Why Pedro Acosta gives KTM a headache... and how it could benefit MotoGP rivals

Pedro Acosta's swift rise through the GP ranks emphasises KTM's fine eye for talent... but could it end up playing into the hands of its MotoGP rivals?

Pedro Acosta

KTM boss Pit Beirer says the manufacturer will do all it can to convince teenage sensation Pedro Acosta to stay within its ranks… so why does his meteoric rise from Moto3 to Moto2 pose such a problem for the manufacturer going forward?

There is little denying KTM has a keen eye when it comes to spotting fresh talent. Having leaned on experienced racers during its initial MotoGP years - Pol Espargaro, Bradley Smith and Johann Zarco - to accelerate its ‘new from the ground up’ MotoGP effort, it has enjoyed its most notable successes with its own proteges.

While Espargaro was arguably the lynchpin of the project - a rider whom KTM was desperately disappointed to lose to Honda - between current factory riders Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder, it has now achieved five victories over the past two seasons.

It’s a level of faith and development that KTM has good reason to be proud of and it should be noted this season will be its first with all four seats - Factory and Tech 3 - filled by riders from its own development programme in Oliveira, Binder, Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez.

However, the rise has to stop somewhere and with now four of its own nurtured riders at the top, what happens now to those coming up behind them?

It’s a bottlenecked dilemma that is being emphasised by the rapid emergence of Acosta, the 17-year old breaking several records en route to the 2021 Moto3 World Championship in his rookie campaign.

While one can’t fault Acosta for being so impressive out of the box, it does present an issue for KTM’s future plans.

Not that it wasn’t prepared to do so, if anything KTM might have considered giving Acosta a second season in Moto3 to put some space between this headache, but it has instead taken a chance in promoting him to its Moto2 team, also run by Ajo Motorsport.

While it would be a big ask for Acosta to reel off another title in his first season of Moto2 as well, KTM recognises that even a top five overall will confirm him as a veritable MotoGP star-in-waiting, 

In short, he is a rider KTM will be relieved to have under a contract with its logo on the letterhead, even if it does manifest a headache as to what to do with him should he exceed expectations again.

While Acosta is about to begin a two-year deal with KTM, it won’t stop rival vultures from circling if he impresses again in 2022 and the manufacturer isn’t in a position to promote him to MotoGP. However, KTM is confident it can dodge this hypothetical so long as it lays out a long-term plan for him. 

“We do a great job with young people and that’s why we bring up great riders,” KTM boss Pit Beirer told GPOne. “Pedro is very talented, he has a contract with us for a couple of years. 

“I hope he wants to stay because he sees KTM as a good partner, we’ll see who will try to take him next year, we can’t force him to stay but we want to convince him with the job.”

Pressure on KTM’s MotoGP riders for 2022

Not that KTM would make it easy for rivals to buy him out of his contract.

Last year, Yamaha showed a keen interest in Fernandez, so much so that the Spaniard himself indicated a great desire to switch allegiance. However, a hefty ‘get out’ price tag of a reported €500,000 was placed on his defection, turning Yamaha off and prompting some pointed remarks from Fernandez himself.

Indeed, KTM has been here before. The late start to the 2020 MotoGP season helped null-and-void the performance clause in Jorge Martin’s contract and opened the door for Ducati to swoop in and snap him up for 2021, much to KTM’s chagrin.

Moreover, the case of Fernandez sets the tone for KTM’s potential future issues. While Remy Gardner was always expected to mount a title bid - in fact, anything less would have been seen as a disappointment - Fernandez threw his two-year plan out of the window by proving quick straight away, forcing KTM to offer him a MotoGP seat for 2022 or risk losing him altogether.

It’s a scenario - positive though it may be - KTM fears will be repeated by Acosta, because whereas with Fernandez it wasn’t shooting itself in the foot in the knowledge its Tech 3 riders - Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona - had no specific ties to KTM, that isn’t the case in 2022.

That’s not to say KTM ‘has’ to show loyalty to its own nurtured quartet and, if anything, the added pressure might give the likes of Oliveira and Binder the proverbial kick up the backside for better results, but should Acosta - or even Fernandez and Gardner - start performing well, let’s just say KTM might not block any interest from rival teams.

Could KTM increase its MotoGP footprint?

Trouble is for KTM, short of putting a stop to its development programme, it’s an issue that will keep surfacing in the future potentially.

One way around this would be to increase the number of RC16s on the MotoGP grid. Having responded with some irritation to Dorna allowing Ducati to dominate the 2022 MotoGP entry list with eight bikes, KTM has intimated that it would be prepared to add a third team.

This would likely come in the form of a de facto manufacturer entry under the GASGAS banner, a move that would no doubt please Dorna given its Spanish nationality.

The MX and Enduro experts made a successful short track debut in 2021 in Moto3, so much so it has expanded to Moto2 this season. While KTM might prefer to focus on results for 2022 than direct resources towards getting GASGAS on the MotoGP grid for 2023, it’s worth noting that behind the name is the well-sorted and experienced ex-MotoGP outfit Aspar.

Much will likely depend on how Acosta acquits himself in Moto2, which alone puts a lot of pressure on his shoulders in what should be remembered is only his second season in the GP ranks.

Call it an embarrassment of riches for KTM. It’s not a bad situation to be in, but it’s a welcome scenario that could still leave it with an unwelcome outcome if it doesn’t strategise now.