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Fermin Aldeguer, Ducati, MotoGP and the Pedro Acosta effect

Gold & Goose

The changes, they are probably a-coming.

Of course, MotoGP has spent the last few weeks drowning in the ink spilled over the much anticipated debut of Pedro Acosta, but for the most part his debut in Qatar was a spilling worth risking some tears over.

While there is no doubting Acosta’s credentials, his first race appearance on the Red Bull GasGas Tech3 KTM ticked some pretty tricky boxes - it was competitive, it was flamboyant, it was raw and it was exciting. It also left many anticipating and wanting more.


In some ways though it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. MotoGP has a bit of a short memory when it comes to hyping up the ‘shock value’ of big performances on a debut - Jorge Lorenzo’s pole on his first outing, Johann Zarco leading his first race. Even James Toseland qualified second in his maiden event. Hell, Marc Marquez won the title in his rookie season.

Indeed, given the depth and closeness of the MotoGP grid in recent years, would it really have been such a shock if Acosta had rocked up and won from pole position? Well, yes it would, but perhaps not as much as the repeated eye-rolling mantras of ‘you have to remember, this is his first MotoGP event’ was trying to have you believe.

Point is, sometimes the wave of expectation can carry a rider up and over the pressure-cooker of expectation rather than dunk them head first into it as commentators prime us for. Not always, but sometimes. 

But as a couple of those aforementioned examples indicate, the wave isn’t finite and, really, it’s the next few rounds - events that will see the inevitable mistakes, set-up woes and on track fisticuffs on different characteristic circuits added to the test sheet - that will determine whether Acosta is surfing the crest all the way to the top with his feet firmly planted or whether he will need to paddle into the expanse of the mid-field and work on mounting another surge.

Joan Mir - Moto3 in 2017, Moto2 in 2018, MotoGP in 2019, MotoGP World Champion in 2020...

Re-blazing the trail for tomorrow’s generation

Perhaps the hype around Acosta isn’t so much for what he is but what he represents.

You only have to look at the current MotoGP grid to see there has been some hesitation when it comes to razing the current rider line-up to make way for a new crop of youngsters coming through.

Granted, the exit of Suzuki has squeezed availability on the grid and goes some way to explaining why Acosta and team-mate Augusto Fernandez are the only new faces to grace the grid in the past two seasons. A year earlier in 2022 we had five rookies, but only three remain and, of them, Marco Bezzecchi is certain to stay, it has been very tough-and-go with Fabio di Giannantonio and Raul Fernandez faces the biggest season of his young career to hold on.


It means there are only five riders on the grid that have fewer than three seasons worth of experience under their belt, which is a surprisingly slow rate when you consider the career trajectories of MotoGP’s current forces - Pecco Bagnaia made his debut in 2019, Jorge Martin came in 2021, Bezzecchi in 2022, Brad Binder in 2020. 

Only Aleix Espargaro bucks this trend, though he defies most laws of predictability - if he was a maturing cheese, he’d be almost entirely mould by now. Albeit a very valuable one.

It begs the question as to why manufacturers - KTM notwithstanding - are not looking at the bigger picture and identifying which riders are likely to form tomorrow’s winning circle nice and early given the general success rate of those it has committed to from the junior ranks.

Take Maverick Vinales or Joan Mir - they were fast-tracked straight to MotoGP from Moto2 after only one season courtesy of Suzuki. Honda knew what it wanted to do with Marquez. Same with Yamaha and Lorenzo. They are among many examples that endorse the increasingly scant tactic of scouting early and then carefully nurturing.


Indeed, it’s a strategy that has noticeably waned in recent years.

Valentino Rossi's VR46 Academy has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting of proteges in recent years

As for why, you could argue manufacturers have delegated some responsibility to Valentino Rossi’s VR46 Academy, though its focus is trained on those hailing from Italy. 

Then there is Ducati, which has both affected and been affected by its own success and dominance in terms of numbers.

There is a niggling sense Ducati’s success might have come sooner if it had prioritised blank canvases coming through the ranks on which to paint its once tricky-to-ride machine from scratch rather than waste time (and a lot of money) believing it needed big bucks names - Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden, Jorge Lorenzo - to find those missing few tenths per lap. After all, it worked for Casey Stoner all those years ago…

Even then, this was an epiphany that was rather forced onto Ducati when the abrupt departure of Andrea Dovizioso led to it giving Bagnaia his factory shot ahead of schedule. But since Bagnaia there has been Martin, Bezzecchi, Enea Bastianini, even di Giannantonio eventually.

But Ducati is basking in its new-found dominance and - despite Gresini and VR46 Racing’s so-called independent status - its steer on rider placement provides a plausible argument for not shaking things up while the going is good.

As for the others, Honda and Yamaha both have associated teams in Moto2 to - in theory - provide a direct step into MotoGP, but are too preoccupied with bringing their bikes up to speed that they have defaulted to the theory that it needs experienced hands to lead development, rather than a rough and ready newcomer to potentially bend the bikes in ways they haven’t before.

KTM, of course, are keen to promote the next generation though perhaps too readily at times, giving the impression they’ve created a conveyor belt that will pick-up youngsters, then discard as soon as something more exciting comes along. A bit like F1’s ruthless Red Bull junior programme - maybe it’s an Austrian thing…

Fermin Aldeguer: Off the market

Ducati goes all-in with Fermin Aldeguer

All of the above therefore makes Ducati’s very early announcement that it has snapped up Fermin Aldeguer all the more intriguing.

Reverting back to that nautical theme, this is a rider that deserves credit for creating his own wave. Indeed, pre-summer hiatus last season, Aldeguer barely featured on MotoGP’s radar before his stellar run of wins towards the end of 2023.

So ‘out-of-the-blue’ it seemed to come that Aldeguer found himself as Grand Prix racing’s new hot property minus an allegiance to any manufacturer and a manager whose primary focus is running the Speed Up Racing team he currently races with. In short, he was ripe for some fair game squabbling to get his signature.

Far from riding the crest of a wave of expectation, Aldeguer ran the risk of riding a tsunami just as he needed to knuckle down and focus on his Moto2 commitments.

His signing so early in the year though gives Ducati its own Acosta - not just because he is a Spanish teenager, but because it gives the manufacturer time to nurture what remains a fairly unproven talent. Sure, he dominated towards the end of last season, but a lot can happen during the winter.

Signing this deal takes a lot of the pressure off, while adding a different kind of pressure back on. Aldeguer still needs to perform and it’s likely Ducati will still be watching his progress very closely, but it should at least be a healthy amount of pressure being applied.

His and Acosta’s promotions should also give other teams some licence to consider their options for next season. All but four riders - Aldeguer, Bagnaia, Brad Binder and Luca Marini - are up for negotiation at the end of the year, which means there is the potential for one of MotoGP’s occasional ‘out with the old, in with the new’ washouts. More so, if Yamaha gets around to adding a satellite team to its line-up.

After all, Ducati’s eagerness to accept the risk and sign Aldeguer now has the inevitable knock-on effect of assuring that at least one of its current octet will be on his way out in 2025 - let’s just say Franco Morbidelli will be nervously checking in on whether Jorge Martin is being lured by another manufacturer.

But it also means at least one MotoGP rider - regardless of team - will be out of the series at the end of 2024. Which is a slightly curious conclusion to consider really at this juncture in the year.

While the identity of that figure is very much unknown after just one round and will likely remain so for a few weeks or months yet, it’s strange when you know it’s definitely happening just as you’re gearing up for Round 2 of 21. 

And this is potentially just the beginning - the likes of Alonso Lopez, Tony Arbolino, Jake Dixon, Ai Ogura and more can potentially ‘do an Acosta’ and convince teams that fresh blood is worth more than familiarity.

More than in recent seasons, there is more than just wins, podiums and points on the line in MotoGP too, there are (arguably a few) seats too. 

Let battle commence!

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