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MotoGP

The next Marquez? What to expect from MotoGP's new big thing

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

After he wrapped up his second world title in only three years of grand prix racing and sealed a MotoGP debut that begins with Tuesday's Valencia test, it’s fair to say that the intensity of speculation around newly crowned Moto2 champion Pedro Acosta's potential has reached fever pitch.

But are the comparisons being made between the 19-year-old Spaniard and some of grand prix motorcycle racing's most illustrious names really all that deserved?

It’s a conversation that’s especially pertinent considering that his main job of 2023 - winning the Moto2 title - was sewn up with two rounds of the season left and from early on, there was very little doubt about his potential to do so given both his speed and his consistency this year.

The hype that we’re witnessing right now dates back to Acosta’s first two Moto3 races ever, only two seasons ago in Qatar.

He headed to the Lusail circuit for a back-to-back double-header arranged as part of the lingering effects of the pandemic, a secondary effect of which had been the cancellation of all wildcards in 2020, meaning that, unlike most of his contemporaries, Acosta really did come into the series as a total rookie.

That didn’t slow him down, though. He took to the Qatar circuit like a duck to water and came home second to 2023 Moto3 title contender Jaume Masia, before showing us all just how good he was a week later when he didn’t just claim his maiden race win - he did so starting from the pitlane after being one of multiple riders penalised throughout the opening two weekends for cruising during practice and qualifying.

Five wins (and only a single other podium finish, which says a lot about his riding style) later, he was crowned champion in his rookie year - a feat that no one else has ever achieved in the modern era, and which only Loris Capirossi managed in the days of two-strokes.

Graduating directly to Moto2 with the same Red Bull Ajo team for 2022, he only recently admitted that he perhaps did so too soon, struggling physically with a much bigger machine while only 17 years old.

That showed in his initial results, too, with his time in the class getting off to a slower start than it had a year prior. It took until round eight for his first win of the season at Mugello - but once he got the monkey off his back and understood the Triumph-powered machine it didn’t take long to start racking up successes, with a further two wins meaning only his slow start and a mid-season training injury halting his hopes of title success. Still, he ended with a very respectable fifth in the standings.

And, carrying that momentum forward into 2023, he hasn’t really looked back since winning the final race of last season at Valencia. Seven times a winner this year, he’s smashed all manner of records along the way - including those of some very big names.

Acosta was already the youngest-ever Moto3 champion (beating Marc Marquez) and is now the second-youngest ever in the intermediate class (just behind Dani Pedrosa). He also joins Alex Marquez as only the second rider to win both Moto2 and Moto3 and has taken Marc’s record for youngest-ever Moto2 race winner and, after only a season and a half, sits fifth in the all-time winners’ list in the intermediate class.

All that, then, suggests that the hype is real and there will be fireworks from Acosta in MotoGP.

Speak to any of those who’ve made the jump before him, after all, and they’ll tell you the same thing: it’s easier to transition from Moto2 to the premier class than it is to step up a tier from Moto3, something that bodes very well indeed for his future.

There’s more to being a great champion than being a supremely talented rider, though - and Acosta also has that X factor as well.

He's already asserted himself even before he's joined the championship by making it clear that he’s coming to MotoGP to win, not to make friends.

It’s going to be entertaining not only to see how quickly he stands on the top of the podium but how many of his rivals he annoys along the way.

There is one caveat to bear in mind, though: the championship right now is not the one that Marc Marquez joined as a rookie in 2013 and immediately started winning in.

The grid is closer than it’s ever been and with Acosta joining on a Gas Gas-branded KTM that’s admittedly not as good as the currently dominant Ducatis, it’s worth noting that a failure to immediately win won’t be a failure overall for him.

It's going to take a little bit of time to get him up to speed, and there’s still some work at the Austrian factory that needs to be done to turn its bike into a consistent title contender.

But, with the pair likely to grow in tandem, it’s very difficult to imagine a world in which Acosta and KTM aren’t sharing title honours at some point in the not-so-distant future.

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