Besides supercross and motocross, motorcycle racing doesn’t always get a lot of attention in the US. True, flat-track racing is experiencing a resurgence. But overall, compared to something like the Daytona 500, bikes often play second fiddle here. However, thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to access international motorsports, including bike racing. And if you’re getting a bit bored of car racing, you need to watch a MotoGP race.
MotoGP is kind of like the Formula One of motorcycle racing
Among paved-course automotive racing, Formula One is often considered to be the pinnacle. And for motorcycle racing, the equivalent is MotoGP, CarThrottle explains. However, it might be more accurate to say that Formula One is the car equivalent of MotoGP. That’s because the latter predates the former. With the first race dating back to 1949, MotoGP is the oldest motorsport championship in the world, TechRadar reports.
Besides being a motorcycle racing series, MotoGP is also the highest rung in a ladder of classes, Red Bull explains. Right below it is Moto2, and below that is Moto3. Again, this is a lot like Formula One, which has Formula 2 and Formula 3. And just F1, the bike classes compete on specially-designed courses all around the world. The participants are just as international: featured marques include Ducati, KTM, Honda, Yamaha, Aprilia, and Suzuki.
Before the racers set off, though, they have to earn their starting positions in two qualifying sessions, Q1 and Q2. This starts during the first three 45-minute free practice sessions held before each MotoGP event, Jalopnik explains. The fastest 10 riders in these sessions are automatically entered into Q2, while the rest are entered into Q1, Repsol explains. And the fastest two riders in Q1, which is held first, get bumped up into Q2.
After qualifications, there’s one last 30-minute free practice session before the actual MotoGP race begins. This is so the racers can do last-minute checks and adjustments as needed. And then they’re off.
It’s like “playing 150-mph chess,” Hagerty describes—with dramatic and nerve-wracking action
Compared to a NASCAR or F1 race, MotoGP races are relatively short, with a 45-minute runtime. However, in that time, the average MotoGP racer loses a half-gallon of sweat from wrestling a 350-pound race bike, Motorcyclist reports. And said bike has a 300-hp 1000cc engine and a top speed of well over 200 mph. Crashes can see the racers subjected to 26gs or more, RideApart reports.
To paraphrase Hagerty, watching a MotoGP race is a bit like watching modern-day gladiators. Countersteering is just the beginning of what these racers do. The average MotoGP race sees the competitors sliding on their knees, elbows, and sometimes even shoulders. Racers now dangle their legs out as they brake into corners, sometimes separated by mere inches. But it’s not about dramatics—these are all established and essential riding techniques. And occasionally, deliberately crashing at triple-digit speeds is the safest way out of a situation.
One common complaint about modern F1 races is that they’re boring and that some teams are overly-dominant. That’s not something you hear about MotoGP, RevZilla reports, especially in the last few years.
At one point in the 2020 season, nine different riders were in the running for the championship. And the eventual champion, Joan Mir, only took first place in one race. 2020 also saw KTM win its first-ever MotoGP race thanks to rookie Brand Binder, RideApart reports. Binder’s win was also the first rookie win since 2013.
The racing within an individual event is just as dramatic. Each corner matters, from the first to the last. For example, going into the final lap of the 2020 Styrian GP, three riders were vying for first. The guy who won, Miguel Oliveira, started that lap in third place.
A similar situation happened at the 2021 Qatar GP. Going into the final lap, Joan Mir was in third place. He then fought his way into second place, and on the very last corner, was overtaken by two other riders.
How can you watch MotoGP in the US?
There are several ways you can start watching MotoGP in the US.
Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, and Amazon Fire TV all offer live streams of the races, including Moto2 and Moto3. NBC also broadcasts a few live races during the season and posts highlights on the NBCSN YouTube channel.
But you don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to watching the races through a screen. The US might not host WRC races, but we do host MotoGP. Specifically, at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has left the track’s 2021 usage TBD, unfortunately. But hopefully, the bikes will roar down the straightaway soon. And perhaps I’ll see you there.
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