspective from the huge main grandstand. At the top left in the background is the so-called VIP tower, around which curve five leads, in which an incident occurred during the second MotoGP round of the 2024 season on Sunday that caused a lot of excitement.

First podium for Ducati newcomer Marc Marquez in the sprint race

The fans of number 93 will definitely have marked their bright colors on the Saturday afternoon of March 23, 2024. For the 6-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez, after his risky switch from the glorious Repsol Honda factory team to the more modest Gresini Ducati customer team with last year’s machines, it was probably the redeeming experience of the still young season and, above all, confirmation of its correctness. From eighth on the grid, the exceptional talent only needed a few corners until he was already involved in the fight for the podium behind Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM), “Pecco” Bagnaia (Lenovo Ducati) and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia). On this route he had already overtaken pole sitter Bastianini, Jorgen Martin, as well as his brother Alex (all Ducati) and shooting star Pedro Acosta (GasGas KTM).

Brad Binder (left) and his Red Bull KTM teammate Jack Miller, who has been new since 2023. While the Australian was briefly in the lead after his debacle in Losail, only to then fall back to 5th position, things didn’t go so well for the South African in the sprint race. After just 3 laps, the race was already over for the second in the Qatar GP due to a crash (© Red Bull KTM Racing).

Typical Marquez action in an unexpected place

Shortly before the middle of the race, which only lasted 12 laps, Marc fell back to fourth position for a few laps. When Ducati brand colleague Bagnaia made a serious mistake after the last third, Marquez struck. After getting past the reigning world champion, Marc stalked sprint king Jorge Martin. He then chose turn five, of all places, where he had crashed in qualifying that morning, in order to pass the Pramac driver. It was only a tiny gap that opened up briefly, but the brief moment was enough for the 6-time world champion. Without colliding with the Pramac Ducati rider, he miraculously managed to get past him on the inside and achieved his first career podium on the Ducati behind Viñales and ahead of Martin. Francesco Bagnaia had to settle for fourth place and lost important points and the virtual podium in the sprint race. The day after, however, things got even worse for the Italian.

MotoGP start from a deeper perspective with first and foremost Enea Bastianini (23, Ducati), Maverick Viñales (No. 12, Aprilia) and Jorge Martin (89, Ducati). The 43 belongs to Jack Miller and the 31 to Pedro Acosta (both KTM).

Marquez gave the lie to the KTM Motorsport director

Pit Beirer is not necessarily seen in the paddock as a gifted strategist or even a real expert on MotoGP and, to his dismay, he ventured too far out of the window before the start of the season. Shortly before the first round in Qatar, the former motocross rider with at least one runner-up world championship title in 1999 in 250 cc claimed that Marc Marquez would still need some time before he could keep up with the best Ducati riders and would initially be comfortable with the role of challenger have to be content. But after just two races in the desert state, the Catalan proved the lie to the KTM motorsport director when, with his second place in the Tissot Sprint Race, he was already the best of his brand in the third race for Gresini Ducati. Beirer’s protégés, on the other hand, were only able to shine partially, with the Australian Miller having the better end this time after he remained without points in Qatar, which affected the Red Bull KTM factory team. Rookie Pedro Acosta was able to achieve a seventh place, while the other two KTM disappointed hopes in the sprint race.

Exceptional talent Marc Marquez (93, Gresini Ducati) in a fight with Brad Binder (33, Red Bull KTM). Two of the undisputed most spectacular pilots in the premier class, who are known for not giving an inch away. For the Spaniard, 2024 will be the first season since the pandemic in which he is really competitive mechanically. The man with number 33, on the other hand, was eliminated from the sprint, as so often happens, due to a fall.

The dramatic race on Sunday over the full distance

As if Alfred Hitchcock had directed it, there was a lot going on behind the Spaniard despite Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati) winning from start to finish. Although his opponents had little chance of winning the race just a few laps after the start, at least what was happening in the positions behind the Spaniard offered a lot of excitement. Like the day before, Marc Marquez was one of the main actors. As on Saturday in the sprint race, he only needed one lap from starting position eight before he was involved in the podium battle again. Ahead of him were only Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati), Aprilia ace Maverick Viñales and the resurgent Lenovo Ducati factory rider Enea Bastianini, as well as his teammate Bagnaia. His pursuers at this point were Miller, Acosta, Binder, Fabio Quartararo and his new Yamaha teammate Alex Rins. Like Johann Zarco (LCR Honda), Binder and Fabio Di Giannantonio (VR46 Ducati), he fell the day before, but this time he remained seated.

The three main actors of the first two thirds of the 2024 Portuguese Grand Prix with Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati), Maverick Viñales (Aprilia) and Enea Bastianini (Lenovo Ducati). The man with number 89 was untouchable that day and drove flawlessly towards his first GP victory of the year, while his Spanish compatriot with number 12 was slowed down by a technical problem.

Overzealous action costs Bagnaia the World Championship lead

While Marc Marquez had been overtaken by the convincing rookie Pedro Acosta, Bagnaia also suffered the same fate on the twenty-first of 25 laps. This seemed to throw the defending champion a little out of rhythm and of course the Gresini Ducati newcomer, whose brother and teammate Alex had already crashed eight rounds before the end, saw his chance. Once again it was turn 5 at the VIP Tower where Marc saw a gap and passed “Pecco”, unsurprisingly going a little wide and returning to the ideal line. There was a serious collision with Bagnaia, who didn’t want to give in and tried a counterattack inside the Catalan, but it couldn’t work. Both fell and, like Marquez, practically all observers said it was a mistake on the part of the Italian. Similar to the previous year at Le Mans, when he brought himself and Maverick Viñales down with a crazy maneuver, Francesco Bagnaia again lacked insight and denied any guilt and even accused Marc Marquez in an interview. He took it surprisingly calmly and, despite the failure, was happy that he was getting along better and better with last year’s private Ducati.

Turn five meant the end of a duel between two new brand colleagues, as well as the loss of the lead in the intermediate classification for the man in red. Not for the first time, he stubbornly refused to see the mistake in himself, even though almost all commentators and experts contradicted him .

The tops and flops of the first two rounds in MotoGP

In addition to the outstanding winner Jorge Martin, Enea Bastianini, less than a second behind the Spaniard, and rookie Pedro Acosta were among the winners of the Portuguese Grand Prix. In addition, Red Bull KTM teammates Binder and Miller, who were ranked directly behind, as well as Fabio Quartararo on the still inferior Yamaha. However, Marco Bezzecchi (VR46 Ducati), Aleix Espargaró and local hero Miguel Oliveira (both Aprilia) were slightly disappointed again. Just like Fabio Di Giannantonio, they were in the top 10, but a little more was expected of them in advance. While of the pilots who fell, only Marc Marquez and Maverick Viñales (a technical problem led to his crash) had a credible excuse, of course the flops at the Autodromo do Algarve included those who fell, especially Bagnaia. While Joan Mir probably made the most of the Honda’s current potential with 12th place, only LCR privateer Johan Zarco made it into the points apart from the Spaniard. Luca Marini, on the other hand, only finished seventeenth behind Marc Marquez, who continued riding after his crash, on his former Repsol Honda. Only Pramac Ducati’s new signing Franco Morbidelli was even further behind and is likely to lose his place again next year.

Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) finished in the top ten twice after P11 in the Qatar Grand Prix at the Autodromo do Algarve. The fast Frenchman and his new teammate Alex Rins were unlucky with the weather on the Monday after the Portuguese GP, when a test day was actually planned, but was made almost impossible by the poor conditions (© Monster Energy Yamaha).

Intermediate standings in the World Cup with few surprises

Of course, it is currently far too early to make predictions after only two of the 21 planned rounds. But you can definitely say that Pedro Acosta is worth every cent he earns from KTM for his work with GasGas KTM. Real miracles are expected from him in the near future and perhaps this is a good thing for the new World Cup leader. Jorge Martin was the only one of all MotoGP pilots to always be in the top three in all four races and he also won a sprint and a Grand Prix. However, none of this can be counted among the surprises of the still young season, as the fast Spaniard had already lost the title to Bagnaia just before the finish line last year. However, no one expected that the latter would fall behind his Lenovo Ducati teammate Bastianini early on in the intermediate rankings. Nobody could have expected his return to the absolute top after his disastrous first season in the Reds’ factory team due to a serious injury at the start of the season. This is perhaps the only real surprise of the still young 2024 season.

After only two rounds, things are still looking sobering for the Japanese teams despite their discounts under the new concession regulations. With Alex Marquez, Marco Bezzechi, third in the World Championships from last year, and Fabio Di Giannantonio, three Ducati riders are even behind Quartararo on the Yamaha.

What happens next after the cancellation of the Argentina Grand Prix

Aprilia ace Aleix Espargaro is not yet behind despite four top ten results in a row, but the longest-serving pilot in the paddock is still expected to improve if he doesn’t want to run the risk of losing his place in the Italian company’s factory team. Similar to “Jack Ass” Miller at KTM, who since he started MotoGP still has to prove the necessary consistency that is needed for the title fight. In Texas, Alex Rins would actually be one of the top favorites alongside Marc Marquez and Enea Bastianini. But the still ailing Catalan has still not recovered from his leg injury from the previous year and on the factory Yamaha, which is new to him and currently still not very competitive, a triumph for “La Giraffa”, as many compatriots call him because of his special riding style, would be amount to a sensation. He won on the Honda last year, but that feat will be difficult to repeat. Things continue in Austin after the early cancellation of the Argentine Grand Prix and, alongside Bagnaia, Miller can also expect a top spot for the third round of this year’s championship. As a seven-time winner of the US GP in Texas, as well as twice in Indianapolis and once in Laguna Seca, Marc Marquez is the absolute top favorite,

Our combined calendar of MotoGP and WorldSBK with another shaky candidate in red after the Kazakhstan GP was canceled last year. After the second round in Portimão (Portugal), there will unfortunately be further overlaps in the summer and autumn. Planning has never been the strength of FIM and Dorna, but according to rumors the latter will soon be taken over by the rights holder of Formula 1, which means fans can hope for something better.

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