The official MotoGP logo
|MotoGP World Championship|
|Constructors||Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Suzuki, Yamaha|
|Riders' champion||2017 Marc Márquez|
|Moto2 World Championship|
|Constructors||Kalex, Suter, Speed Up, Tech 3, KTM|
|Riders' champion||2017 Franco Morbidelli|
|Moto3 World Championship|
|Riders' champion||2017 Joan Mir|
Grand Prix motorcycle racing refers to the premier class of motorcycle racing events held on road circuits sanctioned by FIM. Independent motorcycle racing events have been held since the start of the twentieth century and large national events were often given the title Grand Prix, The foundation of a recognised international governing body for motorcycle sport, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme in 1949 provided the opportunity to coordinate rules and regulations in order that selected events could count towards official World Championships as FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix. It is the oldest established motorsport world championship.
Grand Prix motorcycles are purpose-built racing machines that are generally unavailable for purchase by the general public or able to be ridden legally on public roads. This contrasts with the various production-based categories of racing, such as the Superbike World Championship and the Isle of Man TT Races that feature modified versions of road-going motorcycles available to the public.
The championship is currently divided into three classes: MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3. All three classes use four-stroke engines. The 2018 MotoGP season comprises 19 Grands Prix, with 12 held in Europe, four in Asia, two in the Americas, and one in Oceania.
A FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix was first organized by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme in 1949. The commercial rights are now owned by Dorna Sports, with the FIM remaining as the sport sanctioning body. Teams are represented by the International Road Racing Teams Association (IRTA) and manufacturers by the Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers Association (MSMA). Rules and changes to regulations are decided between the four entities, with Dorna casting a tie-breaking vote. In cases of technical modifications, the MSMA can unilaterally enact or veto changes by unanimous vote among its members. These four entities compose the Grand Prix Commission.
There have traditionally been several races at each event for various classes of motorcycles, based on engine size, and one class for sidecars. Classes for 50 cc, 80 cc, 125 cc, 250 cc, 350 cc, and 500 cc solo machines have existed at some time, and 350 cc and 500 cc sidecars. Up through the 1950s and most of the 1960s, four-stroke engines dominated all classes. In part this was due to rules, which allowed a multiplicity of cylinders (meaning smaller pistons, producing higher revs) and a multiplicity of gears (giving narrower power bands, affording higher states of tune). In the 1960s, two-stroke engines began to take root in the smaller classes.
In 1969, the FIM --citing high development costs for non-works teams-- brought in new rules restricting all classes to six gears and most to two cylinders (four cylinders in the case of the 350 cc and 500 cc classes). This led to a mass walk-out of the sport by the previously highly successful Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha manufacturer teams, skewing the results tables for the next several years, with MV Agusta effectively the only works team left in the sport until Yamaha (1973) and Suzuki (1974) returned with new two-stroke designs. By this time, two-strokes completely eclipsed the four-strokes in all classes. In 1979, Honda, on its return to GP racing, made an attempt to return the four-stroke to the top class with the NR500, but this project failed, and, in 1983, even Honda was winning with a two-stroke 500.
Previously, the championship featured a 50cc class from 1962 to 1983, later changed to an 80cc class from 1984 to 1989. The class was dropped for the 1990 season, after being dominated primarily by Spanish and Italian makes. It also featured a 350cc class from 1949 to 1982, and a 750 cc class from 1977 to 1979. Sidecars were dropped from world championship events in the 1990s (see Superside).
From the mid-1970s through to 2001, the top class of GP racing allowed 500 cc displacement with a maximum of four cylinders, regardless of whether the engine was a two-stroke or four-stroke. This is unlike TT Formula or motocross, where two and four strokes had different engine size limits in the same class to provide similar performance. Consequently, all machines were two-strokes, since they produce power with every rotation of the crank, whereas four-stroke engines produce power only every second rotation. Some two- and three-cylinder two-stroke 500s were seen, but though they had a minimum-weight advantage under the rules, typically attained higher corner speed and could qualify well, they lacked the power of the four-cylinder machines.
In 2002, rule changes were introduced to facilitate the phasing out of the 500 cc two-strokes. The premier class was rebranded MotoGP, as manufacturers were to choose between running two-stroke engines up to 500 cc or four-strokes up to 990 cc or less. Manufacturers were also permitted to employ their choice of engine configuration. Despite the increased costs of the new four-stroke engines, they were soon able to dominate their two-stroke rivals. As a result, by 2003 no two-stroke machines remained in the MotoGP field. The 125 cc and 250 cc classes still consisted exclusively of two-stroke machines.
In 2007, the MotoGP class had its maximum engine displacement capacity reduced to 800 cc for a minimum of five years. As a result of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, MotoGP underwent changes in an effort to cut costs. Among them are reducing Friday practice sessions and testing sessions, extending the lifespan of engines, switching to a single tyre manufacturer, and banning qualifying tyres, active suspension, launch control and ceramic composite brakes. For the 2010 season, carbon brake discs were banned.
For the 2012 season, the MotoGP engine capacity was increased again to 1,000 cc. It also saw the introduction of Claiming Rule Teams (CRT), which were given more engines per season and larger fuel tanks than factory teams, but were subject to a factory team buying ("claiming") their rival's powertrain for a fixed price. The sport's governing body received applications from sixteen new teams looking to join the MotoGP class. For the 2014 season, the CRT subclass was rebranded Open, as the claiming rule was removed. Also, all entries adopted a standard engine control unit, with factory teams being allowed to run any software, and Open entries using a standard software. For the 2016 season, the Open subclass was dropped, and factory entries switched to a standard engine control unit software.
In 2010, the 250cc two-stroke class was replaced by the new Moto2 600 cc four-stroke class. In 2012, the 125cc two-stroke class was replaced by the Moto3 250cc four-stroke class with a weight limit of 65 kg with fuel.
According to one estimate, leasing a top-level motorcycle for a rider costs about US$ 3.0 to 3.5 million per season.
The starting grid is composed of three columns (four for the 125 cc and 250 cc classes) and contains approximately 20 riders. Grid positions are decided in descending order of qualifying speed, with the fastest on the pole or first position. Races last approximately 45 minutes, each race is a sprint from start to finish without pitting for fuel or tyres.
In 2005, a flag-to-flag rule for MotoGP was introduced. Previously, if a race started dry and rain fell, officials could red-flag (stop) the race and either restart or resume on 'wet' tyres. Now, when rain falls, a white flag is shown, indicating that riders can pit to swap the motorcycle on which they started the race for an identical one, as long as the tyres are different (that is, intermediates or slicks instead of wets). Besides different tyres, the wet-weather bikes have steel brake rotors and different brake pads instead of the carbon discs and pads used on the 'dry' bikes. This is because the carbon brakes need to be very hot to function properly, and the water cools them too much. The suspension is also 'softened' up somewhat for the wet weather.
When a rider crashes, track marshals up the track from the incident wave yellow flags, prohibiting passing in that area; one corner farther up the track, a stationary yellow flag is shown. If a fallen rider cannot be evacuated safely from the track, the race is red-flagged. Motorcycle crashes are usually one of two types: lowside, when the bike loses either front or rear tire grip and slides out on the "low" side, and the more dangerous highside, when the tires don't completely slide out, but instead grip the track surface, flipping the bike over to the "high side", usually catapulting the rider over the top. Increased use of traction control has made highsides much less frequent.
Top riders travel the world to compete in the annual FIM World Championship series. The championship is perhaps most closely followed in Italy and Spain, home of many of the more successful riders early in the 21st century. As for the 2011 season, 25 riders of eight nations participated in the premier class of the championship.
The Riders' World Championship is awarded to the most successful rider over a season, as determined by a points system based on Grand Prix results.
Giacomo Agostini is the most successful champion in Grand Prix history, with 15 titles to his name (8 in the 500 cc class and 7 in the 350 cc class). The most dominant rider of all time was Mike Hailwood, winning 10 out of 12 (83%) races, in the 250 cc class, in the 1966 season. Mick Doohan, who won 12 out of 15 (80%) of the 500 cc races in the 1997 Grand Prix motorcycle racing season also deserves an honourable mention. Valentino Rossi is the most successful contemporary rider, having won nine titles including six Moto GP titles, and one each at 500 cc, 250 cc and 125 cc levels. The current (2017) champion is Marc Márquez.
The following shows the key technical regulations for each class. It was also introduced for the 2005 year, that under rule 2.10.5: 'No fuel on the motorcycle may be more than 15 °C below ambient temperature. The use of any device on the motorcycle to artificially decrease the temperature of the fuel below ambient temperature is forbidden. No motorcycle may include such a device.' This stops an artificial "boost" gained from increasing fuel density by cooling it.
At the beginning of the new MotoGP era in 2002, 500 cc two-stroke or 990 cc four-stroke bikes were specified to race. The enormous power advantage of the twice as large displacement four-stroke engine over the half the size two-stroke meant that by the following season, no two-stroke bikes were racing. In 2007, the maximum engine capacity was reduced to 800 cc without reducing the existing weight restriction.
MotoGP-class motorcycles are not restricted to any specific engine configuration. However, the number of cylinders employed in the engine determines the motorcycle's permitted minimum weight; the weight of the extra cylinders acts as a form of handicap. This is necessary because, for a given capacity, an engine with more cylinders is capable of producing more power. If comparable bore to stroke ratios are employed, an engine with more cylinders will have a greater piston area and a shorter stroke. The increased piston area permits an increase in the total valve area, allowing more air and fuel to be drawn into the engine, and the shorter stroke permits higher revs at the same piston speed, allowing the engine to pump still more air and fuel with the potential to produce more power, but with more fuel consumption too. In 2004 motorcycles were entered with three-, four-and five-cylinder configurations. A six-cylinder engine was proposed by Blata, but it did not reach the MotoGP grids. Presently four-cylinder engines appear to offer the best compromise between weight, power, and fuel consumption as all competitors in the 2009 series use this solution in either 'V' or in-line configuration.
In 2002, the FIM became concerned at the advances in design and engineering that resulted in higher speeds around the race track; regulation changes related to weight, amount of available fuel and engine capacity were introduced. The amended rules reduced engine capacity to 800 cc from 990 cc and restricted the amount of available fuel for race distance from 26 litres (5.7 imp gal; 6.9 US gal) in year 2004 to 21 litres (4.6 imp gal; 5.5 US gal) in year 2007 and onwards. In addition, the minimum weight of four-cylinder bikes used by all participating teams was increased by 3 kg (6.6 lb).
The highest speed for a MotoGP motorcycle in 125 cc category is 249.76 km/h (155.19 mph) by Valentino Rossi in 1996 for Aprilia and the top speed in the history of MotoGP is 354.7 km/h (220.4 mph), set by Michele Pirro, during the race at the 2017 Italian Grand Prix.
On December 11, 2009, the Grand Prix Commission announced that the MotoGP class would switch to the 1,000 cc motor limit starting in the 2012 season. Maximum displacement was limited to 1,000 cc, maximum cylinders were limited to four, and maximum bore was capped at 81 mm (3.2 inches). Carmelo Ezpeleta, the CEO of Dorna Sports, indicated that the projected changes were received by the teams favorably.
From 2012, teams not entered by one of the major manufacturers could seek "claiming rule team" (CRT) status. Claiming rule team were intended to allow independent teams to be competitive at a lower cost and increase the number of entries in MotoGP. Claiming rule teams benefitted from less restrictive rules on the number of engines that could be used in a season, and with larger fuel allowances during the races. Under the claiming rule, CRTs agree to allow up to four of their engines per season to be claimed, after a race, by one of the major manufacturer teams at a cost of EUR20,000 each including transmission, or EUR15,000 each for the engine alone. From the 2014 season, the CRT class was dropped in favour of an "Open Class" specification - allowing teams using the control ECU hardware and software certain benefits to increase their competitiveness.
Moto2 (also known as 600cc class) is the 600 cc four-stroke class, launched in 2010 to replace the traditional 250 cc two-stroke class. Engines are supplied exclusively by Honda, tyres by Dunlop and electronics are limited and supplied only by FIM sanctioned producers with a maximum cost set at 650 EUR. Carbon brake discs are banned, only steel brake discs are allowed. However, there are no chassis limitations. From 2010 onwards, only 600 cc four-stroke Moto2 machines have been allowed.. Starting in 2019 Triumph will be the sole supplier of Moto2 engines.
The 125 cc class was replaced in 2012 by the Moto3 class. This class is restricted to single-cylinder 250 cc four-stroke engines with a maximum bore of 81 mm (3.2 inches).The minimum total weight for motorcycle and rider is 148 kg (326 lb). Riders in the Moto3 class cannot be older than 28 years, or 25 years for new contracted riders participating for the first time and wild-cards.
Triumph (2019 onwards)
|Configuration||75.5°-90° V4/Inline-four||Inline-four (2010-2018)
Inline-three (2019 onwards)
|Displacement||1,000 cc (61 cu in)||600 cc (37 cu in) (2010-2018)
765 cc (47 cu in) (2019 onwards)
|250 cc (15 cu in)|
|Combustion||Four-stroke (from 2012)|
|Valve-train||DOHC, four-valves per cylinder|
|Fuel||Unleaded 100 octane (no control fuel)||Total unleaded 98 octane (since 2016)|
|Fuel delivery||Fuel injection|
|Power||260 bhp (190 kW)||> 140 bhp (100 kW)||> 55 bhp (41 kW)|
|Power-to-weight ratio||1.51 bhp/kg||~1 bhp/kg||~0.6 bhp/kg|
|Rev limit||17,500 - 18,000 rpm||14,000 rpm|
|Speed||361 km/h (224 mph)||280 km/h (174 mph)||244 km/h (152 mph)|
|Cooling||Single water pump|
|2002 minimum||2007 minimum||2010 minimum|
|2||135 kg (298 lb)||137 kg (302 lb)||135 kg (298 lb)|
|3||135 kg (298 lb)||140.5 kg (310 lb)||142.5 kg (314 lb)|
|4||145 kg (320 lb)||148 kg (326 lb)||150 kg (330 lb)|
|5||145 kg (320 lb)||155.5 kg (343 lb)||157.5 kg (347 lb)|
|6||155 kg (342 lb)||163 kg (359 lb)||165 kg (364 lb)|
Tyre selection is critical, usually done by the individual rider based on bike 'feel' during practice, qualifying and the pre-race warm-up laps on the morning of the race, as well as the predicted weather. The typical compromise is between grip and longevity--softer compound tyres have more traction, but wear out more quickly; harder compound tyres have less traction, but are more likely to last the entire race. Conserving rubber throughout a race is a specific skill winning riders acquire. Special 'Q' or qualifying tyres of extreme softness and grip were typically used during grid-qualifying sessions until their use was discontinued at the end of the 2008 season, but they lasted typically no longer than one or two laps, though they could deliver higher qualifying speeds. In wet conditions, special tires ('wets') with full treads are used, but they suffer extreme wear if the track dries out.
In 2007 new MotoGP regulations limited the number of tyres any rider could use over the practice and qualifying period, and the race itself, to a maximum of 31 tyres (14 fronts and 17 rears) per rider. This introduced a problem of tyre choice versus weather (among other factors) that challenges riders and teams to optimize their performance on race day. This factor was greeted with varying degrees of enthusiasm by participants. Bridgestone had dominated in 2007 and Michelin riders Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden, Dani Pedrosa, and Colin Edwards all acknowledged shortcomings in Michelin's race tyres relative to Bridgestone. Rossi, disappointed with and critical of the performance of his Michelin tyres, switched to Bridgestones for 2008 and won the world championship in dominant fashion. Pedrosa switched to Bridgestones during the 2008 season.
In 2008, the rules were amended to allow more tyres per race weekend--18 fronts and 22 rears for a total of 40 tyres. The lower number of tyres per weekend was considered a handicap to Michelin riders. The only MotoGP team using Dunlop tyres in 2007, Yamaha Tech 3, did not use them in 2008 but switched to Michelin.
For 2009, 2010 and 2011, a 'spec' tyre supplier, Bridgestone, was appointed by the FIM (with Michelin no longer supplying any tyres to MotoGP). For the whole season Bridgestone provided four different specifications of front tyre, six of rear, and a single wet specification--with no qualifying specification. For each round Bridgestone provided only two specifications for front and rear. Tyres are assigned to riders randomly to assure impartiality. Jorge Lorenzo has publicly supported the mono tyre rule.
At the end of the 2015 season, Bridgestone withdrew as tyre supplier of MotoGP. Following a formal tender, French tyre manufacturer Michelin became the official supplier for the 2016 season, and testing began in Aragon immediately after the end of the 2015 season.
Motogp motorcycles are estimated to be worth approximately us$ 2 million, although executives within MotoGP have deemed them priceless due in part that they are prototypes and cannot easily be replicated.
This article may lend undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, or controversies. (November 2011)
The most notable Indian triumph of 1912 was the winning of the French classic motorcycle event, the Grand Prix.