The different tiers of motorcycle racing can be confusing. Like any branch of motorsport, each one comes with its own set of rules and regulations. This can leave new fans wondering what the main differences are between MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.
The key differences between MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 are that the bikes in MotoGP are more powerful, than Moto2 and Moto2 bikes are likewise more powerful than Moto3. MotoGP is the pinnacle of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, while Moto2 and Moto3 act as feeder series for it.
But there are many more differences between these three categories of motorcycle racing, including the specifications permitted for the bikes and teams. Below, we take a look at the differences between MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 in more detail.
MotoGP vs Moto2 vs Moto3 – The Main Differences
There are some key differences between MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 in terms of the machinery, the rules, and who can race in each one. In a nutshell though, the main differences are that the bikes have increasing power through the classes,with the least power in Moto3 and most in MotoGP. The riders generally increase in age and experience through the classes too.
Popularity and viewership tend to increase from Moto3 up to MotoGP as well, though there is a large body of fans who much prefer the lower classes. Some feel that the restrictions placed on the teams in terms of bike development in the lower classes means that the winners in Moto2 and Moto3 are determined more by the skill of the rider than the manufacturer of the bike.
Moto2 and Moto3 are effectively spec series, with the only things the teams really control being the chassis of the bikes. MotoGP comes with fewer restrictions in this sense, meaning the teams can produce more of their own parts to gain an edge over their competitors. This dynamic is not unlike that of Formula 1 and Formula 2. But there are more subtle differences between MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.
MotoGP vs Moto2 vs Moto3 – The Bikes
In all three classes, the chassis used by all teams will be a prototype designed with the explicit intention of being used in track motorcycle racing. Incidentally, this is what separates MotoGP and its junior classes from World Superbikes – where the former uses the prototype motorcycles, World Superbikes teams use road bikes that have been tuned for racing purposes.
The regulations for all three classes dictate that they must use naturally aspirated internal combustion petrol engines, that run on unleaded fuel (95-102 octane, depending on the class).
Unfortunately for the die-hard fans of two stroke motorcycle engines, all three classes exclusively use four stroke engines. Two stroke engines were officially relegated to history in 2002 when the premier class of racing switched from 500cc two stroke engines to 990cc four stroke engines (alongside the rebrand to “MotoGP”).
2-Stroke vs 4-Stroke
Officially, for the first few years following the rebrand, teams were free to choose between two stroke or four stroke engines. However, the two stroke engines could not compete with the much larger capacity four stroke engines, and they all switched to four stroke engines.
Ultimately, the sports’ organizer, FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme), removed the choice altogether in 2012, requiring a four-stroke engine for all classes. It’s thought that the change was mainly driven by an attempt to present a ‘cleaner’ image for the sport, and that two stroke engines were too polluting and smoky.
The fact that the engines are all four-stroke is where the similarities end across the three classes. Moto3 bikes use a single-cylinder 250cc engine that produces approximately 60 horsepower.
Moto2 is unique in the three classes in that the engine used by all teams is the same and is prescribed by regulations. Namely, all Moto2 bikes must use a Triumph 765cc three-cylinder engine that produces approximately 140 Horsepower. The inline-three Triumph engine was introduced from the 2019 season, replacing the 600cc inline-four engine that had been provided by Honda between 2010 and 2018.
Interestingly, fans of Moto2 point to the similarity of the engines as a driver of innovation in chassis and suspension development. As the engine is the same for all competitors, teams are forced to think of other means to attempt to engineer a competitive advantage for their riders, and this ultimately leaves the suspension and chassis as points of focus.
In the premier class of MotoGP, the bikes use a four-cylinder 1000cc engine that produces approximately 250 horsepower. While all of the teams in MotoGP utilize a four-cylinder engine in a ‘V’ arrangement, they are actually free to determine the number of cylinders and layout of the engine; from two to six cylinders, and either a ‘V’ or inline arrangement.
While the number of cylinders has a bearing on minimum weight requirements for the bikes (more on that soon), the fact that all teams have settled on a V4 engine arrangement is due to the fact that it appears to be the perfect compromise between the power generated, and the engine’s weight.
It should come as no surprise that the aforementioned engines are capable of producing some staggering top speeds. The 60 Horsepower engine in the Moto3 bikes can achieve a top speed of 152 mph. The Triumph engine in the Moto2 bikes is capable of reaching 183 mph, and the 1000cc engine in premier MotoGP bikes is capable of a stunning 217 mph.
When you consider that not only are the bikes capable of achieving these speeds, but that they must also be able to come to a stop in a few seconds without ejecting the rider from the seat, it’s apparent that they really are feats of engineering!
The weight of the bikes increases through the classes both through additional permitted weight in the regulations, and through the increasing size of the engines (the MotoGP engines having four times as many cylinders and four times as much internal capacity as Moto3 bikes).
Moto2 & Moto3
In Moto3 bikes must weigh at least 152 kg and in Moto2 the minimum limit is 217 kg – in both instances these are the combined weights of the bike and the rider.
In MotoGP the weight limit is 158 kg – but this is a limit imposed on the bike exclusively; the weight of the rider is not considered. But while the rider isn’t weighed as part of the regulations, MotoGP riders tend to be slighter than average, given the work that teams do to shave grams of weight off bike components.
Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, and Marc Marquez have dominated MotoGP for the last two decades, and they come in at 152, 128, and 143 lbs respectively. By way of comparison, the average American man tips the scales at roughly 200 lbs.
MotoGP vs Moto2 vs Moto3 – The Races
Despite the variations between the three classes, the races themselves are very similar. There are some differences in regulations around the number of bikes each rider may have, or the impact of a red flag for example, but the fundamentals of the races are still the same.
All three classes utilize a sprint race format. Races begin with three columns of riders who line up on the grid in accordance with their performance in qualifying –the rider with the fastest lap time in qualifying lines up first, and so on through to the last placed rider who had the longest qualifying lap time.
FIM does not dictate the length of the races in the same manner as other motorsports organizers (such as FIA’s requirements for F1 races to be a particular distance). Instead, the races vary in distance and time.
That said, following the 2018 season the FIM made an effort to create more uniformity across the race season, and now races range in distance from 59 miles to 81 miles, and typically take 45-60 minutes from beginning to end.
All three classes share a calendar, meaning that they all compete at the same circuits across the same weekends. The season typically begins in March and finishes in November. There are 21 races in the calendar, with 13 in Europe and 8 across the rest of the world.
Riders earn a decreasing number of points based on finishing position, from first through to fifteenth. The riders’ and constructors’ championships are determined simply by whoever has the most points at the conclusion of the season.
MotoGP vs Moto2 vs Moto3 – The Teams
In terms of the structure of the teams across each racing series, they must have a minimum of one and a maximum of three riders per team.
A number of fans prefer the variety offered by the lower classes. The extremely high costs of competing in the elite tier tends to mean that MotoGP is dominated by a small number of high-profile manufacturers (Yamaha, Honda, and Ducati).
In Moto3 there are 30 riders competing for 15 teams. While there are 15 distinct teams, they fall under the umbrella of only 5 different constructors, namely CFMoto, Gas Gas, Honda, Husqvarna, and KTM.
For those constructors that have numerous teams beneath their umbrella, there tends to be a ‘factory’ racing team (e.g. KTM’s Red Bull KTM Ajo), while the remainder are ‘customer’ teams, paying for the privilege of engines and parts from the constructor in question.
The membership of Moto2 is somewhat unique given the aforementioned use of prescribed engines. There is much less incentive for involvement from large constructors who specialize in engine or complete bike development, as is more often the case in the Moto3 and MotoGP classes.
In Moto2 there are again 30 riders, again competing for 15 teams. However, in Moto2 there are only three constructors, namely Boscoscuro, Kalex, and MV Augusta. Kalex accounts for 13 of the teams competing.
Given that Kalex is a German manufacturer of performance motorcycle parts, and in particular performance chassis, it is readily apparent why they chose to invest so heavily in their involvement in the tier where the engine is prescribed and so much of the innovation is achieved through ancillary parts and chassis design.
Finally, in MotoGP there are 24 riders competing for 12 teams. There are 6 constructors represented, namely Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Suzuki and Yamaha. As alluded to previously, the high cost of competing in MotoGP explains why the constructors represented are some of the biggest names in the world of motorcycle manufacturing.
The key differences between Moto2, Moto3 and MotoGP concern the engines and bikes used. Where Moto2 and Moto3 are more spec series, MotoGP comes with less restrictions on this front. MotoGP is the premier class of motorcycle Grand Prix racing, with Moto2 and Moto3 being feeder series.