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10 things we learned from the 2024 MotoGP French Grand Prix

The French Grand Prix provided another action-packed chapter of the 2024 MotoGP season, as the protagonists for the title race stood out while several other storylines continued to develop. Here’s what we learned from this year’s Le Mans weekend

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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Jorge Martin’s imperious French Grand Prix weekend came as a decision on who gets the second factory Ducati team MotoGP seat looms. The Pramac rider can do no more to prove himself at this rate, having taken pole with a lap record, won the sprint and emerged victorious in a smartly ridden, nailbiting grand prix at Le Mans. Already feeling like he’s done all he can, Martin’s French GP display will only help his cause – if Ducati hasn’t already made its decision.

And it is a tough one, with Marc Marquez coming from 13th to finish second – twice – at the Le Mans weekend. The eight-time world champion’s adaptation process to the year-old Ducati is complete, he claimed at Le Mans, though a lack of familiarity between team and rider did set them back on Friday with a misstep in set-up. Lesson learned, Marquez again proved that everything is coming together for him and a return to the top step of the podium is only a matter of time.

Reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia endured a mixed weekend, as bike woes in the sprint led to a third DNF of the year. In the grand prix, he could no more than third having led for much of the 27 laps. He is now 38 points down in the championship but his Spanish GP heroics last month should stop any doubters from rearing their heads.

Elsewhere, Le Mans broke the attendance record for MotoGP for a second year in a row, doing so within a 2024 season in which the series is truly back to its best after a few difficult years.

Things should only improve further as full details of the 2027 technical regulations overhaul were revealed pre-French GP.

Here are 10 things we learned from the 2024 French GP.

1. Le Mans win showed true intelligence of Martin

Martin celebrates his French GP win

Martin celebrates his French GP win

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

After crashing out of the lead of the Spanish GP, Martin threw away a chance to go 47 points clear in the standings coming to the French GP.

Late last year as he pushed for a first MotoGP championship, errors came at crucial points for the Pramac rider. Last weekend’s French GP was the time to show he had truly learned from this.

From the off Martin was fast and stunned in qualifying with the only sub-1m30s lap ever at Le Mans. His sprint win looked effortless, but it was his display in the 27-lap grand prix that deserves praise as being arguably the best ride of his career. Losing the lead off the line, Martin was content to sit behind Francesco Bagnaia for 19 laps. He had the pace to pass him whenever he wanted, but he felt staying put was a better bet to see how the race evolved.

The time came on lap 20 for his break, which he failed at on the first attempt. He succeeded next time around at the Dunlop chicane, and though an error at the same place on lap 25 almost exposed him to being repassed, he quickly re-established himself.

Bagnaia was quick through the first two sectors of the track but Martin was better in the crucial third and fourth splits, ensuring his factory Ducati counterpart couldn’t think about a late retaliation. A second grand prix win of the season to add to his three sprint victories has put him 38 points clear in the championship.

For a rider happy to point out how quick he is at the moment, Martin was surprisingly candid as to why he celebrated the way he did afterwards (which included smashing his fist through his Ducati’s screen).

“I know I'm strong but sometimes I have too many doubts. Maybe I don't know how good I am,” he said. "When I crossed the finish line I was like, 'who is the number one? who is the number one?'”

Unquestionably, right now, Jorge Martin is number one.

2. Key errors remain for Bagnaia

Bagnaia's crash at the end of Q2 had consequences for the sprint race

Bagnaia's crash at the end of Q2 had consequences for the sprint race

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Francesco Bagnaia proved a lot of doubters wrong after the Spanish GP, but there is some justification to be critical of the reigning double world champion’s season so far. A needless error in the Portugal sprint denied him a guaranteed win, while a lacklustre American outing did nothing to help.

While his sprint retirement at Le Mans was down to a “dangerous” issue on his second bike, the reason he was riding it in the first place was due to a costly crash at the end of Q2 while he was threatening to beat Martin’s lap record time.

While crashes can happen when on the edge, as Martin proved in Q2 also, the ramifications of it were considerable for Bagnaia. Pointless in the sprint, he crucially lost track time that would ultimately have proved valuable to him in the grand prix. Excellent for the first 19 laps, once Martin was through struggles for pace in the third sector meant mounting another overtake attempt was impossible. To rub salt in the wounds, this also allowed Marc Marquez to carve through into second on the last lap.

Bagnaia knows better than anyone how long a season can be and he was still able to win the last two titles after numerous early-campaign errors. But with Martin at a 26-point-per-round pace (taking into account sprint and GP results under the new format) and Bagnaia only on an 18-point average, he may well find turning the tide much harder than before.

3. Marquez is getting stronger as more Gresini lessons learned

Marquez twice came from 13th on the grid to take podiums at Le Mans

Marquez twice came from 13th on the grid to take podiums at Le Mans

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Marc Marquez declared at the Spanish GP that his adaptation to the Ducati GP23 had finished and he was now looking to bring the bike as close to his riding style as possible. This does mean that there are gaps in knowledge still, as the Le Mans round showed. Gresini tried a set-up direction for both of its riders on Friday that ultimately didn’t work and left Marquez out of the direct Q2 places.

A scary near-miss late in Q1 coupled with some yellow flag disruption meant he failed to exit the session and was left 13th on the grid. Learning from their Friday error, the bike Marquez had under him for the sprint was much more competitive and he rose to second.

Doing the same in a grand prix he “cooked slowly”, Marquez came just 0.446s away from a first win on the bike. His pace at points was better than that of Martin and Bagnaia as he carved through the field, leading to a fairly big ‘what if?’ in regards to qualifying going differently.

What’s more is that he felt “not convinced” he could fight for the win when he did get onto the rear of Martin and Bagnaia on lap 21, but still dug deep to be in a position to snatch second with a fairly late move on the brakes into Turn 9.

Now with back-to-back GP podiums and three sprint rostrums in five rounds, he’s third in the standings and only 40 points behind Martin as he clearly gets stronger.

4. Ducati’s 2025 decision is getting harder

The race for a Ducati factory seat looks to be a duel between Marquez and Martin

The race for a Ducati factory seat looks to be a duel between Marquez and Martin

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Coming into the French GP weekend, Ducati had already outlined a deadline of the Italian GP at the end of this month for when it will make its decision on Bagnaia’s team-mate for 2025.

More than likely, there’s nothing else Enea Bastianini – who was fourth at Le Mans – can do to hold onto his seat at this stage, with it almost certain that either Jorge Martin or Marc Marquez will replace him.

Earlier in the Le Mans weekend, Ducati general manager Gigi Dall’Igna said the riders under consideration would have their histories taken into account – not just what has happened in 2024.

That would put the ball firmly in Marquez’s court, given his six world titles and form that is quickly returning on that GP23. But Martin is one of MotoGP’s best right now and his French GP only served to strengthen his claims.

Marquez simply wants a factory bike, Martin wants to be in a factory team on a factory bike. Can Ducati really risk letting Martin walk away, even if the trade-off is the best rider of the last decade in Marquez? That’s not to then take into account what team partners might want. Martin said over the weekend that he would understand if Ducati chose Marquez over him because he is a ‘marketing beast’.

As Dall’Igna noted at the end of the Le Mans weekend to motogp.com: “For sure [my decision is] more difficult, but this is my job and I have to select the best possible rider for our factory team and also the best possible riders for the other Ducati teams. So, I have something to think about this next week.”

5. Acosta suffers first bitter pill of MotoGP rookie season

Acosta has been a sensation this year but suffered a testing weekend in France

Acosta has been a sensation this year but suffered a testing weekend in France

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Pedro Acosta’s debut season in MotoGP with the Tech3 GasGas team has been nothing short of incredible and there is little doubting that he is the future of the premier class. Learning every time he hits the track, Acosta has for the most part been spared the harder lessons. Save for a costly Q2 crash and bigger off in warm-up at Jerez, Acosta has avoided major mistakes.

Running strongly in the early stages of the French GP, Acosta looked like he would be a factor in the podium battle. But he crashed out at Turn 8 trying to avoid a big collision with Fabio Di Giannantonio and Aleix Espargaro ahead of him.

After plummeting down the order in his first race in Qatar, Acosta said he “must be happy to make mistakes”. Personal expectations have clearly shifted, though, as he cut a dejected figure in his media debrief as he felt the French GP posed the first day in his MotoGP career “for something big”.

6. Hope for Yamaha despite Quartararo’s home heartbreak

Quartararo may have ended in the gravel, but there were signs for optimism for Yamaha

Quartararo may have ended in the gravel, but there were signs for optimism for Yamaha

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

A record French GP crowd probably wasn’t expecting much from 2021 world champion Fabio Quartararo as Yamaha’s rebuilding year continues. But that didn’t stop them throwing their support behind him and he did them proud.

Getting straight into Q2 after Friday practice, Quartararo was running inside the top six in the early stages of the grand prix and was on for at least a top eight when he crashed out at Turn 9 with 10 laps to go. It was a crash he said that was down to being “completely at the limit from lap one” of the M1, but he was nevertheless “happy” with the mental boost fighting at the sharp end gave him.

That performance was encouraging for the future, too, as Yamaha turned the M1 upside down on Sunday morning with a set-up that improved entry grip slightly. Though he still needs to test it at Mugello later this week for confirmation, he believes this will form his base set-up from now on.

“This morning we made a massive change on the bike that the team expected for me to say ‘it’s completely different’ or ‘bad’ or something – they expected me to feel a big difference, but I felt a small difference in a better way,” he said on Sunday. “So we raced with this bike. For me it looks like it’s going to be our new base. And after tomorrow we will have two days of test in Mugello, so we will have also the chance to compare in totally different tracks. But today I think I was riding really, really well and hopefully we can carry on.”

7. Honda outlook remains bleak

Marini's pointless streak continued, as did Honda's struggles

Marini's pointless streak continued, as did Honda's struggles

Photo by: Marc Fleury

Honda also has a private test at Mugello this week where it will put the new concept tested at Jerez a few weeks ago through its paces again. And it really needs to start making big headway with that.

The French GP was another bleak affair for the HRC contingent. Johann Zarco emerged as the best of the bunch in 12th on his LCR-run Honda, the Frenchman typically extracting the most from that bike this season. But he was still 26.8s off the win.

Takaaki Nakagami was 14th, 30s off the win, while Luca Marini’s pointless run continued in 16th – 40s back from Jorge Martin. Joan Mir crashed while running in the points and felt a step forward had been made with the set-up of the bike.

Both Zarco and Marini praised Mir for his ability to find more pace with the Honda as the weekend goes on and get to a reasonable level (by that underwhelming package’s standards). For Marini, he was at a loss to explain why he can have a certain level of pace in practice and not build on that as the race weekend progresses.

8. 2024 title battle already looks set

The top three in Le Mans look set to fight it out for the title

The top three in Le Mans look set to fight it out for the title

Photo by: Marc Fleury

The start to the 2024 season has been box office, with the series easily enjoying some of its best races and most intriguing storylines for a good few years.

And the last fortnight looks to have carved out just how the championship battle will play out across the rest of the year. Though Martin crashed out of the Spanish GP, Bagnaia is convinced the result of the French GP would have been the same in some order at Jerez. Indeed, Martin, Bagnaia and Marquez were a cut above at Le Mans and consistency-wise appear to be leaving the rest behind at this early point of the campaign.

“For me, at the moment, we three are the most complete riders in the championship,” Bagnaia said. “Other riders are fast enough to have a great performance and are able to win races. But I think in terms of speed and consistency – Jorge more – we are the most complete riders and without the crash of Jorge at Jerez, [the Spanish GP top three] was the same result I think, the same guys fighting [as today]. So, I think for the championship it will be more or less like this.”

That is a very salivating prospect indeed.

9. 2027 regulations get riders' nod of approval

The MotoGP regulations are set for an overhaul, as revealed before the French GP

The MotoGP regulations are set for an overhaul, as revealed before the French GP

Photo by: Marc Fleury

Ahead of the French GP, MotoGP unveiled the full framework for its 2027 technical regulation overhaul. The biggest change coming is the move to 850cc engines, with aerodynamics being stripped back and ride height devices being completely banned.

The aim is for the bikes to be made a little bit safer, which in turn keeps the current roster of tracks less dangerous, while road relevance, environmental efficiency, cost control and improved spectacle are all anticipated outcomes of the rules.

A press conference was held at Le Mans featuring representatives from Dorna, the FIM and the teams’ association. Among the discussion points there were the assurance that World Superbike rule tweaks were incoming to maintain bike racing’s current hierarchy, while new manufacturers are expected to be interested in the new regs.

The riders were generally very positive about the changes as they agree it must be done for the betterment of the show. Some, like Marc Marquez and Joan Mir, highlighted that the 2027 bikes will bring more control back to the riders and will allow them to make more of a difference.

There were some grumbles. A few feel the aero cutbacks don’t go far enough, while KTM’s Jack Miller isn’t keen on the new rules around GPS data sharing between teams (which is also meant to benefit TV viewers) as squads should be able to figure out their problems for themselves.

10. Liberty must utilise Claude Michy to boost other races

The crowd was out in force at Le Mans

The crowd was out in force at Le Mans

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Just as Le Mans breaking MotoGP attendance records is becoming a yearly occurrence now, so is Autosport’s praising of French GP promoter Claude Michy. And it’s for good reason.

After the embarrassing false start at the Spanish GP, in which Dorna miscounted the crowd figure there by 100,000, the 2024 French GP did set a new all-time attendance recordA total of 297,471 tickets were sold for the 10-12 May weekend, exceeding last year’s record set at Le Mans of 278,805. Already from Wednesday, the campsites were buzzing with life (and engines being revved to death).

Always one of the best-attended events, Michy’s approach of cost-effective tickets that include camping access and a family-focused approach, is a winning blueprint. As Liberty Media gets set to take over the reins at the end of the year and figure out how to expose MotoGP to more people, it could do a lot worse than hire Michy as a consultant to help promoters boost attendance at all events on the calendar.

MotoGP leaves Le Mans with a tantalising title battle in prospect

MotoGP leaves Le Mans with a tantalising title battle in prospect

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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