While it is certainly one of the most entertaining sports, there is much more to it than watching our favourite rider win a race or a championship.
It can be difficult to find out the basics and the up to date technical rules and regulations when you are new to the sport.
No need to worry, we have compiled 10 interesting facts every fan should know before the new season starts.
1. MotoGP Electronics
Since 2016, MotoGP bikes have had a unified ECU (Electronic Control Unit) software package.
From 2019, we will see both a unified ECU and a unified IMU system.
What does this all mean? The IMU system is an inertial measurement unit and tells the bike what it is doing. It takes in data and measurements, sends the results to the ECU (electronic control unit) this then uses this data to operate functions like braking control from the riders’ input, acceleration, traction and launch control.
Since these units work in conjunction with the CAN (Controller Area Network) bus connectors which is the system between the sensors and the ECU Dorna has decided from 2019 these will also be standard issue.
For those not clued in on all things mechanical, traction control limits rear wheel spin while the rider accelerates on a surface where they have lost traction for some reason. It can also come to their assistance if they accelerate too hard.
Traction control will then take over to smooth out this error in power and allows the rider to maintain control. At an average of 250km/h the more refined your electronics, the more sophisticated this system will be.
Obviously prior to unification in 2016, the factory teams with their huge budgets could afford to have state of the art electronics leaving the satellite teams behind.
However, that was not the end of it as it turns out it was possible to input data into the IMU to create the effect of increased traction control and braking advantages.
Since the rules state you cannot do this, Dorna (organisation managing MotoGP) has decided it is easier to unify all the software than attempt to police the manipulation of such a system.
Why does Dorna feel this way? They are aiming to achieve a closer racing competition between the entire field or in other words closing the gap between the factory and satellite teams.
It seems to be working so far with more race lead changes and podium contention from the satellite teams than we saw before software unification was introduced in 2016.
2. How do factory teams and satellite teams differ?
A factory team such as Repsol, Honda and Movistar Yamaha for example, are directly managed and funded by the factory named. This gives them the absolute latest technological advances available for the bike itself.
A satellite team has the bike on lease from the factory i.e. LCR Honda or Tech3 Yamaha and so on. The team is not managed or directly funded by the factory but by an independent team with a smaller budget and less available resources.
This does not mean they are not competitive, and it is becoming even more competitive in recent years with the unifying of software and hardware across the field.
3. How Much does a MotoGP Bike Cost?
These bikes are prototypes, built specifically and by hand for racing and are illegal to ride on public roads.
They are built from considerably more expensive materials than street bikes such as titanium, carbon fibre and magnesium to maintain strength but to reduce weight as much as possible.
Since they are only making a few at a time it becomes expensive to produce the individual parts. With items such as front forks costing around US$100,000 it can quickly add up to the $2 million US Dollars price tag.
More astonishingly this does not include research and development, the technology that goes into the running of the bike itself or even the security required to keep the bike safely under lock and key during the season. So they really are an almost priceless piece of machinery!
4. Engine Specs
Engines used in MotoGP must be a four-stroke engine of no more than 1000cc. They are not allowed to run on non-standard cylinders or be turbo/super-charged.
Since they are usually hand assembled, they can be one of the most expensive parts on the bike costing around US$220,000.
Each rider only has 7 engines per season, so they need to balance the performance with durability, which can be greatly impacted by events like too many crashes in the season.
5. Fuel Facts
The fuel tanks on these machines are quite small in comparison to a street bike. Not to worry though since they are only allowed 22 litres of fuel to complete each race.
With each race being around 120 kilometres long, it demands the engines run at their most efficient to get the required 15L per 100 kilometres.
6. Top Speed
At present, the fastest speed recorded is by Andrea Dovizioso 356.4 km/h (221.5 mph), set by Andrea Dovizioso at the Italian grand prix in 2018.
The record was previously held by fellow countryman and former teammate Andrea Ianonne with a speed of 354km/h in 2016.
7. Braking News
The brakes in MotoGP are provided by Brembo for an approximate cost of 75,000 euros per season per rider. These state-of-the-art brakes are made from carbon and can withstand exceptionally high heat during a race and are very lightweight.
Several years ago, it was standard to switch to steel discs in the wet but after Marquez continued on the carbon discs in Misano (2017) despite the rain and won, it has inspired other riders to stick with the carbon in the rain with some success.
This can be credited to technological advances by Brembo and a more refined carbon product being manufactured.
8. The Weight of Stopping
There are times a rider will be at maximum speed and drop to about half that to enter a corner in just a few seconds.
This means the rider will experience about 1.9g forces during that deceleration.
Many may think F1 drivers are subjected to far more. However, one must remember F1 drivers are seated and strapped in securely whereas a MotoGP rider does not have any such benefits and protection.
Imagine a 150kg slab of concrete on your back while trying to stop your bike and enter a corner – all without tipping over since by the time you are leaning into the corner you may only have a few millimetres of rubber touching the track.
Scary right! It’s no wonder many riders suffer with wrist pain and damage due to the pressure on them during each race.
The damage is somewhat like a severe carpel tunnel syndrome caused by the intense pressure on the wrist, over the course of a race the wrist can swell causing intense pain.
This is why we may see a rider head back to the track after a broken ankle or collar bone but we will often see them sit the race out where their wrists are concerned.
9. Weight loss
A MotoGP rider must be at peak physical fitness to undertake each race.
It takes an immense amount of strength to control a bike flying around a track at 300km/h, especially when we consider the bike weighs about 160kilos and in most cases is double the average riders’ weight.
However, there is one other thing we really don’t think about. Weight loss during the race – that’s right they lose about 4 kilos in an average race and approximately 2 litres of sweat.
This would require about 3 hours of intensive exercise to lose that much sweat in one go.
To combat the dehydration their helmets are fitted with a system allowing the rider to drink during the race.
Interestingly, more riders are opting to have their suits made of kangaroo leather for its lightweight and durability which is somewhat better than cowhide.
A set of leathers has the only safety features that can be provided to a rider with metal and plastic sliders (which do scrape the ground on cornering) a protective hump and an airbag but they certainly don’t come cheap.
The airbag feature is compulsory as of 2019. The airbag consists of a vest worn beneath the rider’s suit. It is designed to protect their ribs, torso and collarbone in the event of a crash.
These are fitted with accelerometers and gyroscopes in order to communicate with the electronics approximately 1,000 times a second. This amazing technology means no failure to deploy when needed, no false deployment if you drop your suit etc and no deploying under a certain speed (approx 25km/h)
Here’s a fun fact about these airbags – it takes about 25 milliseconds for it to deploy in the event of a crash – it takes the human eye 300-400 milliseconds to blink so these airbags really are able to deploy at an incredible speed!
The airbag system costs more than US$1000 just for the vest. It’s a pricey investment but Dianese and Alpinestars do sell them to the public as long as you have the specially designed riding suit.
A suit, such as what Rossi wears, is custom made for each rider and has a host of safety features you won’t find in a normal suit. When you add features such as the hydration system and state of the art airbag a suit such as this could set you back as much as US$10,000.
So, there you have it a few extra facts to help you understand what it costs both financially and physically on the part of the rider to bring this sport to life each season.
And let’s hope Dorna really has found yet another way to close the gap between factory and non-factory teams adding even more excitement to the year ahead!!