Motor racing has become popular since the early 20th century. Whether it is the car or the motorcycle, there is something about the raw speed and power that attracts crowds and pushes the riders to their ultimate limit.
Compared to automobiles, motorcycle racing has been around for a longer time. However, the races were all independent. Since the early 1940s, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme or FIM planned to draw a structure for these independent races so the outcome can be counted with points, leading to a world championship title.
FIM officially became the controlling authority for motorcycle racing and the inaugural season was first held in 1949 under the banner of Grand Prix motorcycle racing or, simply, MotoGP.
Since then, there have been numerous changes to the rules and regulations. Three other categories were added to make it easier for racers to transition to MotoGP. In this article, we take a look at three of the premier class of motorcycle racing and what sets them apart from each other.
|Cylinder Number||Inline four||Inline three||Single cylinder|
|Displacement||1000 cc||765 cc||250 cc|
|Power Output||260 bhp||Less or equal 140 bhp||Less or equal 55 bhp|
|Rev Count (in RPM)||17,500 to 18,500||17,500 to 18,500||13,500|
|Engine Supplier||Different Teams||Triumph||Different Teams|
|Total Weight (with rider)||158 kg||217 kg||148 kg|
|Max Speed||362.4 kmph||300 kmph||248 kmph|
As we mentioned above, there are 4 different classes of motorcycle Grand Prix racing. However, the newest and lowest class, the MotoE, uses electric engines for the championship. The race numbers are also significantly less compared to the top 3 divisions. As a result, we start with Moto 3.
Before 2012, the Moto3 class was known as the 125 cc class. The name change doubled the cc count and capped it at 250 cc. Just like other classes, there are a few strict rules followed in Moto3.
The engine in Moto3 class can only be a 4-stroke single-cylinder engine. The cylinder opening cannot be more than 81 mm. The total weight of the motorcycle, along with the rider, is capped at a minimum of 148 kg. This is done to maintain the level of competency, which we will come to later.
The FIM has set the entry age limit between 16 to 28 years for the Moto3 championship. However, since 2014, riders showing exceptional skills in the junior level championships are allowed to ride in Moto3, bypassing the minimum age limit.
Other key factors within the drivetrain are also strictly regulated. A Moto3 hp is limited to 55 bhp of power with a rev limit of less than 13,500 rpm. This caps the top speed at 248 kmph.
Now all of this information might feel like Moto3 bikes are not any different than a standard mid-powered sports bike. And you won’t be wrong to assume so. But the key here is the chassis design.
The engine and powertrain limitations don’t really leave much innovative gap in speed generation between different engine suppliers. So racing teams focus on designing chassis that would aid in the track run scenario. These bikes are strictly made for tracks and aren’t street legal in any way.
Moving from the Moto3, we have its immediate upper tier, the Moto2 class. Before 2010, the Moto2 class used to be a 250 cc two-stroke engine class. The FIM decided on a 600 cc four-stroke single-cylinder engine for the Moto2 class. This paved the way for Moto3 class to upgrade from 125 cc to 250 cc a couple of years later.
Initially, the FIM chose to make the Moto2 class a hardline competitive racing segment. To that end, FIM allowed Honda to be the exclusive supplier of the engine. Even the tire was sharply regulated by Dunlop. There was also the regulation of using similar electronic components as sanctioned by the FIM.
However, FIM shifted to Triumph from Honda as the proprietary engine supplier for the Moto2 class. The triumph engines have a displacement of 765 cc, which is a good 165 cc more compared to the Honda ones. Other components and regulations remained the same.
Just like the Moto3 class, there is also a weight limit in the Moto2 class. The total weight combining the rider cannot be more than 217 kg. The increase in weight is mainly designated for the larger Triumph engine.
The only modifiable option for the teams is in the chassis. The chassis modification allows for better aerodynamics and speed boost. Other than that, it is all on the driver to make a difference in the circuit.
The Moto2 powertrain can have a maximum power of less than 140 bhp in all-terrain conditions. The power is locked at 100 kW for all competing teams. The maximum speed is also curtailed at 300.6 kmph. This is a good 50 kmph increase over the Moto3 class.
The races and the championship is modeled similarly to the Moto GP flagship event. There are a total of 19 races per season. Each race covers a distance between 100 km and 130 km. a race typically lasts for about 40 minutes each.
As of 2021, Kalex, MV Augusta, NTS, and Speed-Up lead the manufacturer list for the Moto 2 class.
MotoGP is the highest class of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. It is often considered as the pinnacle of human engineering and ideation ground for future breakthrough technology.
This technological innovation started to appear on the racing grid as early as 2002. The superior increment of speed and displacement raised several safety concerns. FIM, in its own right, capped the displacement limit to 800 cc in 2002 with a max cylinder count of 4. However, the organization backtracked from this decision a decade later.
So what cc is MotoGP bikes? They are currently locked at 1000 cc.
There aren’t any specified engine suppliers for the MotoGP. Manufacturers can put their engineering and innovation on track. As a result, there have been significant development and race advantages seen over the years.
The MotoGP bike has a powertrain limit of 260 bhp with a 17,500 to 18,000 rev count. This takes the max speed of the bikes to 362.4 kmph, which is the highest for any production motorcycle in the world.
Just like the engine, the constructors have full control over the chassis build. A higher cylinder count makes way for better power generation resulting in a faster bike. But the Moto GP bike weight is capped at 158 kg, which only allows for 4 cylinders at best. This has become the equilibrium point, and all competing bikes use the same configuration. The bikes are allowed to carry a max load of 22 liters of fuel.
All the engines and mechanisms used in MotoGP are prototypes. Meaning none of the components or drivetrain is available for purchase for street use. MotoGP follows the same principle as Formula 1 in this regard.
The top manufacturers include Aprilia, Ducati, KTM, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Honda. A total of 22 racers race in 19 tracks to battle out the championship.
So What are the Differences?
Now onto the all-important question, what are the differences between each of these three classes? From the specs and details above, it is clear that there are quite a few differences between each class of motorcycle racing. However, let’s look at a few key determinants.
The first obvious difference is in the engine. From Moto3 engine size to MotoGP engine size, the growth is incremental. Moto3 has the least powerful engines of the three classes, with the MotoGP being at the forefront of innovation and power.
Moto2, however, sits in the middle with a 765 cc engine. But a key factor is that both Moto3 and MotoGP can utilize engines from different manufacturers. This is not available for Moto2 as it only uses engines supplied by Triumph. As a result, races become more intense in the Moto2 series as there isn’t much drivetrain variation.
Weight plays an important role in the chassis built in each class. from the laws of physics, it is obvious that lighter bodies will have better aerodynamics, and the same applies to motorcycle racing. FIM has limited the weight for each class of Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP. Moto3 has a weight limit of 148 kg, whereas MotoGP has a weight limit of 158 kg. The Moto2, however, has a large weight capacity at 217 kg, thanks to the unified engine supply for all the teams.
Here come the nitty-gritty details. While the outer appearance of each of these bikes does not tell much about the difference, it’s the internals that makes the performance difference. And combined with the internal differences, there are a few technical differences across the board as well.
For Moto3, there is no engine supplier regulation. There aren’t any chassis or design regulations as well. Meaning a Moto3 bike can look exactly like a MotoGP bike if it fits the internal requirement and weight limit. Moving on, the electronic control unit, as well as the tires, are centrally controlled by the regulating authority. A total of 31 drivers from 16 different teams fight it out on the Moto3 championship.
The Moto2 is a more restricted class. From the engine to the drivetrain to the powertrain, everything is standardized. However, there aren’t any tire regulations in this class. This class genuinely determines the riding talent and circuit excellence of a rider.
The flagship MotoGP hosts a total of 22 drivers for their 19-race season. Here everything is controlled from the tire to ensure access to fuel. Each rider has an allotment of 7 engines per season. Riders also have a limited number of tire selections, and they cannot carry more than 22 liters of fuel per race.
Are All Moto3 Engines the Same?
No, not all Moto3 engines are the same. There is no unified engine supplier for the Moto3 class. The FIM has outlined a few engine regulations which the manufacturers must adhere to. Other than that, there isn’t any limitation to engines in Moto3.
Are MotoGP Bikes Faster Than Superbikes?
Yes, MotoGP bikes are significantly faster than superbikes. This is mostly because of the prototype engines and chassis components which aren’t available for the street-legal superbikes.
There are a lot of safety regulations that require the superbikes to meet a certain weight limit which is much higher compared to the MotoGP bikes. In addition to the chassis, the bhp and the top speed for superbikes are also capped. As a result, a MotoGP bike can reach a speed of up to 362 kmph whereas a regular superbike has a speed capped at 300 kmph.
Why is Ducati So Fast in MotoGP?
There is an important thing to note before answering this question. Ducati bikes are designed in such a way that they are very fast down the straight lines of any circuit. In fact, they easily outperform other teams. Ducati does so because of the 90 degrees V4 engine alignment. This allows the bike to keep a unified balance without the aid of any other balance mechanism. As a result, Ducatis are almost lighting fast in straight tracks.
Why is there no Kawasaki in MotoGP?
Kawasaki is not in MotoGP currently because of the cost associated with running a MotoGP team. All the bikes and components are prototypes meaning millions are spent to develop them. For Kawasaki, the return from the investment wasn’t as high as they would like. As a result, the company solely focused on production bikes.
Why is H2R Not Used in MotoGP?
There are two reasons why H2R is not used in MotoGP. First of all, Kawasaki themselves do not partake in MotoGP. Secondly, H2R doesn’t meet the technical regulation of MotoGP. Also, it uses an induction mechanism which is strictly prohibited in MotoGP.
To sum it up, each class of motorcycle racing has its unique perks. Rather than thinking of them as separate events, they should be thought of as class upgrades. A rider will have their first championships like race in the Moto3 and, with performance and determination, will make their way up to MotoGP. Among the three classes, the Moto2 tests the resilience of a driver, most making them world championship ready with MotoGP.