Some of my friends write here on Stanley Cup of Motor Oil. Its a great site, and I really enjoy what's on here. However, it has been lacking something. Four wheel racing is exciting, and I'm a big fan of Formula One, but for me, the best form of motor racing on the planet is on two wheels.
There's two classes of mainstream motorcycle racing. While the Superbikes are great to watch, and show what the motorbikes you can buy to ride on the streets are capable of, the best competition, with the best riders, the best bikes and the best circuits, is the F1 of motorcycle racing, MotoGP.
There are three classes in MotoGP, run in three different races over a weekend.
The premier class, the elite of the elite, is the MotoGP series, sometimes called Moto1 to define it from the other classes. The bikes have 1000cc four-stroke, four cylinder engines, and are mostly factory bikes (the engine producer runs and designs the bike and team) or customer bikes (where the team buys engines from the producer and builds their own bikes around them). There is also a lower cost option, the "open class." These bikes have less restrictions on design and fuel use, but usually do not trouble the higher teams due to the amount of testing and resources the other teams have to throw at making their bike the best.
The MotoGP category replaced the 500cc FIM World Championship as the premier motorbike class in 2002, with a big rebrand of the competition.
All bikes in the Moto2 championship have 600cc four-stroke, four inline cylinder Honda engines, run on Dunlop tires, and use electric sets costing no more than 650 Euros. Only steel brakes are permitted, but there are no chassis limitations - the different teams design their own chassis, and that is where the difference in the bikes come into play. Because the bikes are so similar, it is incredibly hard to predict who will win a race on any given day.
Moto2 replaced the 250cc FIM World Championship in 2010, to fall in line with the MotoGP branding and to introduce the new engine restrictions.
Moto3 sees various engine manufacturers run 250cc single cylinder, four stroke engines. There are age limits for riders in Moto3, as riders cannot be older than 28, unless it is your first season in Moto3, where the age limit is 25.
Moto3 replaced the 125cc FIM World Championship in 2012, signalling the end of the historical classes in the premier motorcycle championship.
Some of the circuits on the MotoGP calendar will be familiar to F1 fans. This weekend's USGP takes in the Circuit of the Americas, one of Spain's four races is at Barcelona, the Indianapolis GP circuit is visited, as are Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, and the Sepang circuit in Malaysia.
However, the best races tend to come from the circuits which are primed for motorcycle racing. Misano in San Marino, Brno in the Czech Republic and Mugello in Italy are always highlights of the calendar, but the top spot for me goes to the weekend at the Assen TT circuit in the Netherlands. There's a long tradition of motorcycle racing at Assen, and the three races each year always live up to it.
At this point, I have to admit to not knowing much about the riders in Moto2 and Moto3, so I'm not going to do them a disservice by running them down. All I will say is that Moto2 is full of men who would breeze the World Superbike Championship if they weren't dedicated to the MotoGP series. (editor's note: and moto3 has a woman biker, Ana Carrasco!)
MotoGP though, I know plenty about that.
Marc Marquez is the current reigning, defending MotoGP champion of the world, having won the title two years in a row. His first success, on board the factory Repsol Honda made him the youngest premier class world champion ever, and the first to win in his first year since American Kenny Roberts did so in 1978. He is also a former 125cc world champion, and a Moto2 world champion. The kid is great, he has a great riding style, and he has all the tools to take the title of "Greatest of All Time".
You can never discount his team-mate Dani Pedrosa either, who after bossing the lower classes in the early days of the MotoGP era has never risen to the top of MotoGP, but is always in the mix.
The current GOAT is one Valentino Rossi. Seriously, if you haven't heard of him, get out from under your rock. One time 125cc champion, one time 250cc champion, one-time 500cc world champion, six time MotoGP world champion. He's tested a Ferrari F1 car, he's that quick on two wheels. All the greats from the history of motorcycle racing say he is the greatest of all time.
He's struggled in recent years, due to the reemergence of the Hondas as a force, his ill-fated spell at Ducati, and the form of his current team mate Jorge Lorenzo (himself a two-time MotoGP champion and still a major challenger in his own right), but a return to the Movistar Yamaha team has seen him return to the form that saw him dominate the sport, and you cannot rule him out.
Other contenders include the aforementioned Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso and his teammate Andrea Iannone on the factory Ducatis, and Marco Melandri and Alvaro Bautista on the Aprilia Gresinis.
Honestly though, there isn't a bad rider in MotoGP. Anyone is capable of winning a race on any given day, even though there's more of a gulf in the bikes in the MotoGP than there is in either of the minor classes.
British interest (I am British after all) comes from Bradley Smith on the Tech 3 Yamaha, Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda, and Scott Redding on the Estrella Galicia Honda.
American Nicky Hayden is a former world champion, and his Aspar Honda still sees him relevant, while on a similar timezone Columbian Yonny Hernandez rides a Pramac Ducati.
Why do I love MotoGP?
Its most the unpredictability. Anything can, and often does, happen in motorcycle racing. Spring a good start and you can be up mixing it at the top, falter off the line and you're made to fight your way back up, which leads to some incredible action. You're constantly on the edge of your seat, with a mixture of fear and excitement. What if he leans too far? What if the other guy shuts the door on him? While in F1 that can happen you can be sat in the gravel trap, in MotoGP you're left eating it. It has risks, no doubt, but the risks are part of what make it so exciting.
There's also an inherent level of skill involved. As much as I admire F1 drivers, its a job you at home think you could do, even if its much harder than it looks. In MotoGP, you just have to sit back and admire it. I know for a fact I couldn't ride a bike like they do. There's no way I could lean a motorbike to a 30 degree angle, cut under somebody on the inside of an apex, then get the bike back to 90 degrees and power away.
I have a massive amount of respect for anybody who dons the leathers and puts their life on the line to do the sport that they love.
How To Watch MotoGP
I hope I've managed to sell you on what I think is the best sport on tarmac. If so, you'll want to watch yes?
You can find the broadcaster for your country at this link.
In the UK, live coverage of all three races are on BT Sports, whereas in the US, Fox Sports covers the main MotoGP race, but I am unsure about the other classes.
Give it a try. I promise you will not be disappointed.