The world’s best riders don’t make it to MotoGP by accident. With only 24 slots available on the Grand Prix grid, attaining a premiere class seat is no venture for the meek. In the past, riders could reach MotoGP through various routes, including the Superbike World Championship (WSBK) and the AMA Superbike Championship.
Nowadays, most top-tier talent work their way up the Grand Prix ranks, progressing through the Lightweight and Intermediate classes before competing in MotoGP. So, what’s the difference between Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP motorcycles? In a word, size. Of course, weight and power increase along with those bulking measures, but there’s more to the equation than the spec sheets suggest.
For instance, a Moto3 race bike harness a 60-horsepower, 250cc single-cylinder engine mated to a six-gear transmission. These stripped-down models may seem run-of-the-mill by those measurements, but the category’s 335-pound minimum weight restriction (including the rider) turns these pocket rockets into fully-pinned missiles on sprawling Grand Prix circuits. For context, Honda and KTM machinery primarily contest for the series championship.
The Moto2 class raises the stakes and the specs with a Triumph-produced 765cc inline-triple. A six-speed gearbox remains the standard, but the highly-tuned Speed Triple mill produces 138 horsepower in Moto2 form. Because Triumph only provides the Intermediate class powerplant, organizers split up the field based on the chassis, with Kalex and Speed Up/Boscoscuro teams and riders vying for Moto2 supremacy. Regardless of the make, all Moto2 race machines must weigh more than 478 pounds (weight includes rider).
When it’s time to step up to the top category, things take a turn for the complex. Sure, MotoGP machines boast up to 1,000cc engines (inline-four or V4), more than 250 horsepower, and a 446-pound minimum weight (not including rider) on paper, but they’re much more complicated off the page. To manage all the forces exerted on the motorcycle and rider, Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Suzuki, and Yamaha have to develop bleeding-edge technologies.
The list includes aerodynamic winglets, carbon braking systems, holeshot devices, seamless gearboxes, and ride-height devices. Yes, size may be the key difference between Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP machines, but the premiere class proves with more power comes more problems. Solving those issues typically leads to new advanced technologies, something that’s only developed in MotoGP.