The MotoGP Championship is the pinnacle class of world championship road racing. It developed primarily in Europe after the FIM (Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme) consolidated the regulations for motorcycle competition for the first time in 1949. In the past, the premier class was the 500cc class of the Road Race World Championships, but in 2002 the regulation was changed to create the MotoGP class in which 2-stroke machines of up to 500 cc and 4-stroke machines of up to 990 cc competed together.
What is MotoGP?
The regulation was changed again in 2004 to limit the MotoGP class to four-stroke machines only, and the displacement limit was reduced to 800 cc in the regulation from the 2007 season. Since then, new regulations have also made a single maker the sole supplier of tyres for MotoGP, limited the number of tyres that can be used by a team during race week and reduced the number of test days.
In 2010, regulations changed to limit the number of engines a single rider can use during the season to six. 2011 was the last for the 800cc machines, with regulations changing for 2012 to allow 1000cc bikes onto the grid.
A major change for the 2014 season was that all teams were required to source and use a standard MotoGP ECU. In 2015 it was decided that all engine management systems including injectors, bypass systems, variable intake systems and ignition must be operated exclusively by the original and unmodified ECU signal.
Other 2015 regulation changes see the minimum weight of a 1,000 cc machine will be reduced by 2 kg from 160kg to 158kg and the carbon brake discs must be one of the permitted sizes for outside diameter, that is: 320mm and 340mm. At certain circuits, such as Motegi, the use of 340mm carbon brake discs is mandatory for the race for safety reasons.
MotoGP rules dictate four-cylinder engines with a maximum bore size of 81mm. Each rider is allocated seven engines for the season, with no development work permitted during the season.
An allocation of 21 slick tyres, 10 of which are front tyres is given to each rider to cover the race and all practice and qualifying sessions. Of these 10 front tyres a maximum of six can be either specification A (hard) or specification B (soft). For the 11 rear slick tyre up to a maximum of five can be a specification A (hard) or a maximum of seven can be specification B (soft). There is a standard allocation of 10 wet tyres: five front wet tyres and five rear wet tyres of the standard specification. All riders have access to the same tyres, which for 2017 are manufactured by Michelin.
With all these changes, MotoGP is firmly in a new era. The machines achieve a maximum output of over 240 hp and reach speeds of over 340km/hr. The latest electronic control technology is employed throughout. Races are contested on tarmac circuits that are typically between 4-5km long, with a total race distance of between 110-120km taking around 40 minutes to complete.
A new split qualifying procedure was introduced in 2013, with the fastest riders from practice going into a pole shoot-out. The existing three 45-minute practice sessions remained, but the first half hour of qualifying became additional practice and does not count for the grid. Qualifying itself become two 15-minute sessions known as 'qualifying practice 1' and 'qualifying practice 2'. QP1 commences 10 minutes after the end of the new practice four, with a further 10-minute break before QP2. The 10 fastest riders in the combined times from practices one, two and three go straight through to QP2. The rest of the field have to participate in QP1, from which the fastest two riders qualify for QP2, with the remainder forming the grid from 13th back. QP2 then decides the top 12 grid positions.
Italian riders, including Yamaha legends Valentino Rossi and Giacomo Agostini, have the best all-time records, winning a total of 20 titles in this premier class. Yamaha has a total of 16 titles, including ten in the GP500 and five in the MotoGP. Yamaha Factory Racing won the Triple Crown of Rider, Team and Manufacturer’s title three years consecutively, 2008 – 2010 and the Rider’s title again in 2012 and 2014.