How Long Do MotoGP Engines Last?

Inside the competitive world of MotoGP, the heart of the motorcycle is its engine. Any degradation in its performance is going to result in a loss of speed, so the engine health is the top priority of the racing team who maintains it in peak condition. You may wonder how long MotoGP engines last.

MotoGP engines usually needs to last for about 1000-1500 km (620-930 miles), which is roughly 3 race weekends. MotoGP riders can normally use up to 7 engines per season. Engines are changed when the rider and racing team feel that they may have an advantage by fitting a new engine, or if one fails. 

While some engines won’t last as long as others due to inevitable damage and wear and tear, these are the rough distances we can expect a MotoGP engine to last. Below, we take a closer look at the numbers involved to get a better understanding of how long MotoGP engines truly last.

How Many Races Do MotoGP Engines Last?

MotoGP engines last for about 3 races each, as riders receive 7 engines per season if they’re in a non-concessional team to last for all 20 races. If the team does have concessions (if they’re a newer manufacturer), they get 9 engines per season, meaning they need to last just over 2 races each.

Since the rider will be given a new set of engines at the start of the next season, the engines are not used for more than one MotoGP season even if they still have life left in them. During the course of the racing season, the engines are subjected to extreme heat, and the general wear and tear of racing.

Most MotoGP engines that are removed at the end of the racing season still have plenty of life, and could theoretically be used again. But because MotoGP is such a high-profile race with such high stakes involved, no racing team is willing to take the chance of racing used engines, and prefer to race with the new engines even if there is little difference between the old ones.

In reality, these engines are constructed from the highest quality of metals and fabricated using the best workmanship so that they are able to perform up to MotoGP standards. Once they have completed their purpose by the end of the season, or when they are damaged beyond repair, they are taken out of service. 

How Many Miles Does A MotoGP Engine Last? 

MotoGP engines usually last anywhere from 560 miles to 1240 miles (900-2000 km), which is about the distance required to run between 2 and 4 races. As there are 20 races per season, and the riders get 7 engines per season, engines need to last about 3 races each, but some last longer than others.

When an engine is discarded it does not mean that the engine is useless, rather that it is just not good enough to be used in a high-performance bike and can still be used in many other types of bikes. When you consider that the cost of the engine is anywhere from $200,000 to $700,000 and has been made from the strongest materials available, it is likely that it has plenty of performance in it.

Before the racing season starts each rider is normally allotted 7 engines that are sealed. Once the racing season begins and a few races have been completed, it is common to see riders removing the seal from their second or third engines as they feel that the older engines are not up to the mark. 

This may seem excessive as the engine has hardly been used by normal standards. In the MotoGP world where milliseconds are precious and performance is the only thing that matters, engine changes are immaterial as long as the rider wins – even if the engine does cost more than your average motorcycle. 

KEY POINTS

• MotoGP riders usually get 7 engines each to last for 20 races in total

• The engines therefore need to last for about 3 races each

• This works out to an average of around 1000-1500 km per engine, or 620-930 miles

Are There Engine Penalties In MotoGP?

There are engine penalties in MotoGP, both for exceeding the maximum number of allowed engines in a season and for making changes to the engine without FIM approval. In 2020, Yamaha was fined 50 World Constructors’ Championship points for not respecting FIM protocols. 

In MotoGP, there are 3 championships, one each for riders, teams, and constructors, all of which are calculated using a points system. Any infringement of the rules pertaining to an individual championship is liable to be penalized according to the FIM rules. Constructors’ rules define the limits of engine maintenance. At the start of a season, each rider is permitted to use 7 engines.

The engines are sealed per the rules, but their support systems of oil and cooling need to be kept running in top condition as well. As there are no limits to changing these, these are areas where they have some leeway. However, changing anything or using components not communicated with the governing body will earn a team a penalty.

Yamaha Engine Penalty 2020

Yamaha found this out the hard way in 2020 when they were found to have used different engine valves on some of their engines. In short, they used some valves from one approved manufacturer, and some valves from a non-approved manufacturer. They were docked 50 Constructors’ points, with the Yamaha team losing 20 team points and Petronas SRT losing 37.

How Much Do MotoGP Engines Cost To Build?

MotoGP engines cost anywhere from $200,000 to $750,000 to build. Many of the parts used are machined from expensive metals that are far more expensive than ordinary parts used in production motorcycles. Expert individual workmanship goes into some of the key engine parts.

Millions of dollars are spent over years on research to develop new designs. Parts used in the engine have to be accurately machined to within a few thousandths of an inch for maximum performance. Any part that exceeds these tolerances is scrapped even though it might be perfectly usable by sports bike standards. 

Inside A MotoGP Engine

A MotoGP engine is continuously subjected to extreme stresses during racing. Traveling at speeds of up to 200 mph, the engine is revving at about 18,000 rpm under conditions that would cause a normal engine to seize. The support systems of oil and cooling have to function so that the engine is kept lubricated at the right temperature.

Valves are opening and closing 150 times a second, which normal valves just cannot keep up with. Special pneumatic valves are used to ensure that they don’t fail. At the same time, fuel injections are taking place 9,000 times per minute so that the pistons are driven evenly which in turn drives the crankshaft gives the rider up to 290 horsepower to play with.

A MotoGP engine is considerably lighter than a regular engine used in a street bike because of the materials used in its construction. Aluminum, magnesium, carbon fiber and titanium are used because of their light weight and high strength. Apart from these, there are proprietary alloys used that contain zinc, zirconium, and steel in ratios calculated to enhance the alloy’s strength.

KEY POINTS

• MotoGP engines are extremely complex and expensive to build 

• This is largely due to the advanced materials and processes used to make them

• Teams are only allowed to use a certain number of these engines per year before they face penalties

Final Thoughts

MotoGP engines last for about 3 races, as riders only have 7 to last them the full 20 races in a season. This means MotoGP engines can usually be expected to last for about 1000-1500 km (620-930 miles). Engines will wear at different rates, so some will last much longer and some won’t reach 1000 km.

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