A guide to MotoGP.

“You will live more in five minutes on a bike like this going flat out than some people live in a lifetime.” – Burt Munro

Burt Munro’s Indian on which he had set a land speed record in his times.

This article is meant for amateurs who want to understand MotoGP but fail and watch it anyways like I used to. If you are not a beginner, please give more insights if it helps us. This is a first in the series of articles that I’m going to publish as the MotoGP ’17 season unfolds. Be patient, get something to chow, it’s going to be a long read!

The gorgeous Philip Island circuit

Organisations & History:

Yup.., the boring part. How it has all started… As we humans have a tendency to screw up almost everything, so did our forefathers screw up a bicycle, by attaching a motor to it. And naturally, they raced on it to prove they were having a better machine and are macho enough to ride it! That was how street racing was born. And MotoGP is nothing but a tamed street race confined to a special track and a small group of manufacturers. In fact, the association through which teams participate in the MotoGP to race is still called the “International Road Racing Teams Association (IRTA)“. Although there is Isle of man TT that is much closer to the street race concept, we’ll talk about it sometime else.

Nope, it’s not a bicycle race, they are all motorcycles!

Although there are many references to other organisations and places, it was in the year 1949 “Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM)” was the body that organised the first ever MotoGP. Since then, this sport has undergone extensive changes in rules and regulations. In 1969, FIM has taken a revolutionary decision to limit the machines to 6 gears and 2 cylinders, due to which many manufacturers like Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki have quit the championship. This led to MV Augusta winning the championship almost every year, until 1973. Yamaha and Suzuki have returned with new 2-Stroke designs that made the competition alive again. Honda too tried a comeback with 4-stroke design but failed and later adapted to the 2-strokes and even won a championship as early as 3 years into it. 1970 to 2001 was a 2-stroke machine dominated period as the rules used to usually put a similar upper limit to the engine capacity of both the 2-stroke & 4-stroke engines and 2-Strokes had a better performance advantage over 4-strokes. In 2002 FIM has decided to let manufacturers choose between 500CC 2-strokes or 990CC 4-Strokes effectively killing the 2-Stroke machines. This decision was inline to the pollution concerns being raised at those times. Ducati  too made a debut in 2003 following the adaptation of 4-strokes by all other manufacturers. In 2007, the capacity was revised to 800CC from 990CC. Ducati had won the championship, Casey Stoner was their rider. In 2012, the capacity was again revised from 800CC to 1000CC.

Casey Stoner
Casey Stoner on the Ducati GP7

Present, the governing body of this sport is “Dorna Sports“. Unlike any other sport where a participant has only one contender, MotoGP has rules that allow for the manufacturers under “Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers Association (MSMA)” to let any number of teams to participate for them, but the team must be a member of “International Road Racing Teams Association (IRTA). Any decision to be taken to make a technical modification will be done through voting between the group of these 4 bodies, Dorna, FIM, IRTA, MSMA. with Dorna having the vote in case of a tie-break. You would probably have heard of the ongoing discussion on the winglets used in ’16 and that FIM had come up with some sort of new rules regarding aerodynamic parts on the machines for ’17. We will get into details later, it is such decisions that make every year much more challenging for manufacturers and exiting to motor sport fans to watch.


Having done with the history, We’ll take a walk around the basics of a MotoGP machine, track, riders & crashes.

The Honda NSR500

Grand Prix bikes are purpose built prototype machines to win races and to showcase the design and technological capabilities of their manufacturers. The machines are therefore constructed from expensive and extremely light materials such as titanium and reinforced carbon fiber and benefit from advanced technologies (carbon disk brakes, engine management systems, traction control), which does not feature on regular road bikes. These bikes are illegal to ride on public roads and are not for sale. Each machine usually costs around 2-3 million dollars and weighs about 160KG. These machines are the pioneers of Ride by wire technologies that are available on the road bikes. At any given point of time, the sensors on a bike collects close to 500 different parameters to be measured which help in controlling the bike. Now, FIM has given a stock electronics package and software so that new players like KTM & Suzuki in this years MotoGP will not have to go through the costly and timely affair of creating a electronics package complying all the rules and getting it approved and also that the competition with the well established manufacturers will be healthy.

Movistar Yamaha’s YZR-M1 used by Valentino Rossi in GP’16

The first ever track used for racing was the “Snaefell Mountain Course” also the home of Isle of man TT , it is a 60KM long course in an island. Usually modern day race circuits range from 4-5 KM. and the number of laps depends on the circuit ranging from 20-30 laps. In 2008 only MotoGP class was held in US the other two classes, moto3, mot2 were not held because the Californian air pollution laws were prohibiting two-stroke engines in the state and the other two classes were still using 2-strokes. It was on 2015 in Qatar, the first ever night race was held.

Qatar Losail international circuit

Riders of these machines undergo accelerations ranging till 3G’s. They ride at an average of 160kmph and top speeds of 340Kmph. Faster than a F1 car! They loose up to 2 liters of sweat in the 45 minutes of race! They wear a lot of Armour, probably more than any marvel hero has ever had. The physical demands to maneuver such machine when even a split second matters are very high. They do Cross-training with road bikes, motocross bikes or trials bikes which help in maintaining their shape. MotoGP season lasts about 9 months of a year, so technically, there is no going home  for a rider. And the number of crashes they endure and push themselves to, one needs to be brave to do that!

Marco Simoncelli’s crash in which he had lost his life.

Crashes are usually of two types in MotoGP, low-side and high-side. When the rear tire looses traction and slides away from the rider, the rider crashes onto the track, known as low-side crash. But, when the rear tire just after a slide if regains traction and gives a jerk and the rider tries to throttle the machine. At that time, the bike tries to flip over its long axis throwing the rider instantaneously over the machine. This can be fatal ‘coz in the former, the bike is in-front of the rider so, it slides away without causing any damage to the rider, in the later case, the rider is thrown in the direction which the bike is going to crash while probably rotating along its own long axis and the rider might well be in it’s way. FIM suggests riders not to release the brake if they found the rear tire is locked and there is traction on the surface while in a corner it is better to have a low-side crash than risk your life with a high-side crash.

high-side crash

We will discuss about Tyre choice, manufacturers, technologies, the motorcycle restrictions in place & the recent issue of faring winglets and new rules on their design in the coming posts.

Head out to this link to add the motoGP ’17 to your calander. http://www.gpupdate.net/en/calendar/251/2017-motogp-calendar/


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