BikeSocial's guide to the 2017 MotoGP World Championship

Simon Hancocks
By Simon Hancocks
HancocksToad Currently riding a Ducati Multistrada 1260S and loving it! Commutes about 20,000 miles a year and has just finished restoring the slowest Ducati ever built. Happiest when in the saddle.

Here at BikeSocial we believe the only thing that comes close to riding bikes is watching bike racing and over the coming weeks we’ll bring you a comprehensive guide to the four main racing series – MotoGP, World Superbikes, British Superbikes and the Isle of Man TT  and take a look at the main runners and riders, the venues and the bikes.

Today we're bringing you our guide to the ultimate short circuit championship, MotoGP, where top Brits Cal Crutchlow, Scott Redding, Bradley Smith and Sam Lowes will be mixing it with the world's fastest riders, including the legendary Valentino Rossi and his rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez.

What is a MotoGP bike? 

Unlike the bikes raced in the World Superbike and British Superbike championships, a MotoGP racer bears little direct relationship to the bikes you can buy for the road. This is pure prototype racing, with hand-built multi-million dollar motorcycles going head to head in a battle that is as much about technology as it is human endeavour. 

In layman's terms, a MotoGP bike is like a Formula One racing car - built solely to compete. Don’t think that they won’t in some way benefit a road bike in the future though -these are rolling test beds and much of the technology that manufacturers develop in MotoGP filters down onto road bikes. The phrase; “Racing improves the breed” is completely true. Tech like radial tyres, traction control and riding modes all made their debuts in Grand Prix racing, and that's not even mentioning the chassis and suspension know how that is developed and proven by these superhuman engineers and riders before being transferred to the bikes we can buy and ride on the street. These bikes are the future, today.

Valentino Rossi 2017 Yamaha YZR-M1

A MotoGP bike must be no greater than 1000cc and must be a four-stroke engine. The maximum number of cylinders is four and the maximum bore is restricted to 81mm - ruling out super-short stroke designs (which allow higher rpm limits, more power, but also increase costs dramatically for the teams). To save costs and encourage durability, each rider is allocated seven engines to complete the season, with no development allowed during the year. A maximum of 22 litres of fuel is allowed for each race, ensuring that engines must be fuel efficient as well as reliable - with an average race distance of around 75 miles, bikes have to deliver around 15mpg over a race distance. The engine must run on standard cylinders, no oval pistons or rotary motors are allowed and they cannot be turbo or supercharged. The bikes run carbon brake discs in the dry, which can withstand temperatures of 800° and most of the field run steel discs in the wet which have a more progressive operation than the 'all-or-nothing' of carbon discs. All the bikes use the same make of tyre (Michelin are the current supplier). The bikes all use the same type of Electronic Control Unit [ECU] which is the brain of the bike and controls the fuel flow, traction control, anti-wheelie and a host of other features. This was brought about to curb costs and to also ensure a level playing field for all teams and manufacturers.

Andrea Dovizioso

A MotoGP bike has a minimum weight of 157kg and most produce over 240bhp. This means at tracks like Mugello in Italy, which has a 1141 metre straight, the bikes will be nudging 220mph (355kph). 

There are no creature comforts in MotoGP. The bikes are very stiffly suspended and both world and British championship superbikes are much softer in comparison due to the race bikes being developed from series production machines designed for the road. A MotoGP bike requires a completely different skill set to succeed. This is the reason that on some occasions quick superbike riders will look slow when they make the move up to MotoGP. It can take some years to master these notoriously hard to ride machines. 

Although all bikes are built to the same regulations, there are are two categories of teams that race in the MotoGP championship, they are:

Factory – This is a team that is funded, managed or directly run by a manufacturer. They generally benefit from large resources, staff and funding. Factory supported teams are: Repsol Honda, Movistar Yamaha, Ducati Team, Aprilia Gresini, ECSTAR Suzuki and Red Bull KTM

Satellite – These machines will be leased or rented from the factory and run by independent squads. They generally have smaller resources and budgets but, as Cal Crutchlow (pictured below) proved twice in 2016, they can still take the fight to the factory teams. A satellite bike can be the same as those used by a full factory effort, but will usually be slightly lower in specification and will sometimes be 'hand me downs' from the works outfits. Current satellite teams are: LCR Honda, Monster Yamaha Tech3, MarcVDS Honda, Avintia Ducati, Pramac Ducati and Aspar Ducati.

Cal Crutchlow
What’s the race format?

The MotoGP championship awards points based on finishing positions down to 15th place. A maximum of 25 points are allocated for a win, then 20, 16, 13, 11, 10 and so on, until 15th place receives one point. At the end of the season the rider with the greatest number of points is crowed the world champion. Points are also allocated to teams and manufacturers for their respective world championships.

Below is the outline of a race weekend for MotoGP at a typical European round – the times and durations can vary and are shown as a guideline only.

Time – Approximate and local

Session type

Duration

09:00 – 10:00 – Friday

Practice 1 (FP1) / Timed for Qualifying

60 minutes

13:00 – 14:00 – Friday

Practice 2 (FP2) / Timed for Qualifying

60 minutes

09:00 – 10:00 – Saturday

Practice 3 (FP3) / Timed for Qualifying

60 minutes

13:45 – 14:15 – Saturday

Practice 4 (FP4)

30 minutes

14:25 – 14:40 Saturday

Qualifying 1 (QP1)

15 minutes

14:50 – 15:05 – Saturday

Qualifying 2 (QP2)

15 minutes

10:00 – 10:20 – Sunday

Warm Up

20 minutes

14:00 – Sunday

Race

120 kilometres (approx)

 

The action begins on the Friday before the race with the riders heading out for the first of four timed practice sessions. A rider that takes part in these sessions and records a time of within 107% of the fastest time set is deemed to have qualified for the race. Based on combined practice times the ten quickest riders from FP1, FP2 and FP3 are progressed into QP2, they will fight it out for the top 10 places on the grid. All the other riders will take part in QP1 with the fastest two riders from this group getting a promotion to join the top-10 shootout in QP2. So, QP2 forms the top 12 places and QP1 forms the remainder of the grid.

If a rider cannot compete in a qualifying session for any reason but is still fit to race, Race Direction may allow them to start if they have recorded a lap within 107% of the fastest time in one of the free practice sessions. They will normally start either from the back row of the grid or from the pit-lane.

Where to watch

If you haven’t seen a MotoGP race in person, go. Nothing compares to the brutality of a MotoGP bike being ridden, especially by the likes of Marc Marquez. Simply put it is a breathtaking sight and sound. For most of the rounds though, it'll be TV and online coverage. Dorna, the company that run MotoGP and the support classes put together some terrific quality coverage. They invest in new technology like ultra-high speed cameras for slow motion replays and 540° on bike cameras that move as the bike does. For viewers in Britain, all of this footage can be viewed on BT Sport’s excellent live shows and ITV4’s highlights programme (broadcast the Monday after each race). If you want to watch live but don't have (or want) BT Sport, Dorna's own online MotoGP Video Pass also allows access multi-screen options, selective cameras and every MotoGP event ever. There are also plenty of exclusive interviews and features between the races and tests. A 2017 season pass costs 139.99EUR but there are a variety of payment plans, details of which can be found here.

Julian Ryder
Expert eye: Julian Ryder

There's plenty of excitement and intrigue going into the 2017 season and helping us cast an expert eye on the year ahead is MotoGP commentator Julian Ryder. He's one of the most experienced journalists in the paddock and gave us his exclusive insight into the three men he thinks we should be looking out for in each Grand Prix class.

MotoGP
Marc Marquez

"Just be grateful that you are around to see this man ride a racing motorcycle. Will he win again? That depends on what sort of bike Honda’s new big-bang-engine RCV turns out to be. By the end of last season, Honda had come to terms with the standard-spec electronics but there was still an obvious lack of acceleration. He’ll win races with it, but retaining the championship will depend on what Honda give him."

Maverick Vinales

"We know the bike is good enough to win, we know Maverick is good enough to win. He’s young, he’s fast, he’s immune to the sort of mind games his team mate might be tempted to play, and he never makes the same mistake twice. He gets Lorenzo’s old crew chief Ramon Forcada and the best all-round motorcycle on the grid, don’t be surprised if he is the man who gives Marquez most to think about."

Jorge Lorenzo

"Ducati have not employed Jorge to win races; they have employed him to win the championship. Ducati, owners Audi, and sponsor Phillip Morris have waited since Stoner’s 2007 win and will wait no longer. Much will depend on the trust built up between Lorenzo and Ducati Svengali Gigi Dall’Igna when they won two world 250cc title together at Aprilia. He’ll win a race or two this year but the title might have to wait for 2018."


Moto2
Brad Binder

"The Moto3 champion moves up with KTM’s brand new chassis, nevertheless I expect him to be a contender even as a rookie in an ultra-competitive field. Brad (pictured below) has natural talent and speed plus an astonishingly cool racing brain. How else do you win Moto3 with four races to spare? He continues to ride for master man manager Aki Ajo in what is effectively a factory team. There is no weakness in his armour."

Franco Morbidelli

"If there was a prize for the most aggressive rider of 2016, it would have been won by Frankie. And he’d win the consistency prize, too. He ended 2016 with five consecutive rostrums. He went handlebar to handlebar repeatedly with the vastly experienced Luthi and the champ, Zarco, and lost out by fractions each time. He has yet to win a race – but neither had Brad Binder before the start of last season."

Pecco Bagnaia

"Yes, another rookie, but the one who could win on the Mahindra (in Moto3) when no-one else could make the fragile transmission last. How did he do that? Precision, as in changing gear at exactly the same revs every lap and touching the same grain each time round as well. Add in bravery and the fact he’s a really nice kid and you can see why Valentino Rossi chose him to spearhead the VR46 Academy’s assault on Moto2."


Moto3 
Romano Fenati

"He’s back and he’s not happy. Fenati managed to get himself sacked from VR46 mid-way through last season, now he’s back with Ongetta and a chip on his shoulder. Always fast and a race winner, he will have to cure his infuriating inconsistency if he is to become a championship contender. Sorting out his qualifying will be a good start. Watching his interaction with the other Italians, especially the VR46 boys, will be entertaining."

Niccolo Bulega 

"Frankly, I could have picked at least four other Italians, such is their strength in depth. Antonelli? Dalla Porta? Bastiannini? Migno? Di Giannantonio? I’ll go with Bulega, the lanky kid in whom Valentino sees much of his young self. Un-stereotypically monosyllabic, too tall, fearless, he already appears to be the chosen one from the VR46 Academy so will have a target on his back – especially for his non-VR compatriots. He can cope."

Aaron Canet

"Will anyone take the fight to the Italians? Top Spaniards Canet, Martin and Mir are the most likely but only have one Grand Prix victory between them. Of the three likely lads, I pick the one who had least success last year: Aaron Canet. He regularly ran at the front in practice and races but had a habit of falling off, usually while fighting for the rostrum. That’s forgivable in a 16-year old. He’s 17 now."

Brand Binder - KTM Moto2
Support series

There are two support classes that follow the MotoGP circus to every round, Moto2 and Moto3, with a third that joins them at selected European events, The Red Bull Rookies MotoGP Cup. Each of the three support classes is designed to help a rider progress and move forward and, although not all will make it, eventually ride in MotoGP.

  • Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Identical KTM RC250R bikes ridden by the fastest teens in the world, including our own Dan Jones and Rory Skinner. 
  • Moto3250cc single cylinder four stroke prototypes. Bikes from Honda, KTM, Mahindra and Peugeot - 55bhp, 150mph. John McPhee is sole Brit.
  • Moto2 – All bikes use the same Honda CBR600-based engine, frame design is not limited - 140bhp, 175mph. Former Moto3 world champion Danny Kent races in this class.
2017 MotoGP Calendar
Round
Date
Region
Circuit
1 -
26-Mar
Qatar*
Doha/Losail
2 -
09-Apr
Argentina
Termas de Rio Hondo
3 -
23-Apr
America
Circuit of the Americas
4 -
07-May
Spain
Jerez de la Frontera
5 -
21-May
France
Le Mans
6 -
04-Jun
Italy
Mugello
7 -
11-Jun
Catalunya
Catalunya
8 -
25-Jun
Netherlands
TT Assen
9 -
02-Jul
Germany
Sachsenring
10 -
06-Aug
Czech Republic
Brno
11 -
13-Aug
Austria
Red Bull Ring
12 -
27-Aug
Great Britain
Silverstone
13 -
10-Sep
San Marino
Misano
14 -
24-Sep
Spain
MotorLand Aragon
15 -
15-Oct
Japan
Motegi
16 -
22-Oct
Australia
Phillip Island
17 -
29-Oct
Malaysia
Sepang
18 -
12-Nov
Valencia
Ricardo Tormo- Valencia

Marc Marquez
Runners and riders
  Rider Nationality Team Manufacturer Debut Wins Championships
4 ANDREA DOVIZIOSO ITALIAN DUCATI TEAM DUCATI 2008 2 0
5 JOHANN ZARCO FRENCH MONSTER YAMAHA TECH 3 YAMAHA* 2016 0 0
8 HECTOR BARBERA SPANISH AVINTIA RACING DUCATI* 2010 0 0
9 DANILO PETRUCCI ITALIAN OCTO PRAMAC YAKHNICH DUCATI* 2012 0 0
17 KAREL ABRAHAM CZECH PULL&BEAR ASPAR TEAM DUCATI* 2011 0 0
19 ALVARO BAUTISTA SPANISH PULL&BEAR ASPAR TEAM DUCATI* 2010 0 0
22 SAM LOWES BRITISH APRILIA RACING TEAM GRESINI APRILIA 2016 0 0
25 MAVERICK VINALES SPANISH MOVISTAR YAMAHA MotoGP YAMAHA 2015 1 0
26 DANI PEDROSA SPANISH REPSOL HONDA TEAM HONDA 2006 29 0
29 ANDREA IANNONE ITALIAN TEAM SUZUKI ECSTAR SUZUKI 2013 1 0
35 CAL CRUTCHLOW BRITISH LCR HONDA HONDA* 2011 2 0
38 BRADLEY SMITH BRITISH RED BULL KTM FACTORY RACING KTM 2013 0 0
41 ALEIX ESPARGARO SPANISH APRILIA RACING TEAM GRESINI APRILIA 2009 0 0
42 ALEX RINS SPANISH TEAM SUZUKI ECSTAR SUZUKI 2016 0 0
43 JACK MILLER AUSTRALIAN MARC VDS RACING TEAM HONDA* 2015 1 0
44 POL ESPARGARO SPANISH RED BULL KTM FACTORY RACING KTM 2014 0 0
45 SCOTT REDDING BRITISH OCTO PRAMAC YAKHNICH DUCATI* 2014 0 0
46 VALENTINO ROSSI ITALIAN MOVISTAR YAMAHA MotoGP YAMAHA 2000 88 7
53 TITO RABAT SPANISH EG 0,0 MARC VDS HONDA* 2016 0 0
76 LORIS BAZ FRENCH AVINTIA RACING DUCATI* 2015 0 0
93 MARC MARQUEZ SPANISH REPSOL HONDA TEAM HONDA 2013 29 3
94 JONAS FOLGER GERMAN MONSTER YAMAHA TECH 3 YAMAHA* 2016 0 0
99 JORGE LORENZO SPANISH DUCATI TEAM DUCATI 2008 44 3
TOTAL 23 ENTRIES * INDEPENDENT TEAM RIDER
 

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