until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


MotoGP’s missed a chance to repeat a Rossi trick with new star

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Since his stunning, title-winning rookie Moto3 season in 2021, many comparisons have been made between Pedro Acosta and previous superstars of the sport.

But series promoter Dorna’s announcement that it won’t expand the grid for 2024 ends a chance for Acosta to emulate one of those legends and follow Rossi into a custom-made dream team.

Right now, KTM is in a bit of a sticky situation. It’s seemingly promised Moto2 title contender Acosta a MotoGP seat for 2024, but faces the challenge of fitting five riders into four seats.

Brad Binder isn’t going anywhere from the Red Bull-backed factory team, while 2023 signing Jack Miller is performing strongly alongside him while also appearing to contribute well to development.

In satellite colours, Pol Espargaro has been absent from most of the season at Tech3 Gas Gas due to his severe opening-round injuries, but has stated on the record that KTM has promised commitment to him in the future as he prepares to return to action.


His team-mate, MotoGP rookie and reigning Moto2 world champion Augusto Fernandez, is excelling in his first season too – scoring points consistently and taking an impressive fourth place in the French Grand Prix in May. It would be rather despicable of KTM if it was to discard him so soon – even if this is a marque with a history of ruthless decisions.

It’s all something that could have been avoided had MotoGP granted a relatively small concession to KTM in order to help 19-year-old Acosta follow in the footsteps of Rossi and graduate with his very own team for 2024.

All the way back in 2000, Honda had just signed up another upcoming wunderkind in the form of Rossi, by then already a double world champion in 125cc and 250cc at the age of 21. But, with three factory riders in Repsol Honda colours, it had nowhere to put him alongside Sete Gibernau, Tady Okada and reigning world champion Alex Criville.

Instead, Honda came up with an ideal solution by creating a new one-rider dream team especially for Rossi. It used the recently-retired Mick Doohan’s Australian crew under the mentorship of crew chief Jeremy Burgess and backed not by Repsol but by Italian beer company Peroni Nastro Azzurro,

Rossi took his first premier class win with the squad and went on to win the 2001 championship for it before moving across to the ‘factory’ Repsol Honda team for 2002 and the introduction of the four-stroke era.


In theory that’s the last time a satellite team won a MotoGP crown – even if it was satellite in name only compared to the orange machines in the garage next door.

And it would have been exceedingly easy for KTM to have repeated that structure for Acosta in 2024. He’s got a ready-made team in the form of KTM junior class mastermind Aki Ajo’s squad – an outfit more than capable of stepping up to the premier class at short notice, given both its experience, resources and paddock footprint (especially when combined with KTM’s own resources). It’s already taken Acosta to the 2021 Moto3 title as a rookie and run him in Moto2 since.


There’s also hardly an issue with funding, either. It’s hard to imagine that KTM’s title sponsor Red Bull (in reality more a symbiotic partner than just a financial backer) wouldn’t reach into its pockets to fund the addition of a third bike in slightly different colours, even if it meant forgoing the €2.5million payment that satellite teams traditionally receive from Dorna out of the TV money pot.

There is, of course, an argument that such a thing would be a backhanded way of circumventing the current rule that prevents manufacturers from running more than two bikes in their factory team – but, given Ducati already runs four full-factory 2023-spec machines in factory and Pramac colours, it’s not exactly a hard and fast rule.

Instead, rather bizarrely, it seems, according to comments made lately by series sporting director Carlos Ezpeleta, that Dorna wants to cut the total grid size rather than expand it, with Ezpeleta claiming that the perfect situation for the series is not the 24 bikes of last year but rather just 20 in the future.

That’s a shame because, with KTM desperate not to lose Pedro Acosta’s signature the way it lost Marc Marquez’s to Honda in 2011, it seems that there’s really only one likely outcome to this whole mess – one that means a promising rookie get thrown under the bus to make way for him.

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