MotoGP Explained in Detail – Origin, Rules, Interesting Facts & More

You have heard of motorcycle racing. But did you know that there are more than 20 different motor-racing categories? They are all divided between 5 major disciplines that FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme or International Motorcycling Federation) created. These are: road racing, track racing, motocross, trials and enduro. In next week we will cover ALL of these racing categories exclusively for BikeAdvice readers!

But today we are going to cover just the first part of this humongous topic: Motorcycle Grand Prix. Start your engines and let’s roll!

So what is road racing? Road racing is the type of racing that takes place on the tarmac (only) – these will be specially designed racing circuits or just closed public roads.

First sub-category of road racing is pretty well known, I expect you heard about it before. It’s named Motorcycle Grand Prix, or MotoGP. We will cover this category today. Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix is probably the most popular type of motorcycle racing and it consists of three distinct classes: Moto2, MotoGP and 125cc.

Grand prix bikes are specifically customized racing machines, they are not legal in the streets, and you can’t buy one either.

MotoGP is the oldest of all motor-sports World Championships – first competition been held in far 1949. Traditionally, there were several races for various classes of motorcycles. Classes were based on the engine size, and 2 of them were designed for sidecars. They were: 50cc, 80cc, 125cc, 250cc, 350cc, and 500cc.

Let’s look at some historical facts for now. Till the 1960’s 4-stroke engines dominated in all classes; 2-stroke engines were just starting to strengthen their positions in MotoGP. But when 1970’s came along, motorcycles with 4-stroke engines were left in the dust. It was the Italian manufacturers like Mondial and Moto Guzzi, along with Gilera and MV Agusta, who dominated the World Championship in that time. MV Agusta was particularly great, it dominated all classes for 3 seasons, and 500cc class was undefeatable till 1974 (from 1958).

By the 1990’s many classes were eliminated and changed. 50cc was changed to 80cc, and later it vanished, because Italian and Spanish manufacturers completely dominated the race. 350cc disappeared in the beginning of the 1980’s. Sidecars also were removed in the early 1990’s (but there are lots of different motor-sports with sidecars nowadays, we will cover them later). All that remained in MotoGP are 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and 990cc.

Now let’s look at current classes of MotoGP: Moto2, 125cc and MotoGP itself.

Moto2 was created on 11th December 2008, and it was set to replace the 250cc class (from start of the 2010). This new category will be a prestigious, less expensive “copy” of the premier class – MotoGP.

Maintenance and supply for one Moto2 bike, for 1 season, will cost around $1,000,000!!

$1M Only! Yes, top class MotoGP bikes usually cost between 3 and 3.5 million dollars, so this is great idea – cutting costs a lot, without lowering performance greatly. Some of the key characteristics of this totally new class are only one engine and tire supporter. Honda Racing Corporation provides bikes with high-tech engines and Dunlop provides them with special racing tires.

Moto2 Race Begins

Moto2 bikes are powered by 600cc 4-stroke engines, producing around 140hp. Maximum rpm’s will reach 16000, and this will be strictly monitored and controlled by FIM electronic system. This class will replace older 250cc (2-stroke) class, but just like before it will continue to run on the prototype chassis – there will be no limits for the manufacturers. But no production motorcycle parts will be used; only specifically created details (just for Moto2) will be allowed. So this will be designer’s and manufacturer’s dilemma – how to create perfect chassis, suspension and all other viable parts.

But electronic system use will be quite limited for Moto2. Just data loggers, ECU and timing transponders will be allowed, and only those models that are supplied by organizer of the tournament. No other electronic control will be used. Also ECU components and upgrades are limited only to 650 euro. Also brakes will no longer be made of carbon; instead good-old steel brakes will be used. It will also allow reducing costs greatly.

Already seven drivers have great experience in elite class of MotoGP, they are De Angelis, Toni Elías, Niccolò Canepa, Talmacsi, Yuki Takahashi, Anthony West and Rolfo.

So, what do you think of this new class, will it be as exciting as premier MotoGP?

Now let’s look at the 125cc class – It is the first step for young riders into the world championship competition. Maximum engine size is limited to 125cc (single-cylinder units only, two-stroke). But don’t think these bikes are slow, because of the engine. They easily can hit 220km/h! The maximum age for riders is 28 years (25 for wild-card riders or those who are competing in the 125cc class for the first time) and the minimum age is 15 years. Minimum weight of the racing bike is restricted to 80 kg.

There is news that in 2012, 125cc class will be replaced by Moto3 class. Basic technical rules of this upcoming class are: Single cylinder 4-stroke engines, with size no more than 250cc, and maximum bore of 81mm. Also each engine should not cost more than 10000 euros (this could change) and last at least 3 races. And last rule is – each manufacturer should be ready to supply at least 15 riders (if required). The purpose of this class will be to create more competition and interest, and of course to reduce expenses.

And last and most exciting and expensive class of them all is MotoGP. This is the ultimate test for the finest talents in motorcycle racing, only the best riders can cope with such enormous speeds. Maximum engine capacity was limited to 800cc in 2007, because earlier 990cc was too powerful for 500cc two-stroke engine bikes, they all were out of the competition. Now event is much more interesting, because agile 500cc (2-stroke) bikes finally can challenge big and fast 800cc (4-stroke) bikes. Minimum age requirement is 18. All motorcycles competing in this class should be prototypes.

MotoGP motorcycles are not restricted to any specific engine configuration. But the number of cylinders in the engine determines bikes minimum weight. Extra cylinders work like a handicap – the more you have, bigger will be your allowed minimum weight. But this is understandable, because more cylinders are capable of producing more bhp. Also fuel capacity was restricted to 21 liter per race (from 26). However this was needed, because there is no power restriction in MotoGP. After that regulation very powerful engines were not able to last long enough on just 21 liters of fuel. They were tuned for less power output and more fuel economy.

Maximum power output is around 240bhp, and revs are reaching 18000! Most used configuration is V4 or Inline-4, although other types are allowed too. MotoGP bikes use only highest quality fuel, with Octane number of 100 (iso-octane). Highest MotoGP motorcycle speed was clocked at whopping ~350km/h! This record was set by Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda RC212V 800cc. Interesting fact is – average human brain cannot cope with speeds more then 200-220km/h. Reactions will be not fast enough to brake, turn or accelerate in the right moment. So if you try to ride MotoGP bike on the racing track, you will crash. That’s why any professional drivers, be it F1 or MotoGP, need at least 7-8 years of hard training.

Regulations and Rules of MotoGP

Now let’s get to the regulations and rules of MotoGP. These work for all classes – 125cc, Moto2 and MotoGP. Actually there is 115-page manual about it, but we will not cover so much, just basic key points, that will let you understand what’s going on in the race, and you will enjoy it much better.

Race is always happening on Sunday. Before that, competitors have 2 days for warming up, learning the track, adjusting the bike accordingly, and of course qualifying.

Friday is the first practice day. First 1 hour of practice is for 125cc class, then Moto2 and finally MotoGP. It starts from 12:40 and ends at 16:10 (following classes have 15 minutes for preparing), each class have only one hour for practicing. On Saturday there are 1 practice session (40 minutes for 125cc and 1 hour for others), and qualifying practice. Qualifying practice lasts same amount of time, and it will determine riders position in the race (faster time – better position in the top of the grid). Sunday is the race day, it consists of the 20-minute warm up in the morning and the race.

Riders will start practice when green light is shown at the end of pit lane. Duration of practice (remaining minutes) will be shown on the visible board or in the pit lane. End of practice time will be indicated by the waving of checkered flag. After this riders complete additional lap and enter the pits. If practice is interrupted because of the accident (or other reason), then red flag will be waved at all posts. All riders will return slowly to the pit lane. When practice is restarted, remaining time will be the same, when it was stopped.

Another small thing – in MotoGP class, riders have 2 motorcycles at their disposal (for practice), and 125cc and Moto2 have only 1.

To qualify for the race, rider must achieve at least 107% of time that was set by the fastest driver in his class (be it Moto2, 125cc or MotoGP). For example, if the time is 2:07 (127 seconds), minimal time required for the qualification will be 135.89 seconds or ~ 2:16. Now you see that it is very strict sport, with incredibly high standards.

As I said before, grid position will be determined by the time (fastest in the front). MotoGP grid will be arranged in the 3-3-3-3 configuration, “echelon” type. 125cc and Moto2 will be arranged in the 4-4-4-4, in “echelon” too. Between each row there is 9-meter distance.

Length of races should be: minimum – 95km, and maximum – 130km. They normally last between 40-45 minutes, depending on the current track.

Before the beginning of the race, directors will announce what type of race it will be – “dry” or “wet”. So the racing mechanics will have 10 minutes (15 minutes for MotoGP) for changing the tires and some minor technical adjustments. Tire warmers for MotoGP class could be used; they should be removed before 1 minute from the race start. Riders arrive to the grid before 5 minutes from the race start. When it’s just 1 minute before the start, riders should put their helmets on. At this point all personnel will leave the grid (only personal mechanic will remain). Mechanics will assist the rider to start the machine, and then they will leave the grid. The warm up lap starts. Speed for this 1 lap is unrestricted, and the riders will be followed by the safety car. This car will overtake slow riders, and if someone arrives after the safety car, he will need to start the race after it. (at the rear of the grid). Finally, when all taken their positions after warm up lap, red flag will be shown (official person will appear on the side of the track waving the flag). Then drivers will wait for the red light, and the race will start.

Interesting fact is, that the race will be included in the result table if the driver finished 75% of race distance (he may crash in the end of the race and still get points), or if he crossed the finishing line within 5 minutes of the race winner. He must be in contact with machine. (if machine is not working rider can cross the line with help of his team members pushing his bike. Yes, that is possible, although usually it happens, if rider crashes just before the finish line.)

Flags and their Meanings in MotoGP

Have a look at flags used in MotoGP, some of them are used with rider numbers, to indicate who are they shown for.

  • Green flag – signal to start warm up lap. Also it could be waved after accident; it means that track is clear.
  • Yellow and red stripped flag – section of the track are affected by something, other than rain.
  • White flag with diagonal red cross – drops of rain in this section of the track.
  • White flag with diagonal red cross + yellow and red stripped flag (2 at once) – rain in this section of the track.
  • Blue flag – rider is about to be overtaken, he need to allow the following riders to pass him. Or else he will be penalized.
  • Checkered black/white flag – finish line.

  • Yellow flag – The start of the race is delayed. If shown on the track, yellow flag means that there is danger ahead. Riders must slow down and stop, overtaking is forbidden until green flag will be shown.
  • White flag – rider is allowed to change the machine.
  • Red flag – race or practice session is being interrupted. All riders should return to the pits. Also it signalizes the end of warm up lap, and the preparing for a race. (shortly red lights will be switched and race will begin)
  • Black flag – rider is disqualified from a race.
  • Black flag with orange disc – rider’s machine have mechanical problems, which endanger him and the others. He should immediately leave the track.

Some words about Championship points. Points are given not only for riders, but also for constructors. However, only highest placed motorcycle of the constructor will get points. Teams will get points scored by both drivers (each team will be comprised of 2 drivers); they will compete for Team Championship. Look how point system looks:

And lastly, a bit information about penalties. Type of penalties are:

  1. Warnings – Can be made privately or publicly.
  2. Fines – cash penalty, can vary from 60 euro to 50.000 euro.
  3. Ride through – driver will be requested to drive through the pit lane. Speed limit is 60km/h, if driver will go faster, he will be requested for drive-through again. If he breaks the rules again, black flag will be shown.
  4. Time penalties – up to 2 minute penalty will be added to actual riders result.
  5. Disqualification – black flag or black flag with orange disc will be shown during the race or a practice session.
  6. Withdrawal of Championship points – rider will lose points from the races he already done.
  7. Suspension – rider will lose rights to participate in next race (maybe applied to more than 1 race)
  8. Exclusion – Complete loss of all rights and points. Rider cannot participate in any activity under FIM control.

More than one penalty can be applied to any particular driver.

That’s all for now. I hope you found this article interesting and informational, many more will come! And please, leave your feedback.

– Aleks