MotoGP engines are perhaps the most important aspect of development and racing.
For a beginner just starting to watch MotoGP it is important to understand not just the engine’s capacity but how they are developed and the regulations around the racing championships.
First let’s look at what capacity engines are used in MotoGP, who makes them and the cost that goes into their development.
MotoGP engines are unlike any other racing engine, or motorcycle engine on the planet and can reach speeds up to 349 kph (217 mph).
It is important to understand they are not available to the general public.
These engines will never appear in road bikes and you cannot purchase them.
Even when they are retired, they are not for sale.
Even the way in which the engines are tuned and the power they put out is not something they are developing with road users in mind.
They are specifically designed for the premier class of racing: MotoGP.
The maximum displacement allowed in the premier class of MotoGP is 1000cc, with four cylinders and a maximum bore of 81mm.
Only 6 gears are allowed, and no turbo or supercharging is permitted.
The MotoGP regulations and restrictions for engines are very tight as we will see further in this article.
While the regulations are strict on engine size and power in order to keep the sport competitive, manufacturers do not have limitations on engine configurations.
Teams may choose to use an engine with either a straight four or a V-four cylinder configuration.
What is the difference between a V4 and an inline engine?
- Inline-fours have longer crankshafts which help stabilise the motorcycle helping them to handle better,
- V4s make more horsepower because their shorter, stiffer crankshafts allow more high-rpm performance and are faster down the straights
What does this mean when racing?
Inline fours can be faster when they are able to utilise their U-shaped cornering lines to generate high corner speeds that out do the V4.
However, a V4 uses a V shaped cornering line and has faster speed down the straights.
Now that there are more V4s on the grid the two styles of cornering creates an interesting clash leaving the inline fours shut out if you like.
For the 2023 season, there will be 20 V4 engines on the grid and only two inline-fours.
This is due to Suzuki leaving and Yamaha dropping to two bikes from four.
Being the last to use the inline four Yamaha has made their latest inline four operate as much like a V4 as they can
However, Yamaha MotoGP project leader Kazutoshi Seki stated that he will consider building a V4 instead if this season does not prove more successful.
So, which is more successful?
The V4 and inline-four engines have actually been equally successful since the MotoGP class was introduced in the World Championship 20 years ago.
This means the engine configuration to win the 2023 season will be the most successful configuration so far in MotoGP.
The engine is one of the most expensive parts of a MotoGP bike with manufacturers spending a large portion of their funding on engine development.
A MotoGP bike’s engine parts in total will cost up to
- 425,000 AUS $
- 226,000 GBP £
- 263,000 EUR €
- 287,000 USD $
Some of the most valuable parts on their own can be $AUS 25,000 (The total bike cost can be between $AUS 1,000,000 and $AUS 4,000,000).
And they need between 7 and 10 of these just for racing events, plus testing engines.
It amounts to a considerable sum of money for teams to come up with just on parts.
In the top class of MotoGP, manufacturers or constructors as they are also referred to develop and provide engines for all the teams participating in the MotoGP class.
Each constructor owns a team called their factory team, and most then provide engines and bikes to one or more satellite teams.
For Factory teams both riders must use the same engine but Satellite teams can have different engine specs for different riders.
The 2023 constructors are as follows
What is the Constructor Championship?
If you are new to MotoGP, then you may be wondering what the constructor championship is. This championship runs parallel to the riders’ championship and is for the constructors or manufacturers of the engine.
Points are awarded for manufacturers the same as for the individual riders’ championship depending on where their engines finish each race.
The higher the engine manufacturer places at the end of the race the more constructor points they can pick up and win the constructor championship for the season.
Ducati is the current constructor champion and leading the 2023 season so far.
It is interesting to note in Moto2 they award the constructors’ championship to the chassis builder as they all use the same engines manufactured by Triumph.
Moto3 works the same as MotoGP with the limitation of 250cc capacity engines.
Number of Engines allowed
Teams are allowed 7 Engines per rider per season.
Now because this is MotoGP it’s never that straightforward and engine allowance, testing and the technical control and monitoring is also dependent on something called concession points which we will look at closer a little further down.
But teams with and without concession points are given different regulations and they are as follows:
For teams without concessions, they are allowed 7 engines per season unless there are 21 or more races cited on the official calendar then teams are given an extra engine giving them a total of 8.
Teams for whom concession points apply they are allocated 9 engines and 10 for longer seasons.
The use of this 8th (or 10th) engine will only be allowed starting from the 19th event of the season.
This engine allocation is to cover all sessions for all weekends but does not include engines for testing.
If for any reason a rider is replaced say for injury, the replacement rider will be deemed to be the original rider for purposes of engine allocation.
So basically, no extra engine is what that amounts to.
According to the regulations wildcard riders are given exclusive use of 3 engines.
If a team should use their allocation, they can apply to the technical director for another engine.
What are Concession points?
The Concession points system was implemented to help new teams or manufacturers who have taken no podiums during any one season.
The manufacturers who meet these regulations gain concession status for the following year.
The benefits of having the concession status are as follows:
- The use of 9 (or 10) engines
- Engines are exempt from the engine approval regulations
- Teams may test with contracted riders and test riders. They can use any circuit at anytime.
- Manufacturers can take advantage of 6 Wildcard riders
Concessions are gained and lost based on a points system for taking a podium as follows.
· First place = 3 concession points
· Second place = 2 concession points
· Third place = 1 concession point
These points are accrued by all riders of that manufacturer across all race conditions (wet or dry).
Points accumulate each season until a manufacturer reaches 6 (keep in mind points expire after two years) at which time their concession status is removed and they no longer have the above benefits the following season.
When a manufacturer has accrued no concession points during any one season, all riders using this manufacturer’s machines will benefit from the full concessions from the following season.
Regulating Engine use
Teams without concessions must provide a sample of their engine pieces to technical control.
These are stored in tamper proof cases for the duration of the season.
If at any point during the season these parts need to be checked against the engine being currently used by the rider, they can be assessed to ensure no upgrades have been made after the start of the season
There are penalties for the team if they have breached this rule.
Teams with concessions do not have to go through this process and do not provide any parts to be stored like this.
They are also allowed to make development changes throughout the season.
A new engine is deemed to be used when the motorcycle with that engine crosses the transponder timing point at the pit lane exit.
How is this monitored at races?
There is a Marshall in the riders’ box to record which engine is being used and how much that engine has been used.
How many kilometres can each engine run for?
On a race weekend a bike does on average of 600kms. This equates to about 12000 kms per season. Using this equation each engine needs to be able to do 1700 kms or just a fraction more to be safe.
What is a MotoGP engine plan?
Teams look at the calendar and develop what is called an engine plan which assesses which tracks put most load on the engine.
These tracks require the freshest engines.
This applies to Motegi, Qatar and Malaysia.
To ensure the engines can handle the pressure at these tracks a new engine (so one that has no kilometres on the clock) is put in on Friday night, this allows the engine to reach its optimal functioning capacity of approximately 250 horsepower
This means the engine is at its peak performance for the race.
Sachsenring in Germany is one where they don’t need to do this due to a lot of leaning and differences in the track layout.
On the Friday for free practice teams will use engines that have lot of use.
This is why we see a lot of blow outs on the Friday.
Teams can adjust RPMS but not much else (unless they have concessions which allows development during the season).
Adjusting the RPMs means they can stretch the engines a little further if needed or get a little more horsepower if needed.
This is an assessment done as the season goes on – if they have had to retire an engine or two a team can be in big trouble at the back end of the season. (remember Malaysia requires an entirely fresh engine and it’s at the end of the season) they can then reduce the RPM and get more use from the engine.
It does present other problems, but it may be the difference between finishing and not finishing.
Alternatively, they can alter the RPMs to add some horsepower.
Upping the horsepower even just slightly drastically reduces the number of kilometres an engine can do.
This is usually only considered if no engines have been retired throughout the season.
Understanding the engine regulations makes for more interesting watching during FP sessions and into the Sprint race as now more than ever engine numbers are playing a huge part in the excitement.
Because too many crashes on the Friday and Saturday leaves teams under pressure to fix bikes.
If they can’t get it done, it can leave the rider with no bike for the sprint race or maybe even the main race.
If you watched the 2023 German GP at Sachsenring (round 7) this was a major problem facing Marquez after a series of crashes – 1 on Friday, 3 on Saturday and 1 on Sunday.
And there we have it. The development, regulations and the issues teams need to consider throughout the season to bring us the best of the best in racing year after year.