until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


MotoGP's most-hyped rookie since Marquez already looks worth the buzz

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

"So, how long will it take you to fight for the championship?"

The opening question to Pedro Acosta in his post-Valencia test media debrief encapsulated the sky-high level of expectation for the young Spaniard's nascent MotoGP career.

The answer encapsulated something, too.

"I hope not too long! I hope not too long."

You can interpret this as undue brashness from a 19-year-old debutant who'd just placed 18th in the official test, but that would be an uncharitable interpretation - also because the answer was firmly tongue-in-cheek.

But the serious part of Acosta's response still drove home a truth that was known ahead of his MotoGP test debut and wasn't changed by it: this is a rider who has won virtually everything on his path here, and sooner or later he expects, and demands of himself, for that to happen in MotoGP, too.

"We are not going to talk about the championship, because it's stupid after one day of testing," he said, before adding: "I'm not going to talk about me, I'm going to talk about the bike."

No buyer's remorse when it comes to the Gas Gas-badged KTM RC16. No, sir.

"I'm going to be so competitive, I don't know if it's next year, I don't know the if it's the next [after that] but I'm going to be so competitive so soon.

"The bike, you cannot imagine how many people are working on it, for this. The bike is going to be so fast so soon."


The bike is already pretty fast - both Brad Binder and Jack Miller fought for victory at Valencia (either arguably should've won), and Binder was second-fastest as the lead KTM in the test.

Acosta was 1.2 seconds off the top spot and, like Binder, crashed immediately after setting his fastest time.

But while 1.2s is unquestionably a lot in modern MotoGP, team-mate Augusto Fernandez was 1.7s off in the corresponding session last year.

Fernandez has since proven to be a perfectly cromulent MotoGP rider, so highly-regarded by KTM and Gas Gas that the Pierer Mobility Group family had to back out of the plan to run Pol Espargaro for two years.

But look at their respective career trajectories, and you'd expect Acosta to adapt quicker than Fernandez has - and so it looks so far.

Was it a dream debut?

"It was better than my dream," Acosta joked - clearly already a master of the headline but with a natural, youthful enthusiasm that makes the brashness feel honest and not in the least bit disrespectful.

"We have to be realistic also. I cannot arrive here and say 'I will destroy this lap record'. We have to be realistic about that!

"It's true that I'm super happy to be all the day between 1s and 1.7s [off] - it was super nice for me to be in this area. Also you see that if I improved two tenths, I would go close to top 10.

"I think the level is not so different from first to last, and the thing is that small things make big gaps.

"And you can see also my last flying lap, I began after T3 [third sector] 0.6s [off] and then I lost everything in the last sector.

"It's one thing that also we have to understand why and to understand how to ride or how and when to use some tools. But anyway it was a really good day after all."


It's not as if Acosta is jumping from a tiny independent team to a huge factory - the KTM-backed Ajo operation he won both the Moto3 title and the Moto2 title with needs little introduction, and even outside of Acosta has a top-drawer track record in the lower classes.

But the attention and resources he has received as a MotoGP rider is something Acosta immediately took note of.

He described himself as "nervous" during his first post-run debrief when noticing just how many people had gathered to listen to his feedback.

He particularly appreciated having the ear of not just Tech3 Gas Gas (which is a satellite team in the colours of a factory team), but also staff from the factory KTM operation - "many people dressed in KTM colours came to the box to listen and to try to help me".

Yet there's no disappointment about being at Tech3 in the least.

"My crew chief Pol [Trevathan] is here since the project start, with Pol [Espargaro as the rider back then]. The thing that he always said to me before going out was 'if you want to change something, tell me. I'm here for you'. I said 'no, I'm here for you, man!'.

"I am quite happy to be in this group of people. They are amazing and also they are quite open to help me understand how to ride the bike."

That understanding was on display through the day, the laptimes dropping gradually and Acosta generally looking up for it - both dancing around on the RC16 and engaging in a mini-duel with Aprilia's Maverick Vinales.

Of the MotoGP bike, he suggested it felt natural - even though it was quite a surprise to see how important "the preparation to go out [on track]" was in relation to what you actually do on the bike once out there.

Acosta - who did have the Moto2 run-in to focus on (even though his late-season pace suggested he had let himself ease off the throttle somewhat) - indicated he hadn't really sought much advice or studied much footage in anticipation for the test.

"It's true that at lunchtime I saw some videos on Instagram - and I said, I don't feel myself dressed in red!" he joked. "A long time dressed in orange, it's also strange to change, but anyway, looks good.

"It's true that we compare myself with all the KTM riders, with Augusto and these things.

"It's true that it's not so different, it becomes quite normal. At the end, it's a racing bike. It's not a Moto2 that is maybe a mix. It is a real racing bike, so similar how to approach the corner and these things to Moto3."

And none of the above is to suggest he had somehow come unprepared or not treating the occasion with the due seriousness.

"Clearly we've been impressed," Tech3 team manager Nico Goyon told MotoGP.com of Acosta's first runs during the test, referencing both his "calm" and "his bike knowledge".


By Acosta's own admission, he could've used a bit more of that calm at the end of the day.

"The crash came because I made a mistake at Turn 1, then I had a movement between [Turns] 1 and 2 and I was too on the left to achieve the correct [Turn] 2.

"But to be honest I saw Maverick and [Alex] Rins before having crazy corner speed, and I said 'I can do it also! I can do it also!'.

"I think now we know that maybe it's better to wait for one more lap and continue riding than to crash like this, because to be honest was totally my fault.

"But anyway was good also to crash, was good to understand what I cannot do. For this I am happy also to crash today."

Happy to crash, happy to ride, happy to learn. Happy to be there - which hadn't always been the case for some of the previous KTM RC16 debutants.

And yes, 18th was no big headline result. "It's true that I don't like to be 20th [actually 18th] today - but today 20th [actually 18th] is a good result."

There's precious little to suggest it wasn't - and every reason to think this rising star is on the path to live up to the hype.

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