until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Acosta is shortcutting his path to MotoGP superstardom

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The last few years have had no shortage of flavour-of-the-month, eye-catching talents jostle for MotoGP manufacturers' attention, inflate and deflate their stock, turn heads and get the rumour mill going. All the while, though, Pedro Acosta remained 'The Guy'.

Combining an almost Fabio Quartararo-esque record of success before entering the grand prix paddock and a Marc Marquez-like impact in the lower classes of said paddock, even merely on paper Acosta demands attention.

That's before you even get to Acosta on track - a canny strategist gifted enough to have taken his first Moto3 win from a pitlane start in just his second race - and Acosta in front of the microphones - an impish, excitable force of personality but also a true aficionado of motorcycle racing both past and present.

Marquez, of course, was top-drawer on a MotoGP bike right away - it was clear enough from testing. Quartararo, too - his stock had been absolutely demolished by a tough time in Moto3 and Moto2, yet all of those memories were overwritten near-immediately by the fact he so obviously clicked with the Yamaha M1, a true gift from nowhere for the manufacturer borne out of a bold hire by its satellite team Petronas SRT.

In that context, Acosta was never expected to do anything but shine on a MotoGP bike right away. But expecting it is one thing, and seeing it is another.


"He's not the only excitement on track, I think #93 is going to be one of the main topics - so probably [the] media will split in two!" joked Tech3 Gas Gas team manager Nico Goyon when The Race asked him about protecting Acosta from the weight of hype and expectation.

"We just need to give him some time.

"People are really looking forward, but learning a MotoGP bike is a long process, it doesn't come in a few tests.

"To learn and to understand all the tools to be quick on a MotoGP bike takes almost one year. You need to learn the electronics, all the devices, the tyres.

"It's quite a tough job. It takes a lot of time.

"Even if you take some quite competitive rookies in the past years, you see that it takes some time. So let's give some time."

That's all fair and, certainly given Tech3's experiences running rookies on KTM RC16s, whether KTM-badged or Gas Gas-badged, it seems wise to preach caution.

But... those darned timesheets are refusing to play along.

Acosta looked solid at Valencia in the single-day November test, but Sepang was where he really announced his arrival.

The fact he was allowed, per rookie status, to tackle the pre-test three-day shakedown helped, but it cannot account for the progression - his team-mate Augusto Fernandez also had the shakedown advantage last year (albeit with weather being a bit less kind), and he wasn't anywhere near as quick at that point. And Fernandez went on to have a good rookie season!

Acosta's made a proper splash here. Despite what he claimed was a bit of a messy lap, he was under the pole record on the final day and he was just a few hundredths off the lead KTM RC16 of Brad Binder. And also did an entire sprint simulation in the 1m58s range.

He was not shying away from the fact the test had gone well - both in suggesting that he was already more comfortable over one lap here than in Moto2 and by gleefully counting the number of MotoGP world champion riders whose names he could see just up from his on the timing screens.

Acosta also pointed out that it was just his third time at Sepang ever, his previous experiences consisting of two Moto2 outings - in 2022, when he was caught up in someone else's crash, and last year, when he finished second.


None of Acosta's talk has come across as arrogant - there's just been a certain matter-of-factness, twinned with a realistic outlook.

"We can't be focused on testing," said Acosta. "You can see - [Jack] Miller 14th, [Luca] Marini 18th, [Alex] Rins 15th, [Fabio] Quartararo 11th, Binder 10th.

"These guys are going to be in front in a race weekend. Keep calm."

And he sounded very convinced that there's still a ways to go before he can really take on Binder for the status of KTM torchbearer.

This is a wise outlook, and Acosta has probably heard Pecco Bagnaia's 2019 pre-season come up more than once.

As a rookie, Bagnaia was similarly under the pole record in testing at Sepang, just shy of topping the the whole event. And then he was kind of a non-factor for the rest of the season - a mediocre 15th, the least impressive of that year's four rookies.

He even admitted that getting the wrong impression from that Sepang test hurt him.

"I think he's doing a really good job, but in a test it's always really difficult to know perfectly," Bagnaia stressed on day two at Sepang when asked about Acosta.

"I remember in 2019 when I finished second in the first test, and then I wasn't prepared for the first race.

"I think in his case it's different. I sometimes looked at the laptimes today, and he was quite consistent on the pace. Still missing some tenths, but he's one of the strongest.

"I think it's better not to put too much pressure on him. He's very young and has time to enjoy his rookie season. But he'll be very competitive, for sure."


But even if Bagnaia is wrong, even if there is indeed a possibility that Acosta's Sepang outing has set an unrealistic target his actual season will struggle to match up to... I posit that it maybe doesn't matter so much.

KTM would never publicly accept that, neither would Tech3, neither would Acosta himself. But privately his various bosses must be rubbing their hands together in glee.

Even if the attention on him will be constant, Acosta himself stresses that "pressure is only a word".

"If you believe in it, you take it. But if not... I've lived the last three years of my life with pressure every day."

I think he really is in a position not to feel it because, as far as pressure goes, the relevant aspect here is job security and confidence that the opportunity the rider craves will come. Acosta's situation checks both of those boxes.

The rookie season might well be about some flashes but mostly learning the intricacies of the trade and keeping healthy rather than any particular championship position or consistent delivery. As Bagnaia says, he has "time to enjoy" it, because he's already done enough to secure KTM and Gas Gas' faith.

Bagnaia himself is the prime example of why that matters. He wasn't very good in 2019, he wasn't all that great in 2020. But Ducati was convinced of what he could be, focused on his peaks over his troughs. Three years after its brave decision to hand him a factory team spot, it has its first-ever MotoGP double champion.

Acosta's early promise is already enough for KTM to make a similar projection. Arguably, anything more that follows in 2024 is a bonus.

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