Seen as the highest echelon of motorbike racing on Earth, the competition now known as Moto GP has come a long way since its inception, way back in 1949. That was the year when the International Federation of Motorcycling created the concept: A pre-determined number of races over a season, raced over enclosed road circuits spread worldwide, with riders being awarded points in accordance to their classification on each race. By the end of the season, points are tallied up and a world champion emerges. Since the very first year, the riders’ achieved points are also given to the manufacturer, and there is a parallel constructor championship. The motorcycles used in competition are purposely built for it, and generally not available to the public. Furthermore, the bikes are divided into classes, according to each engine’s displacement in cc. Although the format has suffered adjustments over time, there has been a Moto GP competitive season every year since its establishment.
There has been a multitude of classes along the years, starting as low as 50 cc, with some classes now extinct. Presently, there are three classes: Moto GP, Moto 2 and Moto 3. As previously said, the main difference between them is engine displacement, with the (higher) limit being, respectively, 1000, 600 and 250 cc. However, this specification (and others) is prone to change with every new season. Also, detailed restrictions as to the type of engine (two strokes or four strokes) or weight, to recite just the most relevant of them, are in place, with failure to comply resulting in heavy fines for the teams and point deductions for the riders.
The world’s most recognizable bike producers use the competition as a showcase for their design and engineering, and earning the constructor’s world title is widely regarded as one of the highest honours in the motorcycle business. Over the past decades, brands as Gilera, MV Augusta, Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda have dominated for extended periods of time, with all the public exposure attached to it.
Each season spans across seven or eight months, and while most of the races are contested in Europe, the whole Moto GP entourage moves from circuit to circuit, to places as far apart as Australia, Japan, Canada, Argentina or South Africa. Hosting a Moto GP competition is a lucrative business as well, both by direct revenue, advertisement and media exposure.
The most striking feature of Moto GP is, naturally, the rider. Since the beginning, the glamorous image of the biker, going through the bends at high speed with his bike angled and his body grazing the tarmac, has rendered millions of devoted fans. Giacomo Agostini was the first hero of the motorcycling circuits, setting quite a benchmark for others to follow. A host of riders has done so, with the likes of Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Michael Doohan or Valentino Rossi all inscribing their names in the history of the sport.