Martinator: MotoGP's remorseless, relentless metronome machine


Jorge Martin and Marc Márquez thrilled us at Le Mans, leaving us to wonder what they’ll do next in their fight for the title and the most desired race bike on the planet. And how come MotoGP has served up cliffhangers every weekend since Liberty Media announced its takeover of the championship?

The final double right and Márquez has just snatched second from Bagnaia to chase Martin past the chequered flag

The final double right and Márquez has just snatched second from Bagnaia to chase Martin past the chequered flag


A Desmosedici one-two-three at Le Mans following a Ducati one-two-three at Jerez means that the chatter/vibration problem that had Ducati riders and engineers scratching their heads at Lusail, Portimao and COTA is probably fixed.

Thus the MotoGP status quo has been restored – Ducati back in total control, locking out the top four places in the championship, on its way to a fifth successive constructors’ title and a third successive riders’ crown.

One-make racing isn’t ideal, but if you asked Gigi Dall’Igna what he thinks of the situation the wise old wizard would no doubt reprise Mick Doohan’s words from the 1990s, when a brave journalist asked the teak-tough Aussie what he thought about winning everything and making the racing boring…

“What do you want me to do? Slow down?”

It is of course, everyone else’s job to catch up. Aprilia and KTM are once again nearly there but not quite. As for Honda and Yamaha

There were two remarkable rider performances at Le Mans. The first from Jorge Martin: pole position, sprint win, Grand Prix win and a growing world championship lead. The second from Marc Márquez: 13th on the grid, second in the sprint, second in the Grand Prix and up to third in the championship.

And it just so happens that these two aren’t only competing for the 76th MotoGP crown – they’re also involved in their own championship that offers a very special prize: a set of scarlet leathers for 2025.

There’s no easier track at which to make a mistake than Le Mans, which holds the all-time crash record for a dry weekend: 109 falls on bone-dry asphalt, in 2018! Blame the downhill, negative-camber hairpins and lots of tight, nadgery corners, where there’s only one way to make the difference – by riding over the limit.

Ox 2

Márquez fighting back from the fifth row – he’s overtaken Enea Bastianini and is attacking Aleix Espargaró. Maverick Viñales will be the next victim in his sights

And yet Martin made only one mistake all weekend, in Q2, when he crashed halfway through the first chicane, after grabbing too much throttle between the left/right, so his front tyre wasn’t fully planted when he flicked right.

The rest was 100% pure Martinator – a remorseless, relentless metronome machine.

He led Saturday’s sprint from start to finish and rode a strategic masterclass in Sunday’s GP. Conditions were cooler than Friday and Saturday, enough to have him worried about front-tyre pressure, so when Bagnaia won the battle of the first chicane Martin decided to stay second.

Related article

MotoGP’s new tech rules: good or bad?

MotoGP’s new tech rules: good or bad?

MotoGP’s biggest tech rules shakeup since 2002 has been announced: ride-height and holeshot devices are banned, engine performance and downforce aero are reduced. Lap times will be up to three seconds slower, which will have a knock-on effect for World Superbike rules

By Mat Oxley

At half-distance he was half a second down on the world champion but he wasn’t worried – he wanted to keep his front tyre hot but not too hot and he was also looking after his rear tyre.

At three-quarters distance it was a different story. Bagnaia was struggling in places, so it was time to start prodding and probing. Then came the extra incentive of the news that Márquez had fought his way through to third and was closing…

Martin’s pace increased with a clear track in front of him and that was that. Five wins from the first ten races (two GPs and three sprints), a 38-point lead at championship quarter distance and a typically bold self-analysis.

“Beating Marc Márquez and Pecco Bagnaia is outstanding,” he said. “I’m much stronger than last season – every year I’m a better rider, improving my skills a lot, not only on the racetrack, also my mentality.”

Márquez’s weekend couldn’t have been more different. And the fans were lucky he screwed up Friday and Saturday, just like they were lucky Maverick Viñales screwed up the first corner at COTA (OK, had the first corner screwed up for him).

His epic comebacks in both races – from the fifth row! – and his first double podium with Ducati confirms that the six-time MotoGP king is fully back to his best, because there’s no doubt he would’ve fought for the win in both races if he hadn’t been playing catch up in practice and qualifying, still looking for a base setting for his GP23.

Martin drinks atop the podium at Le Mans

Martin drinks in his first sprint/GP double of 2024


Márquez was all business, just like he had been in his Honda pomp: awesome race-winning speed and a unique ability to see gaps where no one else sees them and to go for it when no one else dares.

He made around thirty overtakes in both races, crowning his weekend with an unreal pass on Bagnaia at the final chicane on the last lap to make it two second places. Who else could come from eight metres back to out-brake the world champion and still hit the apex?

His celebrations after both results – including exaggerated thank-yous to his motorcycle – were more ecstatic than most of his Honda victory celebrations and must’ve been a hard watch for Honda management.

Who else could come from eight metres back to out-brake the world champion and still hit the apex?

Bagnaia suffered from MotoGP’s sprint-race curse: you hit problems in the sprint and you get punished twice – no points on Saturday and no race simulation for Sunday. He definitely wasn’t at his best once his tyres were past their best.

Whatever the details of the year’s fifth GP, Liberty Media management must be knocking back the beta blockers by now. Ever since the company announced its (yet to be approved) purchase of MotoGP last month the racing has been stunning: COTA, Jerez and Le Mans, where the record 297,000 crowd made MotoGP sound more like a World Cup final.

In fact the racing has been better since two thirds of the way through last year’s championship. Why? Because MotoGP riders are geniuses.

When the tyre pressure rule was fully introduced halfway through 2023 there was real concern among riders and engineers that there would be less fighting and less overtaking because riders must run higher front pressures to avoid heavy penalties.

Higher air pressure changes a tyre’s profile, shrinking its contact patch and therefore reducing grip, placing riders on an even higher highwire, an even sharper knife edge, because locking the front tyre during braking and tucking the tyre into corners is a recipe for disaster.

Le Mans 2024 Moto GP

Martin inches ahead at the start of the GP, but Bagnaia won the battle of the first chicane to lead

Red Bull

But not for the world’s most talented motorcycle racers. They’ve taught themselves how to brake with the front tyre locked and skidding – from over 200mph! – and how to flick into corners with the tyre squirming and crabbing across the asphalt. A remarkable demonstration of the human mind and body performing at the very pinnacle of their performance.

Inevitably, stellar rookie Pedro Acosta, who has lit up MotoGP 2024 more than anyone, would have to be bloodied by that knife edge at some point. The 19-year-old has been a joy to watch since he arrived in MotoGP two months ago, dancing around on that highwire with the nonchalance befitting a teenage prodigy.

On Sunday he tripped off the wire for his first crash in a MotoGP race – he locked the front just a smidgen too much entering the downhill Turn 8, moments after setting the fastest lap of the race so far. No one would judge him harshly for the mistake.

At least Fabio Di Giannantonio – whom Acosta had just out-braked – was able to perfectly illustrate the fighter-pilot reactions of MotoGP riders by missing Acosta’s fallen KTM by millimetres.


While the entire grid watches endless replays of the Le Mans weekend – working out what they did right and what they did wrong – the most stressed man in MotoGP right now is probably Dall’Igna, who already knows that the price of building the best bike is having to choose between the super-talents queuing up outside your front door.

In fact Martin thinks Dall’Igna has already made up his mind but either doesn’t know the result or won’t tell.

“I think they have already chosen,” he said. “If they don’t want me, I will give my talent to other people.”

And that is the rub that’s been vexing Dall’Igna – if he doesn’t put Martin in the factory team he will lose him, most likely to Aprilia, which Dall’Igna won’t want. He might (might!) avoid that problem by giving Martin the job and giving Márquez a latest-spec Desmosedici and the same money (which is how he just about kept Martin happy last year).

Who knows? We will find out soon.