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Aussie watch ahead of the 2024 Catalunya MotoGP™

Matt Clayton
Thursday, 23 May 2024

After MotoGP™ classics at Jerez and Le Mans, round six of the season in Barcelona arrives with plenty of anticipation, and offers a bounce-back chance for several of our Aussie chargers.

Barcelona, you’ve got a lot to live up to. It’s not because the Spanish city doesn’t live up to expectations in spring, mind you; it’s because this weekend’s Grand Prix of Catalunya (May 24-26) comes hot on the heels of Spain and France, which produced two of the more compelling MotoGP™ Sundays we’ve seen in a long, long time.

It’s a hard act to follow, but the circuit on the outskirts of one of Europe’s signature spots at least gets to reclaim its regular place on the calendar, last year’s race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya taking place in September as round 11 of the season. The 4.66km layout has produced many a memorable last lap across nearly two decades on the schedule, and the way this season has already played out, you’d almost put your house on another final-sector decider this Sunday.

The Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix 2024 returns to Phillip Island on October 18-20, 2024. Register your interest for all the latest ticket information.

Jorge Martin flew in France – the Pramac Ducati rider snared pole with a Le Mans circuit record, then won the Sprint and Grand Prix proper – and has a hefty 38-point lead coming into this weekend, which ensures he’ll stay P1 in the standings no matter what happens in round six.

That’s a given, but this week’s talking points are more a matter of debate – so here’s our take.

Miller looks for silver linings

You don’t need us to tell you that 2023 has been really, really tough for Jack Miller, the KTM rider sitting in 13th place in the MotoGP™ standings with just 24 points across Sprints and Grands Prix this season. He’s not lost his sense of humour or search for optimism, though; asked about his pace in France before he crashed, he quipped: “To try to get one 31 [lap time of 1min 31secs] – I think I did one 31.9, and literally in FP3 I felt like I could ride around smoking a cigarette doing that …”.

Good for morale (if bad for your lungs, Jack) – but it’s points the Australian desperately needs, and pronto. He snared two for eighth place in the Le Mans Sprint, but that was as good as it got. “I’m being an open book this year and trying to do everything I can,” he said, adding: “It’ll turn, it's just a matter of when.”

Miller’s Catalan GP CV features a podium (for third from a second-place start) in 2021, a pair of fifth-place finishes (2019 and 2020) and an eighth-place result last year from 12th on the grid. Given how 2024 has started, a repeat of that would constitute progress – and while you sense he wouldn’t sign up for that permanently, he might for this Sunday.

Agius good, but wants better

It’s always a good sign when a young rider sets a new benchmark but immediately mentions the way to achieve more; that was Senna Agius after the French Grand Prix, where the 18-year-old took his best Moto2™ result yet with 13th, from his first top-10 qualifying effort (eighth). “We lack a certain rhythm, so we’ll attack again in Barcelona with some changes,” he said ahead of his return to the circuit where he broke his hand in a practice crash in the European Moto2 championship a year ago.

Joel Kelso didn’t feel the best in France a fortnight ago – the 20-year-old Moto3™ rider battled sickness off track and his opponents on it as he finished a season-worst 13th, but his production didn’t lead to penalty as he stayed fifth in the ultra-competitive entry-level championship standings. Last year, Kelso was 18th in the Catalunya race before being disqualified weeks after the event for his then-team using oil outside of the category’s technical specifications.

Compatriot Jacob Roulstone, meanwhile, continued his remarkably consistent debut season with 12th in France, the GasGas Tech3 rider finishing all five Grands Prix between eighth and 12th so far to sit 13th in the standings, and third amongst rookies. “Heaps of experience gained today,” he commented after Le Mans, with that high-speed education set to expand this weekend.

Arise, Aleix

Update (23 May): Aleix Espargaro has announced his retirement at the end of the 2024 season. Read More.

Will he, or won’t he? Aleix Espargaro has openly pondered his future in MotoGP™ for a while now, and while the cycling nut is as fit as ever at 34 and fast enough to sit inside the top eight in the standings for a fourth straight season, he’ll inevitably be asked about his plans at his beloved Montmelo, where he’s raced in the world championship since – yes, really – 2005.

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – a stone’s throw from where Aleix and brother Pol grew up in nearby Granollers – has been the site of embarrassment and atonement for the Spaniard in recent years; in 2022, he squandered second place by celebrating one lap too early before realising and continuing on to fifth, while last year he was in a league of his own, winning the Sprint and Grand Prix in style.

Last year’s race redemption came as part of an Aprilia 1-2 with Maverick Vinales, and if there was a race-bike-rider combination to deny Ducati a third-straight podium clean sweep, this is it.

Catalunya MotoGP™ fast facts
Circuit name/location: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain
Length/laps: 4.66km, 24 laps (MotoGP™), 21 laps (Moto2™), 18 laps (Moto3™)
Grands Prix held/debut: 28, 1996
Most successful rider: Valentino Rossi (six wins)
2023 podium 1st: Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), 2nd: Maverick Vinales (Aprilia), 3rd: Jorge Martin (Ducati)

The 2024 Catalunya Motorcycle Grand Prix will be available to watch live on Foxtel and Kayo. See our What time does the 2024 Catalunya MotoGP™ start for Australians? article for timings.