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Wise, witty and as fast as hell. We catch up with Pedro Acosta as he begins his chase for a second world title

Pedro Acosta is not your average teenager. That much is clear from the achievements already racked up in a ridiculously short grand prix career. Not just anyone bags their first win in their second-ever grand prix. Nor do they claim the title at their first attempt, at just 17 years and 166 days of age, the second youngest in history. And after starting the year like a house on fire, he’s the hands-down favourite to add the Moto2 title to his honours list in 2023. 

But in this world, more than achievements are required to really stand out from the crowd. What earmarked Acosta for the very top was the manner in which he achieved the above. It’s one thing winning your second-ever race. But doing it when starting from the pitlane? Come on. Likewise, teenagers have won six of the 11 Moto3 titles. But lifting the crown by banging ’bars with your chief rival in the penultimate race just hours after winding him up with a cheeky wave? Again, something out of the ordinary. 

There are a few stories that indicate Acosta is wiser than his years. Ahead of a crucial face-off with championship rival Raul Fernandez in the penultimate race of 2021, Remy Gardner received some last-minute words of encouragement from his close pal, then just 17. 

“[He told me] ‘there are moments that define you, or you define the moment’,” Gardner later recalled. “A philosopher and he’s like this little kid. I was like, ‘Yeah, alright (laughing)’!” As Kevin Schwantz said of his first meeting with the Spaniard: “He’s just a kid where you walk in the garage and he pukes confidence.”


And there’s a reason why he immediately gelled with Aki Ajo’s expertly drilled Moto2 and Moto3 set-up. The Finn was delighted to learn the Spaniard had deleted Instagram from his phone in the days after his historic triumph at the Doha GP at the start of 2021. 

“I was asking him after ‘How was your week?’ And he said ‘I didn’t open social media and I changed my SIM card!’ There is some old-school style that I like. 

“Sometimes you see some young riders are focusing on the things that are not important.”
And believe me when I say there are more than a few team bosses across the MotoGP paddock who wish their younger riders could be like this. 

Acosta congratulates then teammate Augusto Fernandez on winning the 2022 Moto2 title

That Acosta is destined for the top quickly becomes apparent in conversation. Over two interviews with AMCN – one at the end of 2022, “the hardest” year of his professional life, and a catch-up on the eve of the new season – it’s clear the rider from Mazarrón in southern Spain possesses a confidence and maturity that belies his tender age of 18 years. 

Not only did his English improve significantly in that time; the assurance that he would eventually make it in Moto2 after a difficult start to life in the class was clear.  And there’s reason to be confident. Preparation for his second year in the intermediate class couldn’t have gone better. Acosta topped both preseason tests at Jerez and Portimao before a convincing victory at the opening round over compatriot and potential chief challenger Aron Canet showcased an ominous level of control. 

“[Preseason] was really good,” Acosta told AMCN ahead of the round. “We come from the winter with clear ideas. The team has worked so hard to understand what was the difficult points in the races during last season, so we come here with clear ideas where to improve. I have to say it was one of the tests where we worked better.”

Starting off 2023 in a blaze of Moto2 glory at Portimao

There are other attributes that mark Acosta out as different from his Moto2 contemporaries. First, his commitment to having a small group of trusted confidants around him is unwavering. His crew chief Alberto Lotti has remained the same since 2021. As have technicians Francesco Cavalli, Adrian Jiminez and Cesar Ruano, who were also there from the start. The familiarity in the garage helps.

“It’s more to have good confidence with them,” Acosta explained. “Once we go out of the track, we try to talk about other things. Not be 100 percent focused on racing. It’s what this team does different to the others. On Monday [after the test]. we went to the beach, on Tuesday we went karting. Wednesday we were back at work, but we had two days off when we weren’t really thinking about anything in particular.

“I know that everyone has their own problems and it’s nice to talk with someone (about them). On the personal side to have somebody who you feel like a strong friendship and can talk about other things than what happens on the track. Having the same crew chief since 2021, it’s a nice love story! I’m super happy with this team. 

“At the beginning of last year they didn’t say anything about my crashes. They really understood this was a process. Also, they give me this calm that I sometimes need.”

The 2022 Valencia podium: new world champion Fernandez, Acosta and Tony Arbolino

And preparation away from the track can’t be faltered. Recognising the opening laps of Moto2 races were a struggle last year, in part caused by a shortage of upper-body strength, Acosta has bulked up for the 2023 season.

“I spent a lot of time in the gym trying to get a little more weight. Last year we struggled because I was so light. This year I arrive three kilos heavier, a little bigger with the muscles and I think this is going to help us in the races. I felt a little small for a Moto2 bike because in the beginning we have a lot of fuel. At the end of the year, we had a better base and it was easier. But we still struggled. Now, we’re a bit faster here. This is going to help us.” 

In order to maintain motivation to keep in shape, Acotsa takes a different approach to preparation. Along with fitness coach Paco Mármol, the pair sometimes undergo what they call ‘shock therapy’ – training with a bike which has deliberately been sabotaged, with the clutch taken away. Or the rear brake. Other times, Acosta trains with younger kids, hungry as hell to beat him. 

Acosta credits team balance and continuity as part of his rich racing success

“I try to do different things. From the beginning of last season I saw I was struggling in the rain. So every day that it rained in Murcia I went to train. I didn’t change anything on the bike, the important thing was to get the feeling. We have to do something different every day. When it’s a routine it’s difficult to be focused all the time. 

“Training with small bikes, small guys, with kids, they’re guys that want to beat you, that don’t have this respect that I have with, for example, Remy, when we go training. When you’re older you understand what a guy like Remy is fighting for. A kid of nine or 10 years doesn’t understand these things. Because of this, I like to go with these younger guys because you learn more from them than training alone. They lose this respect and you have to fight for it.” 


So, training trumps selfies and Instagram posts? 

“I don’t really like it,” he said. “Social media can put you in the highest point or the lowest point. I understand it’s like a switch. When you’re young, people follow you. I don’t know how many followers I have, but there are only four or five people in my close group. They are the really important people I have. It’s more like football – people are more focused on rider, rather than enjoying the racing. The guys here have to understand the important thing is what your close people around you think; not what the media thinks.”

Known as El Tiburon de Mazarrón (the shark from Mazarrón, his hometown), this work ethic has honed what has always been a distinctive riding style. 

“You can see he has really strong entry in the corners that makes him a really good race rider,” Ajo told me back in 2021. “He has really good confidence in entry, in both front and rear. He can turn and stop the bike really quickly. Riding styles are changing time-by-time and Pedro again brings something new to what even some MotoGP riders are looking for, and see clearly that there is something special.”

Acosta’s now fully worked out the Moto2 caper, and with more gym-honed muscle he’s primed to make it two world titles

Not that his two-and-a-bit years in the World Championship have all been plain sailing. This time a year ago, Acosta underwent something of a humbling experience in his early days as a Moto2 rider. Fast through preseason, he entered the first race as the bookies’ favourite to claim the title – as an 18-year-old rookie. Yet even for a rider of Acosta’s talents, this was a season too early. He failed to score points in four of the first seven races. And frustrations boiled over with his team after a careless crash in Argentina when he railed the team for not letting him ride the bike as he felt best; a rare break from singing their praises. 

Suddenly, Acosta saw what it was like when results weren’t going well. The Spanish media spotlight that was ever-present through 2021 was turned elsewhere, something that appeared to irk the rider from Murcia. 

“In (2021) everybody talked about Pedro Acosta. But in 2022 when I didn’t do good results nobody was talking. This made me understand the media are going to say the best thing for the media, not for you. 

“It was important to have this step back. There was a time (in 2021) that, apart from Marc’s injury, all of Spain was talking about me. It was like when Fernando Alonso won the F1 World Championship. It was important to have this moment to step back and realise what last year was for me.

“It’s better it was before I go to MotoGP. If you don’t have these difficult moments, you don’t enjoy the good ones so much.”

In reality, he was experiencing common teething problems that every Moto2 rookie had encountered before. 

“In Moto3 I didn’t have a problem when I qualified 25th. I knew I was going to arrive to the leading group. The problem here is if you start the race in eighth, you lose three laps overtaking. You have to understand the electronics, tyre management and you have to be more conscious about what you’re doing.”

Soon a compromise was found with the team regarding set-up and riding style, and the good times were back. By round seven, with just 20 points to his name, it clicked. 

“I was thinking in one way, the team were thinking in another,” he said of that time. “Maybe we lost the correct way in the beginning of last season. I knew I had to try things that the team recommended to improve and the team understood they had to give me other things to go fast – it was 50-50.” 

There was a pole position in France, where he crashed out of the lead. Not to worry as he won next time out at Mugello, becoming, at 18 years and four days of age, the youngest rider in history to claim a victory in GP’s intermediate class, bettering Marquez’s previous record, by 83 days. And aside from breaking his left femur when motocross riding last June, ruling him out of two races, Acosta was always fighting for the top six. 

“Since Le Mans and my victory at Mugello, I was fast. I broke the lap record in Le Mans. Okay, I crashed but I was leading a race, I was pushing so it was a crash I understood. In Mugello we were fast all weekend. Barcelona was a hard weekend for us because it’s a track where I always struggle. We still managed to finish in the top six. Then in the Sachsenring we took a podium. 

“Assen and Silverstone we didn’t ride. But we returned to Austria with P4, P6 in Misano and we won in Aragon. The first races overseas were tricky, the weather and everything. But P6 again at Motegi. We struggled a lot in the rain but we found a way where we are always finishing races and improving a bit.” 

Pedro Acosta

Pedro with current Moto2 teammate Albert Arenas

It resulted in three wins in 2022, fifth in the championship and the coveted Rookie of the Year gong – not a bad return seeing he missed two races, and was affected by the leg injury long after his return in August. But could he have fought for the title had it not been for the training injury? 

“We cannot change the past. We have to take the mistakes we do and improve on them.”

Those experiences in his Moto2 rookie campaign will stand him in good stead for 2023, not least as he saw what last year’s teammate Augusto Fernandez went on to achieve. “I learned from this last season when I saw Augusto was world champion,” Acosta said. “I remember when we arrived to Le Mans we were joking: ‘Maybe at the Sachsenring we’ll be in the tents because we won’t have enough points to go to the box’ (tents are reserved for Moto2/3 teams in lower championship positions, the better-placed have garages). F***’.

“Then you see four months later he was world champion. I learnt we have to be calm if we don’t start like we want, because if we are constant and fast at all the tracks we can be competitive.”

If Acosta keeps his current run of form going, KTM bosses will have several sleepless nights when working out where to place their current golden boy next year. Factory men Brad Binder and Jack Miller, as well as GaGas Tech3’s Pol Espargaro, have two-year deals with the Austrian factory. And Augusto Fernandez is still only a rookie. But losing Acosta would be unthinkable for the Austrians. Does Acosta see MotoGP in 2024 as the next natural step?

“The target is to keep this way in 2023. We’re always in the top six. Maybe in 2024 it’s the moment [to go to MotoGP]. First, we have to be 100 percent competitive like Remy was [in 2021] to say, ‘I’m ready.’ Like I always say, going to MotoGP in a factory team with a two-year contract is sweet. Your dream is to go there. 

“I think it’s not the way if you’re not going to fight. You can win a Moto3, Moto2 Championship, but the real target is to prepare for MotoGP. If you’re not prepared, there’s no point in going.” 

Pedro Acosta

And that begs the question: if he was to rise to the premier class, for which factory would he ride? Other manufacturers will no doubt be interested. So does Acosta feel a sense of loyalty to the Austrian marque? 

“When I didn’t have a team in Moto3, they found me a team,” he said, referencing KTM’s decision to place him in Ajo’s team for 2021 when a previous deal had fallen through. “Last year when I had a two-year contract in Moto3, they broke it and took me up to Moto2. They’re the people that have given me everything. Because of this, I believe KTM are going to do a step up. I believe it.”  

Where will Acosta end up in MotoGP? There’ll be a few suitors…

Interview Neil Morrison + Photography Gold&Goose