until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Acosta's 'mess' laid bare an unacceptable KTM situation

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Pedro Acosta's exit from the French Grand Prix was the first real blot on his MotoGP copybook, and it was mere millimetres from being a major blot at that - as his crashed Gas Gas-badged KTM RC16 only just threaded the needle between Aleix Espargaro and Fabio Di Giannantonio.

It was a fairly archetypical rookie crash to set up his first non-score of the season, 10 starts into his MotoGP career.

"Diggia and Aleix were having a battle in front of me, and maybe coming to [Turn] 8 they were too on the right [side], and they were braking quite early, let's say, to go to the left," Acosta explained.

"And when they realised that they were quite slow, they started to release [the brakes] - and it was the moment that I was coming so fast. 

"In the end, I didn't want to hit Aleix and destroy the race of a guy. I tried to stop the bike, and then I locked the front."

Espargaro - as big a public admirer of Acosta's as there is among his rivals - rebuffed the suggestion he was braking unduly early, and certainly a cursory glance at the incident is an unkind one for Acosta, even if it does at least become somewhat more understandable after a few replays.

And Acosta - whose crash came on lap three while in a third-place battle, leaving him with a feeling that "the potential was really high" and that it was "the first day the whole season that the bike was really competitive to fight for something big" - didn't totally shy away from his responsibility.

He described the situation as a "mess" of his making, and said that having another Le Mans crash after he had crashed out of both of his Moto2 starts there was establishing a "tradition" that was "breaking my balls".

But the exact nature of this error and how perilously close it was to set up a Barcelona grid penalty - those things are at the very worst secondary concerns for KTM, and probably not real concerns at all given its new talisman is learning the ropes. What should annoy the bosses of the parent company Pierer Mobility Group so much more is that, when Acosta did make that overdue rookie mistake, its weekend was ruined.

The other three riders - the trio who all contributed to KTM finishing as the second-best manufacturer in MotoGP last year - did not pick up the slack. And, a quarter of the season in, this is rather unacceptably becoming a regular theme.

Points after five rounds


Binder - 81 pts

Miller - 49 pts

Fernandez - 30 pts


Binder - 67 pts (-14)

Miller - 24 pts (-25)

Fernandez - 13 pts (-17)

Acosta's Tech3 team-mate Augusto Fernandez was the less surprising struggler, his French GP heroics from last year are now a distant memory as he continues to struggle with the RC16 and its new carbon chassis.

There was a set-up change, more in line with what Acosta is running, that dominated his weekend, and some tentatively positive signs, but not really enough to establish a particularly convincing trend of meaningful progress.

But for the works KTMs, it looked like a weekend of regression.

Brad Binder more or less torpedoed his French Grand Prix by crashing three times on Friday. He lamented spending "a lot of time on the back of scooters" and said those scooter riders who were giving him lifts back to the pits "were riding better than I was" - and didn't get to make up for it in Q1, through a combination of an electronics glitch, yellow flags and an error on his only proper lap that counted.

He won't have been last on the grid if he caught a better break, sure. But, for all that misfortune, self-inflicted or otherwise, the evidence that the pace was there to get into Q2 through either of the available ways of doing so is actually shaky at best. Those Q1 laps he lost to yellow flags? They really didn't look like they were going to get him to Q2 anyway.

Binder's weekend was never going to recover from that, and it didn't. For team-mate Jack Miller, there was a much tidier Friday but a sprint in which Acosta very obviously had his number despite overtaking him at the start, and a grand prix in which he sank like a stone before crashing.

"Didn't do anything different, braked at the same spot, was 1km/h faster than the lap before, not the fastest I've gone there," said Miller of the front-lock crash that took him out. This was corroborated by his team, with team manager Francesco Guidotti adamant Miller "had not made a mistake".

But mistake or not, the crash wasn't the problem. It probably cost Miller five to six points in the same race that Acosta felt he could've won. A puzzled Miller admitted it took "all the stars aligning" for him to even once get into that 1m31s range where all the frontrunners operated.

Neither rider shied away from the fact they just weren't very fast on Sunday. Binder, positing that KTM has been consistently finding less grip "every single race" compared to the earlier sessions of the weekend, went as far as to potentially link that to the rubber from new supplier Pirelli being put down by Moto3 and Moto2 (which previously ran on Dunlops). Miller didn't think that was the answer, but couldn't really zero in on a clearer explanation.

"It's a difficult moment for sure," he said.

That it is. And the problem for Miller, Binder and Fernandez is that, as the sample size grows, there are two main explanations for what's going on here, and neither of them are great.

Explanation one is that the 2024 KTM, which has also been battling unwelcome rear chatter issues not unlike Ducati (but perhaps worse), is a less competitive proposition for one reason or another, but one being elevated by a super-talent in Acosta, who is keeping things respectable for the Austrian firm.

Explanation two is that KTM is generally where it was last year, but everyone not named Pedro Acosta is severely underperforming.

If this trend continues for even a handful more races, Pierer Mobility Group bosses - and the rest of the MotoGP paddock - will inevitably gravitate towards one of these two things being the explanation.

And it is clear this would not be an acceptable state of affairs for the riders in question, and certainly not for the people who are signing their checks.

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