Moto GP 2024: Can Ducati run away with it?

02nd January 2024
Michael Scott

For the 76th time, motorcycle racing’s senior championship starts again. A vista of 18 countries and 22 circuits stretches ahead, with 44 races (counting sprints) running from March 10 to November 17. Two events have question marks: India – contract yet to be confirmed for a second visit to the highly enjoyable Buddh circuit, and Kazakhstan (cancelled in 2023), neither homologation nor contract in place.


Teams and riders are familiar. There’s just one premier-class newcomer: Rookie of the Year title is guaranteed for Pedro Acosta, former Moto3 and fresh Moto2 champion. The teenager’s burden is to be dubbed “the next Marc Marquez”, who won the top-class title at his first attempt.

That was history, however. This is the present. And MotoGP hasn’t quite finished with the old Marc Marquez yet. And vice versa. There seems little doubt that the new season will be dominated by Ducati. The Bologna bikes were so strong last year that they won all but three out of 20 full-length Sunday races. Two went to Aprilia, one to Honda.

The previous year’s Desmo proved as capable of winning as the latest, a factor that the latest recruit to Ducati’s eight-strong army will hope prevails in 2024 –Marc Marquez is to ride a ’23 leftover.

But powerful forces are at work to try to tame the runaway Italian marque. After a full season of behind-the-scenes arguing, rights-holders Dorna managed to wrangle the necessary unanimous agreement from the manufacturers to revise the levelling-up “concessions” system, that helped Ducati to achieve competitive status.


This time the leg-up is for the beleaguered Japanese former class leaders Honda and Yamaha, both enduring a major slump in results.

Yamaha’s 2023 season was without a single win for the first time since 2003, when (funnily enough) then newcomers Ducati took a single win, but Honda (and mainly Valentino Rossi) won every other race. Honda scraped a fluke ‘23 win in America with Alex Rins, but not even Marc Marquez could repeat it, in a season when the RC213V added several injury-marred layers to its evil reputation (Marc had a class-leading 29 crashes, without even competing in every round).

Concessions were introduced early in the new four-stroke era that began in 2002, precisely to stop the two dominant Japanese marques from frightening other manufacturers away. Not only Ducati but also Suzuki and more recently, Aprilia and KTM benefited from the system.


Essentially concessions liberated entrants from the more restrictive of sundry cost-saving measures, most importantly that which bans in-season engine development. Testing by full-time riders was also severely limited. But the old criteria were out of date: for example, Honda’s single freak win in the USA ruled it out of any concessions, even though the marque came a resounding last in the constructors’ championship.

Early attempts by Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta to change the rules were opposed, most vociferously by Ducati. But at the end of the season came the long-awaited announcement that an agreement had been reached.

An ostensibly complex but actually quite simple new system has four tiers – A, B, C and D – allowing different freedoms. The categories are based on the percentage of the maximum possible points in the constructors’ championship. At first, these are taken over the full 2023 season; but after the mid-point of the 2024 season, and at six-monthly intervals thereafter, they are recalculated to keep things up to date.


The maximum possible points for a make is 37 per race (sprint and GP together) so over the 20-race season a total of 740 was possible. In 2023 Ducati scored 700 (94.6 percent). KTM 370 (50 per cent), Aprilia 326 (44.05 per cent), Yamaha 196 (26 per cent) and Honda 185 (25 per cent). This put Ducati into category A, KTM and Aprilia into  C, Yamaha and Honda D.

Categories A to C have one major difference. Ducati will be allowed no wild cards; KTM and Aprilia six. These give factories a chance to race-test new developments. Apart from that, engine development remains frozen, full-time riders may not take part in private tests, and there is only one aero update allowed. Ducati are limited to 170 tyres for the season, the other two get 220,

Honda and Yamaha will have considerable freedom, by comparison. Riders are free to test as much as they like, at any GP circuit rather than only at the three official tests. They can have a maximum of ten engines per rider, against eight – but most importantly engine development is free. Finally, two aero updates, and 260 tyres. If this appears to punish Ducati for success, they were reminded of their own clever manoeuvring to gain concessions in the past, and sporting director Paolo Ciabatti opined that it was for the good of MotoGP for all to be competitive.

Who could disagree?

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

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