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Aussie watch ahead of the 2024 Qatar MotoGP™

Matt Clayton
Wednesday, 6 March 2024

The bikes are back on track this weekend in Doha, with a quartet of Aussies across the MotoGP™, Moto2™ and Moto3™ classes set to start their seasons under lights in the early hours of Monday morning for Australian two-wheel fans.

No, your mind isn’t playing tricks on you – MotoGP™ really was in Doha only a few months ago, and it’s back at the Lusail International Circuit again this weekend to begin the 2024 championship with the Qatar Motorcycle Grand Prix (March 8-10).

Qatar is back to where it typically sits on the world championship calendar – at the top – after extensive renovations to the paddock’s infrastructure saw it scheduled as the second-last race of 2023. It was just four months ago that Fabio Di Giannantonio took a thrilling maiden MotoGP™ win by denying eventual champion and Ducati stablemate Pecco Bagnaia, and while Doha is once again stop one on a 21-race calendar, plenty has changed elsewhere – seven riders, including ‘Diggia’, are in new colours from the ones they raced in last November.

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

It's a big season for Australia’s Jack Miller – out of contract with KTM at the end of it – while a trio of Miller’s compatriots will be looking to get out of the blocks fast in the Moto2™ and Moto3™ categories.

Here’s what we’re watching from Qatar this weekend.

New look, new Jack?

Miller caught the MotoGP™ paddock by surprise when he turned up for pre-season testing clean-shaven – the Australian’s facial hair has ranged from ambitious to ferocious for the past five years – and the 29-year-old will be hoping a changed look goes hand-in-hand with changing fortunes after last season’s first campaign with KTM defied expectations.

After five years riding Ducatis for two different teams, logic suggested it would take time for Miller to play himself in with the Austrian marque; in fact, the opposite occurred, Miller’s stellar first seven rounds (where he scored 79 points and had three podiums across Grands Prix and Sprints) preceding a sharp drop-off, with just 84 points coming across the final 13 events of the year.

KTM were quietly efficient in pre-season running in Malaysia and Qatar, Miller and Brad Binder not setting the timesheets alight, but building a base for the RC16 to launch into a new campaign. Some early success – and success that can be sustained – is Miller’s immediate goal in Qatar, where he finished ninth last November.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

There’ll be more local interest than ever in MotoGP’s feeder classes this year too, with Senna Agius in Moto2™, and Jacob Roulstone joining incumbent Joel Kelso in Moto3™.

Agius is no stranger to the intermediate class – the 18-year-old has made nine stand-in appearances over the past two seasons – and steps up to a full-time ride with the Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP team, with former premier-class rider Darryn Binder as his teammate and an immediate benchmark. There’s high hopes for Agius, who comes in as Moto2™ European Champion and is undoubtedly a name to watch.

The same could be said for Roulstone, the 19-year-old from Wollongong who’ll make his world championship debut in Qatar. Roulstone comes to Moto3™ from the cut-throat Red Bull Rookies Cup, so he won’t be reluctant to get his elbows out; he’s clearly as fast as he is feisty, with veteran Red Bull GasGas Tech3 team boss Herve Poncharal praising him as a “calm and smart boy” after Roulstone closed pre-season testing at Jerez on the edge of the top 10.

Kelso, meanwhile, needs little introduction to Aussie fans, who are still probably drying out and hoarse after cheering him on to a memorable maiden world championship podium at a sodden Phillip Island last October. The 20-year-old pocket rocket has switched to the BOE Motorsports team for 2024 and was fit and firing in pre-season, the KTM clearly the bike to beat this weekend in Doha.

Doha equals Ducati territory

Speaking of the bike to beat … back in the premier class, Ducati comes to Qatar with strength of numbers, massive momentum and history on their side for the season-opener this weekend.

The nature of the 5.38-kilometre layout – a 1km-plus front straight where the bikes hit 347km/h in qualifying last year – plays to the strength of the Bologna bullets, and pre-season testing at the same venue painted a scary picture for the rest, six of the seven full-time Ducati riders in attendance inside the top 10 on the timesheets.

The fastest of that half-dozen? Bagnaia, who smoked the circuit record (the first-ever 1min 50sec lap of the track) and looks stronger than ever ahead of the defence of his back-to-back titles. Ducati riders have won four of the past five Qatar Grands Prix, but it’s their world champion rider who goes into this weekend as the favourite.

Qatar MotoGP™ fast facts
Circuit name/location: Lusail International Circuit, Doha
Length/laps: 5.38km, 22 laps (MotoGP™), 20 laps (Moto2™), 18 laps (Moto3™)
Grands Prix held/debut: 19, 2004
Most successful rider: Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner (four wins apiece)
2023 podium 1st: Fabio Di Giannantonio (Ducati), 2nd: Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati), 3rd: Luca Marini (Ducati)

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