There aren’t many riders who enter their rookie season in Moto3 and blow both the fans and opposition away. But Pedro Acosta has done just that.
The young Moto3 rookie entered the category this year with an already impressive resume, winning the Red Bull Rookies Cup in 2020 and finishing as runner-up in the FIM CEV Moto3 Junior Championship in the same year.
At the tender age of 16, Acosta made his Moto3 debut in March with a strong and heavily experienced team of Red Bull KTM Ajo, meaning he had the equipment to run at the front.
It usually takes riders a few races to get up to pace with the close nature of Moto3; it can even take some a year and very often riders find themselves struggling to get up to speed at all.
It took Acosta just one race.
The Spaniard impressed everyone when he topped both FP1 and FP2 of the Grand Prix of Qatar and went one step further as he battled his way through the pack to finish second in the race, just 0.042s behind race winner Jaume Masia.
The paddock already knew he was the real deal, with Jack Miller even making what then seemed like a bold prediction that Acosta would win the championship.
The now 17-year-old couldn’t stop impressing as he stunned everyone with a victory in the second round of the year, this time starting from the pit-lane and charging his way up the field to the front – something no Moto3 rider had accomplished beforehand.
Another two wins in Portugal and Spain saw Acosta become the first rider in Grand Prix history to achieve a podium in his first four races.
Acosta remained a regular front-runner from then on but only achieved a further four podiums, with his last coming in the Algarve GP, the race where he was crowned champion.
Ending off the season with 259 points – 43 points ahead of his nearest rival Dennis Foggia – Acosta has cemented himself as one of MotoGP’s future stars.
Moving into Moto2 for the 2022 campaign and already being linked to a MotoGP ride, the Spaniard will be looking to continue the already incredible form he has shown this season.
The date 4th April 2021 may well go down in motorcycle racing history as the day that Pedro Acosta announced himself to the world. Still only 16 years old, the Spaniard pulled off one of the all-time great rides in any class in modern memory.
Fans look back at 18th August 1996 when Valentino Rossi won his first 125cc Grand Prix at Brno or 6th June 2010 when Marc Marquez took his first victory in the same class at Mugello. You have to wonder in years to come just how historic the second race of the 2021 season will be in the career of young Acosta.
A rookie winning a race is nothing new, even in only his second race. What stands out though is that Acosta started from the pit lane along with six other riders, some eleven seconds after the lights went out to start the race. As the eighteen laps ticked away, Acosta and Romano Fenati (who finished tenth) dragged the late starters up to the main pack with seven laps remaining. Once there, Acosta picked his way through each rider and when he hit the front, and you might think he had over-used his tyres, he still pulled away. Darryn Binder nearly caught him by the end but the Red Bull rider held on to win by 0.039 seconds.
Of course, there is no guarantee that Acosta will be a star of the future as it was a young Fenati that finished second in his debut at Qatar in 2012 before winning in Jerez at the next round and he’s still in Moto3 at the age of 25 (largely through issues of his own creation).
Binder often featured in the leading pack and was so close to his second ever win. He was lucky to avoid being taken out by an incident involving his teammate John McPhee and Jeremy Alcoba however. With four laps to go, Binder led into turn one from Alcoba who nearly clipped the back of the South African. Alcoba went over the handlebars and his cartwheeling Honda took out the innocent McPhee who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Scot reacted badly to being taken out of the race two weeks in a row and squared up to the Gresini rider before aiming a kick at his Spanish crown jewels. Both riders will receive a pit lane start at the next round at Portimao in Portugal on 18th April, with McPhee penalised one thousand Euros and 10 seconds and Alcoba one thousand Euros and five seconds.
The last step on the podium went to Nico Antonelli who won here five years ago. The Italian started twelfth and positioned himself in the top six with a lap to go. Fortunately for him, last week’s winner Jaume Masia took Gabriel Rodrigo wide half way around the lap and Antonelli popped up to fourth. The 25-year-old then passed his compatriot Andrea Migno for third and beat him to the line by 0.032 seconds. Masia came home seventh while Argentine rider Rodrigo was only thirteenth.
Kaito Toba, who won here in 2019, finished fifth for his second top ten finish in a row with the rookie taking his best finish so far with sixth. Ayumu Sasaki took his best Losail result in seventh followed by fellow Japanese rider Ryusel Yamanaka who took his best ever finish with eighth in his twentieth start. With Tatsuki Suzuki finishing twelfth and Yuki Kunii fifteenth (his first points finish) there were five Japanese riders in the top fifteen for the first time since Jerez 2019.
RESULTS (TOP 15)
1 – Pedro Acosta – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25
2 – Darryn Binder – RSA – Petronas Sprinta Honda – 20
3 – Nico Antonelli – ITA – Avintia Esponsorama KTM – 16
4 – Andrea Migno – ITA – Rivacold Snipers Honda – 13
5 – Kaito Toba – JAP – CIP Green Power KTM – 11
6 – Izan Guevara – SPA – Gaviota Aspar Gas Gas – 10
7 – Ayumu Sasaki – JAP – Red Bull Tech 3 KTM – 9
8 – Ryusel Yamanaka — JAP – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 8
9 – Jaume Masia – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 7
10 – Romano Fenati – ITA – Sterilgarda Max Husqvarna – 6
11 – Jason Dupasquier – SUI – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 5
12 – Tatsuki Suzuki – JAP – SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda – 4
13 – Gabriel Rodrigo – ARG – Indonesian Gresini Honda – 3
14 – Max Kofler – AUT – CIP Green Power KTM – 2
15 – Yuki Kunii – JAP – Honda Team Asia Honda – 1
STANDINGS (TOP 15)
1 – Pedro Acosta – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 45
2 – Darryn Binder – RSA – Petronas Sprinta Honda – 36
3 – Jaume Masia – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 32
4 – Nico Antonelli – ITA – Avintia Esponsorama KTM – 26
5 – Izan Guevara – SPA – Gaviota Aspar Gas Gas – 19
6 – Kaito Toba – JAP – CIP Green Power KTM – 18
7 – Gabriel Rodrigo – ARG – Indonesian Gresini Honda – 14
8 = Sergio Garcia – SPA – Gaviota Aspar Gas Gas – 13
8 = Andrea Migno – ITA – Rivacold Snipers Honda – 13
10 – Tatsuki Suzuki – JAP – SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda – 12
11 = Romano Fenati – ITA – Sterilgarda Max Husqvarna – 11
Jaume Masia won an exciting race to start the 2021 season, winning in Qatar ahead of his Red Bull teammate Pedro Acosta. The pair had spent the majority of the race near the front of the leading pack and took first and second at the start of the last lap. For Masia it was his fourth win in Moto3 and he has now won three of his last six races after he won both rounds at Aragon last year.
Rookie Acosta qualified eleventh but worked his way forward early on to work well with his teammate, especially when trying to break away from Darryn Binder who finished third. The sixteen-year-old Spaniard proved he is one of the rookies to look out for this season with a confident ride. Another rookie worth noting for the right reasons is Izan Guevara who qualified on the front row for the new Gas Gas team and finished seventh in the race.
One rookie with a race to forget was Xavier Artegas after he took out three riders as well as himself on the second lap with a move which could be described as optimistic or adventurous at best, or likely in less polite terms by the riders he retired. Coming into the heavy-braking left hand corner he tried to go up the inside but had too much speed and too little grip to make it work. His move took out Jeremy Alcoba, Andrea Mignoe and one of the pre-race favourites John McPhee. The Brit had qualified on the front row with his new teammate Binder on pole position.
Binder had a solid race from the front row, riding in his usual aggressive style with late-braking passes and was in the top three for many of the eighteen laps. In the end though he could not catch the breakaway from the Red Bull riders on the last lap and settled for his fifth career podium.
The entire race was a typical Moto3 affair with places changing every lap and plenty of riders going three or four wide into turn one. In the penultimate lap though there was one fantastic rear-facing onboard shot showing the riders going six-wide into one right hand turn and all coming out unscathed. It was a perfect example of the combination of skill and madness required to race at this level.
Guevara’s teammate Sergio Garcia had a solid race on the Gas Gas, running in the leading pack throughout and staying out of trouble. He just did not have enough at the end to reach he podium. It was very similar for Argentine rider Gabriel Rodrigo although at one point it did look like his chance of a high finish had gone when he clipped Masia’s rear wheel and ran wide. The 24-year-old pulled himself back up from outside the top ten to finish fifth in the end.
Nico Antonelli qualified tenth and was largely unnoticed in the early stages of the race but in the final third he worked his way through to the front and led shortly before the final lap. He dropped back to sixth by the chequered flag. His 2020 teammate Tastsuki Suzuki finished eighth with Gueveara between them. The Japanese rider started dead last after failing to set a qualifying time in Q1 so a top ten finish was a great result.
2019 winner Kaito Toba finished tenth ahead of Jason Dupasquier who took his first points finish. Romano Fenati made his name here in 2012 on his debut with second place but struggled around to eleventh ahead of Carlos Tatay.
TOP FIFTEEN RIDERS
1 – Jaume Masia – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points
2 – Pedro Acosta – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20
3 – Darryn Binder – RSA – Petronas Sprinta Honda – 16
4 – Sergio Garcia – SPA – Aspar Gas Gas – 13
5 – Gabriel Rodrigo – ARG – Indonesian Gresini Honda – 11
6 – Nico Antonelli – ITA – Avintia KTM – 10
7 – Izan Guevara – SPA – Aspar Gas Gas – 9
8 – Tatsuki Suzuki – JAP – SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda – 8
9 – Kaito Toba – JAP – CIP Green Power KTM – 7
10 – Jason Dupasquier – SUI – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 6
11 – Romano Fenati – ITA -Max Racing Husqvarna – 5
12 – Carlos Tatay – SPA – Avintia KTM – 4
13 – Filip Salac -CZE – Rivacold Snipers Honda – 3
14 – Ryusei Yamanaka – JAP – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 2
15 – Max Kofler – AUT – CIP Green Power KTM – 1
Petronas Sprinta Racing were delighted with their qualifying efforts as both riders will start on the front row on Sunday. Darryn Binder took pole position after coming through Q1 in first place while teammate John McPhee took third place with his last lap of Q2.
Binder’s time of 2’04.075 is a new record for Moto3 at a race weekend and the South African will look to make the most of his second ever pole tomorrow. Brit McPhee was hampered by a Leopard Racing bike on his penultimate lap but still made third place, just 0.079 seconds ahead of fourth place.
Sixteen-year-old rookie Izan Guevara was the surprise of both Q1 and Q2. The Spaniard came through the first session in second place behind Binder and finished second again in Q2, closing the gap from 0.6 seconds to 0.2 seconds in the sessions. It was a fantastic start for the Aspar Gas Gas team on their Moto3 debut.
The second row will see Spaniards Jeremy Alcoba and Jaume Masia joined by Japan’s Kaito Toba. Row three will see Gabriel Rodrigo, Sergio Garcia and Riccardo Rossi.
Romano Fenati came through Q1 in third place only to miss setting a time in Q2 by leaving the pit lane too late to set a time. Tatsuki Suzuki had already made the same mistake in Q1 and will start last, behind new teammate Lorenzo Fellon.
1 – Darryn Binder – RSA – Petronas Sprinta Honda
2 – Izan Guevara – SPA – Aspar Gas Gas
3 – John McPhee – GBR – Petronas Sprinta Honda
4 – Jeremy Alcoba – SPA – Indonesian Racing Gresini Honda
5 – Jaume Masia – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM
6 – Kaito Toba – JAP – CIP Green Power KTM
7 – Gabriel Rodrigo – ARG – Indonesian Racing Gresini Honda
8 – Sergio Garcia – SPA – Aspar Gas Gas
9 – Riccardo Rossi – ITA – BOE Owlride KTM
10 – Nico Antonelli – ITA – Avintia Esponsorama KTM
11 – Pedro Acosta – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM
12 – Jason Dupasquier – SUI – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM
With Sky Racing Team VR46 and Estrella Galicia leaving Moto3 to focus their resources on MotoGP and Moto2 projects, the lightweight class grid will look a little different in 2021. The top five riders in last season’s standings have all moved up to Moto2 also. So with a full breakdown of the teams and riders at the bottom of this page, I’m going to first give you my six to watch in 2021.
Now the elder
statesman of Moto3, it had looked likely that the Brit would move to Moto2 with MV Augusta in 2021 but he has re-signed for a third season with Petronas Sprinta to race the Honda for another shot at the title. John has three wins under his belt, including Misano last year but to date has lacked the consistency and luck for a sustained challenge for the crown with his best overall being fifth in 2019. Can this be his year at last?
McPhee’s new teammate could be another title challenger in South African Brad Binder’s younger brother, Darryn. The 22-year-old has been in Moto3 since 2015 and took his maiden win in Catalunya last year. The first race of the 2021 will be his 100th in the class but also his first on a Honda after previously riding Mahindra and KTM machinery. So far in his career, Darryn has certainly been a Sunday rider, often coming through the pack in exciting fashion after qualifying poorly the day before. If he can start higher up the grid in 2021 it could make a huge difference to his season.
The young Spaniard is surely one of the favourites for the 2021 title. Of the riders staying in Moto3 from last season he finished the highest in sixth place, taking two wins in the double-header at Aragon. This is his fourth full season in the class and a move to one of the best teams on the grid, Red Bull KTM Ajo is his best shot at the title yet. The challenge for Masia may come from one rider I haven’t included in this sextet, his own teammate Pedro Acosta who won the Red Bull Rookies Cup last season.
The relationship between the likeable Japanese rider and the popular SIC58 Squadra Corse team continues for a fifth season in 2021. After seven races of 2020, the 23-year-old was a title contender with victory at Jerez in round three and a podium at Misano. Tatsuki appears to have formed a strong bond with Paolo Simoncelli over the years and it would be great to see the pair back on the podium in 2021.
The former VR46 Academy rider starts his fourth season in Moto3 with perhaps more expectation than any previous year. H
e remains with the competitive Leopard team and has a rookie for a teammate in Spaniard Xavier Artegas which should help the team focus on his title bid. The 20-year-old Italian also took his maiden win last season at Brno and was second at the final race of the year in Portugal.
The rookie of the year in 2020 took his first podium at the final round in Portugal. The 19-year-old also finished in the top ten in eight of the fifteen races and showed great consistency across the season (only one finish outside the points and two retirements). Of the riders yet to win a race in Moto3, Jeremy is my tip for one in 2021.
FULL LIST OF TEAMS AND RIDERS
Petronas Sprinta Racing – Honda
17 – John McPhee (GBR) – 26yo – 151 races, 3 wins – 7th overall in 2020
After a whirlwind last Moto3 race of 2018 in Valencia, Can Oncu solidified his place on the grid with an impressive debut and a record-breaking win. The 15-year-old Turk became the youngest GP winner and the first Turkish winner of a GP, smashing many more records along the way. Winner of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup (with his twin brother Deniz securing second place) and finishing 24th(out of 36) in the Moto3 standings after only one race – the trophy cabinet will be well stocked in the Oncu household after this year. Oncu’s 2018 might have ended in spectacular style, but his 2019 season will continue with Red Bull KTM Ajo as he races for the Finnish team in Moto3 and chases down even more podium finishes. A new flurry of Moto3 riders will be filling the grid in 2019, as Jorge Martin, Fabio di Giannantonio, Marco Bezzecchi, Nicolo Bulega and Enea Bastianini all head for debut Moto2 seasons. However, the Turk will have competition from Aron Canet, Gabriel Rodrigo and Lorenzo Dalla Porta, as well as newer riders like Celestino Vietti. Jade du Preez put some questions to the youngster, to find out how you celebrate such a historic win, and what’s next for the rookie to accomplish.
Jade du Preez: How do you feel after your first win?
Can Oncu: I really wanted race with Jorge Martin and Marco Bezzecchi before they went to Moto2. I was lucky and my wish was fulfilled. Martin was my favourite all year long. That I can get involved in the front I spotted FP2 and FP3 and after qualification it was clear. Martin and Bezzecchi brought a very good performance all year. I was very surprised that I won. When I heard after the race that I had broken some records I could not believe it – the youngest Moto3 rider of all time, the youngest Moto3 rider to win a race, and more. Everyone from the paddock congratulated me. Except from the north pole and south pole, congratulations were sent to me from all over the world. The feeling of happiness is really indescribable. I thank everyone who supports me.
JdP: What are your goals for 2019 since you’ve already won a race?
CO: I know that I am not perfect, that I still have much to learn and I try hard to do so. Aki Ajo and my race team help me and my brother. I will try to be in the top 10 at the end of the year.
JdP: How did you celebrate your win in Valencia? Did you cheat on your diet, hangout with friends, etc.?
CO: I was celebrating with my entire team and eating delicious food in Valencia. I do not like alcohol, I like fruit juices. When I arrived at home in Alanya I was immediately visited by many friends and suddenly we had a party.
It was a whirlwind end to the 2018 season, and it definitely wasn’t predictable – Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) was reserved and measured, John McPhee (CIP – Green Power) managed to step onto the podium and a relatively unknown 15-year-old won the race. Not your run of the mill race!
This race belonged to one man, and his fight for first place didn’t involve the usual competitors either – his name is Can Oncu (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and he left a rather big impression on Moto3 today. Starting as a wildcard rider, the youngster only managed to secure his place in the race because he won the Red Bull Rookies’ Cup and after qualifying fourth, it’s safe to say he dominated from very early on before taking Turkey’s first ever podium.
However, the race wasn’t as simple as Oncu romping to victory – Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PrustelGP) crashed out of second place and Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) had a mini high side which ripped first place from him.
The weather played a big part in the race, with 98 crashes taking place before the Moto3 race had even started and it’s safe to say many dashed hopes during the race too. Bezzecchi crashed twice (on the second crash both Redox PrustelGP bikes slide into the gravel trap), ending any chance of beating Fabio di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) to second place in the Championship, but that didn’t stop him trying. Rather foolishly, the Italian carried on riding even though his livery was badly damaged and scraping along the track – he pitted but his team only clipped the bodywork back in and he re-joined the race. But his misfortune didn’t end there, Oncu actually lapped him as the youngest rode away with what could have been his podium finish.
Oncu didn’t just lap Bezzecchi though, he also lapped Darryn Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), his teammate for the race who had slide out of the race and re-joined too. Spectacular racing came from Arbolino who held his lead very well and is arguably the only person who could have stopped Oncu’s hunt for first place. McPhee also seemed to find something in himself and didn’t cecum to the wet weather condition, which due to a considerable ack of right-hand corners and cold tyres meant that many fell prey to it.
Di Giannantonio’s securing of second place in the Championship made it a Gresini 1-2 but you’d be forgiven for not noticing that due to the fanfare of Oncu’s race win. Arguably, the likes of Martin and di Giannantonio will be glad that they don’t have to race against such a talented and capable rider. Oncu, who snatched the record for youngest race winner away from Scott Redding on his final race weekend in MotoGP, and Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) who finished in a respectable tenth in his first really wet race in Moto3, will be dominant next year and they’ve arrived just in time for the changing of the guards.