Is Pedro Acosta the next Marc Marquez?

07th March 2024
Michael Scott

Racing, like life itself, is a process of renewal and progress. Today’s records, and today’s top riders, are tomorrow’s history. This new MotoGP season is particularly so, thanks to one rider. For the first race in Qatar on 10th March marks the premier-class debut of a Spanish teenager already earmarked as “the next Marc Marquez”.


He is Pedro Acosta, Spanish of course, and seemingly hanging on tight in a rocketing ascent to the top. He will, said 2023 runner-up Jorge Martin, “challenge for the title in his first season.” He is far from the only one to expect an explosive debut.

Wiser heads might urge some caution. For one thing, Acosta is riding a KTM rather than one of the eight dominant Ducatis. For another, he is joining the elite at a time when level-playing-field regulations and some two or more decades of clearly focused rider-development programmes have led to the most competitive racing and closest race finishes in 75 years of history.


Yet he would not be the first boy wonder to burst into top-end racing and win. To name but two such predecessors, aside from Marquez, multi-champions Mike Hailwood and Valentino Rossi won races if not championships at their first premier-class attempts. And grand prix beginner Kenny Roberts, although already a seasoned US dirt-track and road racer, joined the world circus and won the first of three straight titles at his first attempt. Marquez was the only other rookie champion in history; the difference is that Roberts was racing on circuits in countries that he had never seen before.

By contrast, just to prove there are no rules, Mick Doohan’s spell as the utterly dominant five-times 500-class champion in the 1990s was preceded by two tough years getting to grips with the feisty Honda two-stroke. He didn’t claim his maiden win until his second season, but went on to add another 53 over the ensuing eight years.


Acosta’s progress thus far makes an interesting comparison with Marquez. The youngster from Mazzaron in the south-east of Spain was late into MotoGP compared with his predecessor, thanks to a hike in minimum age. When he did turn up, already Red Bull Rookies Cup champion (on GP tracks on Moto3 bikes) he has matched or exceeded Marquez’s progress.

Marquez won the 125 championship in 2010 aged 17, in his third GP season. His first race win was his 33rd start. Acosta was also 17 when he won the Moto3 title in 2021 at his first attempt. But his first win came in only his second GP, and it was sensational – through a pack of seasoned competitors from a pit-lane start after an earlier infringement. He was the youngest Moto3 champion, almost the youngest in any class, one day older than 1990 125 champion Loris Capirossi.


In Moto2 Marquez shades him. Injury in the penultimate round of his first season ruled Marc out of the championship, allowing German Stefan Bradl to claim the crown. Marquez had arrived at that crucial Malaysian round three points adrift, after winning all but three of the preceding nine races. Next year, he smashed it. Acosta won three races in his first Moto2 year, but eight no-scores due to injury and errors put him fifth overall. He also was unbeatable in his second year.

Now they meet in MotoGP: one already an all-time great attempting a return to form after a four-year hiatus triggered by injury; the other a swaggering teenager, buoyed up by the confidence of youth.


Marc’s premier-class record will be hard to match. He arrived, just 20, and was on the podium in his first race Qatar, already a thorn in the side of Rossi and Lorenzo. Next time out in Texas, he won, starting a remarkable record of CotA dominance. Five more wins that year earned a maiden title, four points clear of Lorenzo. The second rookie champion, he undercut the former youngest champion Freddie Spencer.

Marc’s grasp on the title was broken only once in the ensuing six years, when Lorenzo’s Yamaha beat his off-point Honda. And it was a sub-prime Honda that triggered the hiatus in 2020, when he broke his arm trying to overcome its weakness in the first race of 2020.


So far, Acosta’s testing times have been impressive. First time out on the 1,000cc GasGas (a badge-engineered KTM) he was confident and already competitive. That was in November last year. This year, his outings at Sepang and Losail, were even more impressive, top ten in Malaysia, although 15th – 1.6 seconds off defending champion Bagnaia – in Qatar.

In a two-man battle, my money’s on Marquez, at least this year. But of course it isn’t just them: a platoon of fast Ducati riders led by Bagnaia plus Brad Binder on the ever-improving KTM will see to that.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

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