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RunningWide’s Crystal Ball for 2024

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Around this same time last year, RunningWide stated that predicting the outcome of even as little as a single motorcycle race is dumb. We then immediately proceeded to do some predicting. And, with three out of four prophecies eventually turning out to be correct, Nostradamus can go right ahead and suck it.

Right then, off to the races. Like last year, we’ll predict World Supersport (WSSP), World Superbike (WSBK), Moto2 and MotoGP championships.

WSSP

In the 600cc class that is no longer really a 600cc class, it will again be the lowly 600 that prevails. Last year, the Ducati V2 Panigale with a cubic capacity of a million won the title. But while the pre-season tests again showed a handful of 955 and 800cc bikes on the front row, we will be cheering on Stefano Manzi, Can Oncu and Glenn van Straalen. All of whom are on 600cc bikes, mind you. Our bet is that, while the V2 Panigale is arguably the faster bike, Manzi is the better, more consistent rider. Also, his Ten Kate Yamaha team is no stranger to winning. Our money is on Manzi.

Manzi, Van Straalen and the Ten Kate Yamaha squad

WSBK

In this year’s World Superbike Championship, all our Christmases have come at once. Out of the ‘big three’ (Bautista, Razgatlioglu and Rea), two have switched manufacturers. The third, reigning champion Alvaro Bautista, sustained a particularly nasty injury in the after-season tests and atop that will have to deal with new weight regulations. Weighing about as much as a pencil drawing of himself, the tiny Spaniard will likely be negatively affected by these new rules (which may as well be known as the ‘fuck this dude specifically amendment’). Meanwhile, his new and much younger teammate Bulega (who, we will keep reminding you, looks exactly like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger) is absolutely flying in all pre-season tests.

In camp BMW, Turkish crowd favourite Toprak Razgatlioglu is getting quite comfortable at his new home. Having ended the Phillip Island tests at the top of the time sheets, his chancy transfer appears to be paying off so far. As of yet the same cannot be said for Jonathan Rea on the Yamaha R1m, but who knows…

Another little something that could turn out to be a big factor in this year’s championship is the return of Andrea “the Maniac” Iannone to racing. After a four year ban, the former MotoGP star has an itch to scratch and a point to prove. Ending testing in fourth place overall, we’ll go ahead and assume that he hasn’t forgotten how to ride a bike just yet.

The seeds for a spectacular season full of surprises have well and truly been sown. Big names have switched seats, rules have changed, newcomers have shown to be blisteringly fast. Not one rider appears to have all the aces in hand. We would not be surprised if the first half of the season turned out to be a very different story to the second half.

Right now it may look as if the championship is Toprak’s to lose. For heaven’s sake though, don’t forget all the other guys that are out there just itching to take that shot. The Lowes brothers could both easily be up there and Petrucci, Gardner, Redding or Aegerter could challenge for wins. Taking the championship is a different thing still though. If we’re feeling ballsy, we’d say Bulega and Iannone have a real shot at this.

Andrea Iannone it is. We want to see that story unfold.

He is back

Moto2

It is going to be a Triumph triple for sure. That much is clear, and that is really all we feel confident in predicting. Anything can happen at all times in Moto2. What if we just say that it is going to be Jake Dixon? It won’t be. It will be a Spaniard. But saying it out loud does feel nice. So there, Jake Dixon will be Moto2 champion of 2024.

MotoGP

In MotoGP, pre-season testing showed over half the grid breaking lap records. Ducati still has the best bike out there and easily retains its dominance by putting eight of them on track once again. The cherry on the cake for us, worshippers of the braap, is that one of them is now being helmed by Marc Marquez. We could talk about that little fact all day, but if you would not yet understand why that is a thoroughly interesting prospect, you probably would not be reading this right now.

Both the Aprilias and the KTMs are out there to occasionally challenge and even beat the Ducatis, but we cannot see the real danger coming from that corner yet. Apart from the fact that Pedro Acosta has just come from Moto2 to climb aboard a GASGAS KTM. The rookie, claimed by some to be God’s gift to motorcycling, has been fast beyond expectation during the first tests. Later sessions see him over a second off the pace though. So has the rookie already been put in his spot, or will we see more of this early brilliance later on in the season? An actual title challenge from any of the above seems unlikely though.

Meanwhile, in a sandbox all the way in the back of the paddock, Honda and Yamaha are sat there eating beetles and blowing spitbubbles. Absolute shambles, not a chance. We mean, Yamaha are in a bad place right now, but Honda? We know for a fact that there is plenty of potential in Mir, Marini and Zarco. Nakagami is probably a nice guy too. But Honda has, not even in MotoGP but across the entire board of motorcycling, just left the chat. Perfectly content fucking about with lawnmowers or whatever. Maddening.

Tinted visors hide tears

So, to business then. Who is left and who has sincerely got a shot at this? Two-time champion Bagnaia has got the best papers and is your safest bet. But he is certainly not unbeatable and the competition from his fellow Ducatistas is increasingly fierce. Jorge Martin and Marco Bezzecchi both were mighty impressive and we will be expecting more of the same this year. Bagnaia’s teammate, Enea Bastianini, is back on form after a pretty bad season last year and should probably not be underestimated.

The real threat has got to be Marc Marquez though. The biggest name in motorcycle racing has finally traded in his failing Honda for a Ducati. If this man can successfully adapt his riding style to suit his new steed, the goal posts will be moved. That is where things will change. We can imagine Marc Marquez and Jorge Martin levelling up. We can see these two breathe fire and swallow razorblades. We find it harder to imagine Bagnaia to consistently do the same if we’re honest.

We predict a mostly three way battle with an Aprilia, Yamaha or KTM thrown in for spice every now and then. In the end, for the first time in decades, an independent rider will triumph. When the dust settles, it will be Marc Marquez that holds the title.

So There…

That concludes our guesswork for this season. We cannot wait to be proved wrong…

Are You Still Here?

If you’re still out here reading this, we might as well point you in the direction of some other interesting things to look out for in 2024.

In Moto3 we will be watching closely as Collin Veijer moves through the ranks to take the title this year. Needs to happen, prepared to lose my voice for days when it actually does.

On the watermelon-sized-cojones side of things, there are two specific things that deserve your attention. The first of which is Michael Dunlop. No pressure, but the man is within reach of becoming the undisputed King of the Mountain. Two wins separate him from being the bloke with the most TT wins ever.

The second has to do with the most successful ever Sidecar TT passenger, Tom Birchall, calling it quits. Tom and brother Ben Birchall have arguably been the ones to beat in Sidecar TT racing during the last decade. For 2024, Ben Birchall will be on the start line again with experienced passenger Kevin Rousseau by his side.

May the cojones be with you gentlemen, we will be watching and cheering you on.

Now go and watch some racing…