Marc Marquez makes Ducati MotoGP debut - First look

Just two days after the end of 2023, 2024 has begun for MotoGP, and we can finally get our eyes on Marc Marquez riding a Ducati MotoGP bike

Marc Marquez, 2023 MotoGP Valencia Test. - Gold and Goose

The one-day Valencia MotoGP test takes place today, which means Marc Marquez gets to make his much anticipated Ducati debut.

It has been the most anticipated move in motorcycle racing since Valentino Rossi replaced Casey Stoner in the factory Ducati team in 2011, albeit Marc Marquez’ move to the satellite Gresini Ducati team is in the opposite direction, as Marquez goes from a difficult-to-manage and hard-to-ride Honda to the relative serenity of Ducati’s well-developed aerodynamics, linear power delivery, and wide working range.

Marquez’ Gresini debut got off to a slightly later start than many maybe hoped, as cold weather and a threat of rain kept all of the riders testing today in the garage for the first minutes after the pit lane opened at 10:00 local time.

Nonetheless, Marquez was eventually able to get out on track, as you can see from the photos dotted about this article.

Marquez was able to top the times briefly, and somewhat ominously, with a 1:29.424 being his fastest time of the day. In the end, he was fourth fastest, 0.171 seconds slower than the fastest time of the day overall. One notable omission from Marquez' set up that was noted by former 500cc race winner and current MotoGP world feed analyst Simon Crafar was the new Ducati start device that debuted on the bikes of the factory Ducati team and Pramac's Jorge Martin at the Austrian Grand Prix in the summer.

That was set by Aprilia's Maverick Vinales at a 1:29.253, 0.322 seconds slower than his pole position time from last weekend's Valencia Grand Prix (meaning Marquez was, relatively fittingly, 0.493 seconds off last weekend's pole time).

Brad Binder was second fastest. He and Red Bull KTM teammate Jack Miller both tried a new fairing from KTM today, which was painted in a dazzle camo to protect its details from the prying eyes of KTM's competition, but it was clearly an innovative solution, with slot gaps extending down the side of the fairing from the bottom plane of the side wing. In any case, Binder's fastest lap was set on his 2023 bike, the one he should have won with on Sunday.

Marco Bezzecchi rounded out the top three, which meant he was the fastest Ducati rider. Of course, Bezzecchi inherits the bike that finished first and second in the 2023 World Championship, and which won a total of 13 Grands Prix and 13 Sprints this year, for 2024, but unlike Marquez the Italian doesn't have to adapt to Ducati's systems.

Raul Fernandez was fifth, despite it being currently uncertain - or at least unofficial - who will own the team that has been known as RNF until now in 2024. It was a repeat of his Sunday result, and a positive start to Fernandez' third season in MotoGP.

Alex Marquez was sixth fastest, and reported to the MotoGP world feed that he was surprised by the step between the Ducati Desmosedici GP22 that he's ridden in 2023, and the GP23 that he will ride in 2024. This was something echoed by the VR46 riders - the aforementioned Bezzecchi and new signing Fabio Di Giannantonio, who finished in seventh.

Enea Bastianini was eighth-fastest on the GP24 Ducati - the fastest of the new bikes from Bologna. Davide Tardozzi told the MotoGP world feed that the only real difference between the GP23 and the bike tested by Bastianini, Francesco Bagnaia, Jorge Martin, and Franco Morbidelli was a change in engine specification. Certainly, there was nothing visible on the surface to tell the '23 and '24 apart, but the factory team were nice enough to leave the new bike in unpainted carbon. Bagnaia, though, who finished the day in 11th, did not seem totally happy with the new bike, and seemed to complain of rear grip issues. Ducati has of course tried to find more power for 2024, but perhaps it needs to smooth out its delivery character over the next three months before the Sepang test next February.

Jack Miller and Luca Marini rounded out the top 10, the Italian in particular having an encouraging start to his life as a factory Honda rider. Reports from both LCR Honda team manager Lucio Cecchinello and Repsol Honda boss Alberto Puig suggested that the initial impression of the 2024 RC213V has been positive. Marini, in fact, didn't even bother with a 2023 bike, and was first out on track in the morning with the '24 machine.

Aside from Honda, Yamaha is the manufacturer with the most ground to make up in 2024, but the frustration displayed by Fabio Quartararo at the end of the day while riding the 2024 prototype suggested there is still some work to be done to make the Frenchman happy next season. Quartararo finished the test in 12th place, while his new teammate, Alex Rins, was 19th and Yamaha test rider Cal Crutchlow was 20th.

Pedro Acosta ended his first day as a MotoGP rider in 18th place. The Spaniard seemingly didn't take too long to warm up to premier class machinery in the form of the KTM RC16. Almost every time there was a shot of the 2023 Moto2 World Champion in the pits talking with crew chief Paul Trevathan he seemed to be expressing his feeling with some form of expletive. There is much anticipation around the young #31 (that being his third number in GP racing in what will be his fourth season in the World Championship), and that was almost immediately justified by the below reverse angle of a slide through Valencia's famous turn 13.

Aleix Espargaro did not finish the test. He completed 17 laps before deciding the knee he injured in Qatar was too painful.