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Grand Prix motorcycle racing
Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix is the premier championship of motorcycle road racing currently divided into three distinct classes: 125cc, 250cc (250cc will be replaced by the new Moto2, 600cc class in 2010), and MotoGP. Grand prix motorcycles are purpose-built racing machines that are neither available for general purchase nor can be legitimately ridden on public roads; this contrasts with the various production categories of racing, such as the Superbike World Championship, that feature modified versions of road-going motorcycles available to the public.


A Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix was first organized by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme in 1949. The commercial rights are owned by Dorna Sports. 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 4 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 50cc, 80cc, 125cc, 250cc, 350cc, and 500cc solo machines have existed over time, and 350cc and 500cc sidecars. Up through the 1950s and most of the 1960s, four-stroke engines dominated all classes. In the 1960s, two-stroke engines began to take root in the smaller classes. By the 1970s, two-strokes completely eclipsed the four-strokes in all classes. In 1979, Honda 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. The 50cc class was replaced by an 80cc class, then the class was dropped entirely in the 1990s, after being dominated primarily by Spanish and Italian makes. The 350cc class vanished in the 1980s. Sidecars were dropped from World Championship events in the 1990s (see superside), reducing the field to 125s, 250s, and 500s.

Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike
MotoGP, the premier class of GP motorcycle racing, has changed dramatically in recent years. From the mid-1970s until 2002 the top class of GP racing allowed 500cc with a maximum of 4 cylinders, regardless of whether the engine was a two-stroke or four-stroke. Consequently, all machines were two-strokes, due to the greater power output for a given engine capacity. 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 two strokes, probably influenced by what was then seen as a lack of relevance: the last mass-produced 500cc 2-stroke model had not been available to the public for some 15 years. The rules permitted manufacturers to choose between running two-strokes engines (500cc or less) or four-strokes (990cc or less). Manufacturers were also permitted to employ their choice of engine configuration. Despite the significantly increased costs involved in running the new four-stroke machinery, given their extra 490cc capacity advantage, the four-strokes were soon able to dominate their two-stroke rivals. As a result, by 2003 no two-stroke machines remained in the MotoGP field. The 125cc and 250cc classes still consist exclusively of two-stroke machines. In 2007, the MotoGP class had its maximum engine displacement capacity reduced to 800cc for a minimum of 5 years.

The 2008 racing calendar consisted of 18 rounds in 16 different countries (Spain which hosted 3 rounds, Qatar, Turkey, China, France, Italy, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, San Marino, Portugal, Japan, Australia and Malaysia). Exclusive to the MotoGP class, there was also a USA round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Secamarker in Monterey, Californiamarker for the 800cc class only, as California's strict emissions law bans two-stroke motorcycles. In 2008 a MotoGP event was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedwaymarker for the first time on a newly prepared track, and observers noted that the Speedway had hosted motorcycle racing before cars raced there. All three classes were scheduled to race but severe wind and rain prevented the 250cc class from racing. MotoGP racing at Indianapolis is counterclockwise, starting on the Formula One track, with additional turns directly after the pit area, bypassing the banking turn one of the oval track. Also because of the race being run counterclockwise on what is normally a clockwise track, the run off areas have seen significant modification.

The grid is composed of three columns (four for the 125cc and 250cc classes) and contains approximately 20 riders. Grid positions are decided in descending order of qualifying speed, the fastest on the 'pole' or first position. Races last approximately 45 minutes, each race a sprint from start to finish without pitting for fuel or tires.

In 2005, a flag-to-flag rule for MotoGP was introduced. Previously, if a race started dry and rain fell, riders or officials could red-flag (stop) the race and either restart or resume on 'wet' tires. Now, if 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 tires are different (that is, intermediates instead of wets, or slicks instead of wets)[8691]. Besides different tires, 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. Hence the conventional steel brakes. The suspension is also 'softened' up somewhat for the wet weather.

When a rider crashes, track marshals wave a yellow flag, prohibiting passing in that area; one corner back, a stationary yellow flag is shown and passing in this area of the track is prohibited; if a fallen rider cannot be evacuated safely from the track, the race is red-flagged. Motorcycle crashes are usually one of two types: lowsides and the more dangerous highsides, though increased use of traction control has made highsides much less frequent.

According to one estimate, leasing a top-level motorcycle for a rider costs about 3 to 3.5 million dollars for a racing season.

As a result of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, MotoGP is undergoing changes in an effort to cut costs. Among them are reducing Friday practice sessions; banning active suspension, launch control and ceramic composite brakes; extending the lifespan of engines; reducing testing sessions.


Tire 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—the softer and 'grippier' the tire, the more quickly it wears out; the harder and less grip, the more likely the tyre is to last the entire race. Conserving rubber throughout a race is a specific talent winning riders acquire. Special 'Q' or qualifying tires 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 tyres ('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 tires any rider could use over the practice and qualifying period, and the race itself, to a maximum of 31 tires (14 fronts and 17 rears) per rider. This introduced a problem of tyre choice vs. 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 tires relative to Bridgestone. Rossi, disappointed with and critical of the performance of his Michelin tires, 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 tires per race weekend—18 fronts and 22 rears for a total of 40 tires. The lower number of tires per weekend was considered a handicap to Michelin riders. The only MotoGP team using Dunlops in 2007, Yamaha Tech 3, did not use them in 2008 but switched to Michelin.

For 2009, 2010 and 2011, a 'spec' tire supplier, Bridgestone, was appointed by the FIM (Michelin no longer supplying any tires to MotoGP). For the whole season Bridgestone will provide 4 different specifications of front tyre, 6 of rear, and a single wet specification—no qualifying specification. For each round, Bridgestone will provide only 2 specifications for front and rear. Tyres will be assigned to riders randomly to assure impartiality.


  • 1949: Start of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
  • 1973: Deaths of Jarno Saarinen and Renzo Pasolini at the Italian round at Monza.
  • 1982: The Yamaha OW61 YZR500 is the first V4 in the 500cc class.
  • 1984: Michelin introduces radial tires in GPs.
  • 1987: Push starts are eliminated.
  • 1988: Wayne Rainey wins the first 500cc race using carbon brakes, at the British GP.
  • 1990: 500cc grid switches from 5 to 4 bikes per row.
  • 1992: Honda introduces NSR500 with big bang engine.
  • 1993: Shinichi Itoh and fuel-injected NSR500 break the 200 mph barrier at the German GP at Hockenheim.
  • 1998: 500cc switch to unleaded fuel.
  • 2002: 990cc 4-strokes allowed in premier class.
  • 2003: Daijiro Kato dies, leading to Suzuka'smarker removal from the roster.
  • 2004: MotoGP grid switches from 4 to 3 bikes per row.
  • 2004: Makoto Tamada earns Bridgestone their first MotoGP victory at the Brazilian GP.
  • 2005: MotoGP adopts flag-to-flag rule, meaning races continue if rain begins.
  • 2007: MotoGP restricted to 800cc 4-strokes.
  • 2008: Dunlop drops out of MotoGP.
  • 2009: Michelin drops out of MotoGP and Bridgestone become sole tyre providers.
  • 2009: Kawasaki Suspends MotoGP activities for 2009 and considers privateer team.
  • 2010: Moto2 4-stroke class replaces the 250cc 2-stroke class.


Top riders travel the world to compete in the annual FIM World Championship series. The championship is perhaps most closely followed in Italymarker and Spainmarker, home of many of the more successful riders early in the 21st century. But in recent years more riders from the USAmarker have been competing. This resulted in the reintroduction in 2005 of the US Grand Prix (albeit just for the MotoGP class, not 125cc & 250cc), an event staged at Laguna Secamarker where the American Nicky Hayden took his maiden MotoGP victory. Another American, Colin Edwards, gained second place in that race. In 2006, Hayden repeated his winning performance at Laguna Seca, despite serious difficulties with the track that—though repaved in June 2006, and incorporating improved safety features—exhibited serious problems with surface deterioration under conditions of severely warm weather. Hayden went on to win the 2006 MotoGP championship, with the winner of the previous five titles, Valentino Rossi, second. The Laguna Seca track was resurfaced for the 2007 event, leading to concerns about tyre choice on an entirely new racing surface.

The premier class in the early 21st-century seasons was dominated by Italian Valentino Rossi, winner of the 2001-2005 and later the 2008 and 2009 titles. In an effort to beat Valentino's amazing consecutive victories on the 500-cc two-strokes and then the 990-cc four-stroke machines, other companies signed younger riders on newly-designed 800-cc machines. Honda in particular took this approach, with their 2006 racing plans focused on winning with 'next-generation' teams, signing Toni Elías, Marco Melandri, Dani Pedrosa, and Nicky Hayden, all of whom were then under 25.Ducati successfully employed a similar strategy for the 2007 season when they signed 21-year-old Casey Stoner of Australia. After a string of victories and podiums the highly consistent Stoner earned Ducati and Bridgestone their first World Championship title at the Motegimarker round of the 2007 calendar. Despite excellent performances early in the 2008 season, Stoner eventually found himself behind Rossi in points and was unable to recover, losing to Rossi dramatically in the Laguna Seca round and later being hampered by an old wrist injury (broken scaphoid, which never fully healed in 5 years). Stoner underwent surgery at seasons end to resolve this problem.

The 2006 championship was the first in 14 years to be decided at the final race. Valentino Rossi started the race with a eight-point lead. Hayden finished third with Rossi finishing 13th after crashing on lap five, giving Nicky Hayden his maiden MotoGP World Championship title. For 2009 Hayden moves to Ducati after having ridden Hondas virtually throughout his road-racing career. In early tests on the 09 Ducati during winter testing he pronounced himself pleased with the move.


The following shows the key specifications issues 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.

125cc and 250cc classes

125cc machines are restricted to a single cylinder and a minimum weight of 80 kilograms and the 250cc machines to two cylinders and a minimum of 100 kilograms. From 2005 onwards, all riders in the 125cc class could not be older than 28 years or 25 years for new contracted riders participating for the first time and wild-cards.

In 2008 discussions arose surrounding the replacement of the 2-stroke 250cc class with another category. The move to 600cc 4-stroke engines to replace the current 250s has been finalized as of June 2008, and will take effect in 2010.

Moto2 class

Moto2 is the new 600cc 4-stroke class to replace 250cc 2-stroke class. Engines will be produced by Honda; tyres by Dunlop and electronics will be limited and supplied only by FIM sanctioned producers with max cost set at 650 EUR. Carbon-fibre brakes will be banned and only steel brakes will be allowed. However, there will be no chassis limitations.

MotoGP class

New specifications for each racing class are formed as the FIM sees fit. At the beginning of the new MotoGP era in 2002, 500cc two-stroke or 990cc four-stroke bikes were specified to race. The enormous power advantage of the larger displacement four-stroke engine over the two-stroke eliminated all two-strokes from competition; the following season no two-stroke bikes were racing. In 2007 the maximum engine capacity was reduced to 800cc without reducing the existing weight restrictions.

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; more cylinders attracting more weight 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 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. For purposes of increasing safety, regulation changes related to weight, amount of available fuel and engine capacity were introduced. The amended rules reduced engine capacity to 800cc from 990cc and restricted the amount of available fuel for race distance from 26 litres in year 2004 to 21 litres in year 2007 and onwards. In addition, the minimum weight of 4 cylinder bike used by all participating teams was increased by 3 kg.

The highest speed for a MotoGP motorcycle is 349.288kph (217.037 mph), set by Dani Pedrosa riding a Repsol Honda RC212V 800cc during Free Practice 1 at the 2009 Italian motorcycle Grand Prix. By way of comparison, the current Formula One speed record of 369.9kmh (229.8 mph) was set by Antônio Pizzonia of the BMW Williams F1 team, at Monzamarker in 2004—however, top speed is only a small portion of the overall capabilities of any track vehicle and thus does not represent the difference between Formula One and MotoGP performance-wise in general. Using lap timings as a guide, MotoGP riders typically lap the Spanish Circuit de Catalunya in 1 minute 43 seconds compared to 1 minute 23 seconds for Formula One. Generally, cars have more grip thanks to more tires with bigger surface contact area combined with greater downforce from their bodywork, which results in greater corner speed.


Minimum Weight - MotoGP Class
Number of

2002 Minimum 2007 Minimum Difference
  • In 2005, fuel tank capacity was reduced by 2 litres to 24 litres
  • In 2006, fuel tank capacity was reduced by a further 2 litres to 22 litres
  • From 2007 onwards and for a minimum period of five years, FIM has regulated in MotoGP class that two-stroke bikes will no longer be allowed, and engines will be limited to 800cc four-strokes. The maximum fuel capacity will be 21 litres.

Engine Specifications

  • Configuration: V4 or Inline-4 (MotoGP class), 2-cylinder (250 cc), 1-cylinder (125 cc class)
  • Displacement: 800 cc (MotoGP class), 250 cc (250 cc class), 125 cc (125 cc class)
  • Valves: 16-valve (MotoGP), none (two-stroke engine) (250 cc, 125 cc)
  • Valvetrain: DOHC, 4-valves per cylinder (MotoGP),
  • Fuel: Unleaded (no control fuel) 100 Octane
  • Fuel Delivery: Fuel injection
  • Aspiration: Naturally-aspirated engine
  • Power Output: 240 bhp.
  • Lubrication: Wet sump
  • Maximum/minimum revs: 17500 - 18000 rpm
  • Max Speed:
  • Cooling: Single water pump


Points Scoring - MotoGP Class
Position 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Points 25 20 16 13 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Movies and video games

Movies about MotoGP include:

Video games based upon MotoGP:


PC Wii

Game Boy Advance


Xbox 360

PlayStation 2

PlayStation 3

PlayStation Portable



See also


  1. IDIOT’S GUIDE TO MOTOGP: How to increase costs and decrease speed (Part II) Moto GP News 3 January 2006.
  2. article on the move to 600cc in 2011.
  3. Gamefaqs: MotoGP
  4. IGN: Pre-E3 2008: Capcom Reveals Hefty Lineup

External links

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