MotoGP is the world’s premier motorcycling championship, with a season of 18 Grands Prix in 14 countries bringing together the world’s top motorcycle manufacturers such as Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Ducati, Kawasaki, Aprilia and KTM - plus an elite crop of riders from every corner of the globe.
The motorcycles used for MotoGP are purpose-built racing prototypes which are unavailable for purchase by the general public and cannot be legally ridden on public roads.
The Grand Prix Road-Racing World Championship was first organised by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) in 1949 and has been administrated by commercial rights owners Dorna Sports under the supervision of the FIM since 1992. It is the oldest motorsport World Championship in existence.
MotoGP began a new era in 2002 when revised regulations allowed for the participation of bikes with four-stroke engines. For the 2007 season the adaptation of MotoGP bikes from 990cc engine capacity to 800cc resulted in an even more exciting spectacle, with higher corner speeds and even more competitive races – patterns which are continuing this year.
Furthermore, in the opening round of 2008, MotoGP become the first motorsports World Championship to host a night-time Grand Prix, with the Losail International Circuit’s state-of-the-art new floodlight system permitting a superb start to the season in Qatar.
Grand Prix Weekends
On a Grand Prix weekend there are three individual races, one for each of MotoGP’s three categories:
- MotoGP – the ultimate test for the finest talents in motorcycle racing, in which maximum engine displacement capacity is now the aforementioned 800cc (four-stroke engines) and the minimum age for riders is 18.
- 250 – the intermediate category where maximum engine displacement capacity is 250cc (twin cylinder engines) and the minimum age for riders is 16.
- 125 – the class which offers young riders the chance to take their first step into Grand Prix, where maximum engine displacement capacity is 125cc (single cylinder engines), the maximum age for riders is 28 (or 25 years of age for wild-card riders or for newly contracted riders participating in a 125cc race for the first time) and the minimum age is 15 years old.
Races begin from a grid which is composed of three starting positions per row (four per row in the 250cc and 125cc classes), with starting places secured by qualifying times - the fastest rider earning the famous pole position. The races can vary between 95km and 130km in distance and usually last approximately 40-45 minutes, each being a spectacular sprint to the finish line, with pit-stops being rare rather than the norm.
Tyre selection is therefore absolutely crucial and is undertaken by the teams following consultation with their riders based on knowledge of the track, weather conditions and the feel of the bike during free practice, qualifying and the pre-race warm-up sessions. A critical balance has to be found between grip and the endurance of the tyre, as soft, ‘gripping’ tyres permit quicker speeds and faster lap times but wear out quickly, whilst harder, less ‘sticky’ tyres last longer but do not assist the rider in achieving maximum velocity.
The current MotoGP World Champion is Australian Casey Stoner of the Ducati Marlboro team, who sensationally won the 2008 title in just his second season in the premier class – securing ten race wins along the way.
In defending his title in 2008 Stoner is faced with stiff competition from the likes of Valentino Rossi, the five-time MotoGP World Champion, and Dani Pedrosa, last year’s runner-up. Meanwhile, Rossi’s new Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, the reigning 250cc World title holder, and Pedrosa’s Repsol Honda colleague Nicky Hayden, the 2006 MotoGP World Champion, are also stars of the show, with talent in abundance in each case.
Indeed, the level of racing ability throughout the 2008 MotoGP grid is exceptionally high, with the likes of Loris Capirossi, Andrea Dovizioso, Colin Edwards, John Hopkins, Marco Melandri and James Toseland also competing for podium finishes.
In the 250cc category the title race should be wide open this year, following the promotion of the likes of Lorenzo and Dovizioso to MotoGP. A strong Aprilia challenge is presented by Spanish trio Hector Barbera, Alvaro Bautista and Alex Debon, battling with KTM riders Mika Kallio and Hiroshi Aoyama.
In the single cylinder World Championship the current title holder is Hungary's Gabor Talmacsi, one of the older 125cc competitors, who defends his crown against a plethora of young riding talent in 2008.
The list of participants in each Grand Prix is composed of the permanent riders, contracted and nominated by their teams for the whole season, and wildcard entries – who are often local riders. Approximately 18 participants enter each MotoGP race, about 25 take part in each 250cc race and the 125cc races usually involve around 35 riders. The ages of the Grand Prix riders range from 34 for MotoGP’s Loris Capirossi, down to the previously stated minimum age limit of 15 for the youngsters in 125cc. The youngest regular rider in the championship is Repsol KTM rookie Marc Marquez.
Riders from around the globe take part in the World Championships including the following countries: Australia, Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Romania, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, UK and USA.