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Sepang MotoGP Test Ends With Ducati Again Dominant

The 2024 MotoGP series appears to be picking up where 2023 left off. In other words, it looks like Ducati again has the dominant bikes on the grid.

The first official test of the 2024 season was completed over the past three days at the Sepang Circuit. In the end, the top four lap times were recorded by Ducati machinery with Pecco Bagnaia quickest, followed by Jorge Martin, Enea Bastianini and Alex Marquez.

Several riders recorded times quicker than the official lap record for Sepang. Indeed, it is hard to account for the speed of the new machinery without pointing to improvements in the Michelin tires. No one had previously come close to dipping under a 1:57 lap, but now there are four riders who have done so and Bagnaia was more than 3/10ths under.

Rookie Pedro Acosta (GASGAS), who was quickest at the shakedown test last week, was again impressive as he recorded the 9th quickest lap time.

Among the two Japanese teams that struggled the most last year, Honda appears to have improved more than Yamaha. You can see all of the Day 3 lap times by following this link.

Here is a press release from Ducati Lenovo discussing the successful test by its two riders:

Four Ducatis in total were under the 1:57 mark, with Martín (Pramac Racing Team) second and Alex Márquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP) fourth.

Francesco Bagnaia was the fastest at the end of the first pre-season test of the 2024 MotoGP season. Thanks to a sensational lap time of 1:56.682 (0.809 seconds quicker than the current circuit record, which dates back to last November and bears Bagnaia’s own signature), the Ducati Lenovo Team rider took the lead at the end of the last of three days of test at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

For the rider from Turin, the Sepang test got off to a rocky start with a crash on the first lap due to some wet patches on the track after the rain that had fallen the night before. At the same spot, another rider also crashed shortly afterwards, causing the red flag to be shown. Once the track reopened, Bagnaia, followed by teammate Enea Bastianini, completed a few laps on the Desmosedici GP 23, reacquainting himself with the bike after the winter break before starting work on the development of the 2024 package.

After testing a new engine, different setup configurations, and other updates, Pecco and Enea tested a new fairing and a new exhaust on the second day, generally obtaining positive feedback from all tested items. In confirmation of this, Bastianini finished in the lead on Wednesday, thanks to a fastest lap of 1:57.134, a time below the current circuit record.

Bagnaia, on the other hand, finished the second day in fifth position, opting to do the “time attack” the following day. Apart from the reigning World Champion, Bastianini was also among the only four riders able to break the 1:57 barrier at Sepang. The rider from Rimini finished third with a time of 1:56.915, behind the Ducati of Jorge Martín (Pramac Racing Team) in second place and ahead of the Desmosedici GP 23 of Alex Márquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP) in fourth.

Francesco Bagnaia (#1, Ducati Lenovo Team) – 1st (1:56.682 – 151 total laps)
“I feel really comfortable on the bike. The time I set in my first time attack of the season was fantastic, but this is a test, and the conditions today were perfect. The only thing I’m not completely satisfied with was the sprint race simulation this morning: I had a small problem that slowed me down, but by then, I had started, and I didn’t want to come back into the garage, so I continued to the end. In any case, we showed that we know the potential of this bike. We have improved a lot in just three days. We’re not 100% there yet, but we’re not far off. I would say we are at 80%. In Qatar, we will try different maps, but the program will be more or less the same as in Sepang.

Enea Bastianini (#23, Ducati Lenovo Team) – 3rd (1:56.915 – 142 total laps)
“I’m satisfied with these three days of testing; the balance is positive, and we got off on the right foot from day one. Today, we were also able to be fast in the time attack and set a time of 1:56, something I never thought I would be able to do before coming here. Compared to last year, I improved on the time attack, which was important. This morning, we did a sprint race simulation: the pace was good even though I felt some vibration in the rear. We have had positive feedback from these three days, but now it will be important to try everything again in Qatar to understand how the bike behaves in different conditions and to have more data to compare. In general, the package is already at a good level.The Ducati Lenovo Team riders will be back on track from 19-20 February at the Lusail International Circuit in Qatar for the final pre-season test for the 2024 season.

10 Comments

  1. Mick says:

    I wonder if all this Ducati dominance is really changing sales all that much. People like their Japanese motorcycles and aren’t about to switch. I’ve been thinking that maybe a lot of the popularity of Marquez was simply that he was on a Honda.

    The car guys I know certainly seem to want Ferrari to win F1 like they are supposed to. It seem hard for them to embrace Mercedes as a dominant racing force because they make cars mostly for regular people. Odd that the motorcycle community seems rather the opposite. Honda may have won Dakar a couple of times using a 350 two stroke with active radical combustion, which at least I think is super cool. But the majority of their bikes certainly fall under the sensible shoes category. Ducati? Well, not so much.

    • L. Ron Jeremy says:

      I’ve never considered brand race wins when buying motorcycles over my 40 years of motorcycling. Anyone else?

    • joe b says:

      Or Honda, via Redbull. lets not forget those that are actually winning.

    • Doc Sarvis says:

      I find the Japanese towards the bottom to be quite refreshing.

    • guu says:

      “Honda may have won Dakar a couple of times using a 350 two stroke with active radical combustion, which at least I think is super cool”

      A class win. Not an overall. Still cool. Wish they did something with it.

      Building a brand by racing takes decades. Maybe in the late 1800’s you saw sales the next day, but that hasn’t happened in a long time. Ducatis current success has been in the making since the late 80’s World Superbike races.

  2. Artem says:

    Marquez was not that bad at Ducati. Bagnaia has experience in this team.

  3. dt 175 says:

    there seems to be very little leather on the inside of his upper arms.

  4. L. Ron Jeremy says:

    You gotta acknowledge what pecco did. He seems to be in season form already. Started slow, gathering information and all the first day, not really concerned about times, improved for the second day and then set a new all time lap, just like he handles every race weekend.

    He’s a two time champ and he’s still looked over.

    • Mick says:

      People don’t like change or the passage of time. So for now it’s still Marquez or there is something wrong with the world.

      There is a difference between racers and race fans. The racers accept the current guy for who he has made of himself.

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