The former 350cc class was the one that started the Motorcycling World Championship in 1949.
The first race for the newly created Motorcycling World Championship was held on 13 June, 1949 on the Isle of Man. The category disappeared in 1982.
Among the notable champions of this class were: John Surtees, Jim
Redman, Mike Hailwood, and Giacomo Agostini, who went on to win 7 of their titles with these bikes.
Depending on the era, there were engines of all types, single and multi-cylinder and between 30 and more than 60 horsepower.
This was the intermediate category until a few years ago and a precursor to the current Moto2. The 250cc class had its first World Championship race on 15 June, 1949 in the same place where the 350cc race was held two days prior, and it had its last race on 8 November, 2009 at the Valencia GP. Although, in 2012 it returned to the World Championship under the new name of Moto3, as a lower category as we will see later.
The engines have gone through different eras, from
single-cylinder four-stroke engines, to six-cylinder parallel engines and finally, twin-cylinder two-stroke models in more recent times. Power has increased from just over 20 horsepower to close to 90 horsepower.
Sito Pons, Dani Pedrosa, and Daijiro Katoh managed to win World titles in this class sponsored by Repsol.
On 17 June, 1949, ending the race week that kicked off the World Motorcycling Championship, the first top class race was held. The Isle of Man was the stage again. This class held races uninterrupted until 2002, when the last 500cc races were met on the track with the new 990cc four-stroke MotoGP.
Originally they had single-cylinder four-stroke engines that produced close to 50 horsepower, but over time the evolution of these engines, as well as the category, was increasing dramatically. Engines of up to six cylinders were seen, the transition to two-stroke two and four-cylinder V engines and more than 200 horsepower, like the Repsol Honda Team Honda NSR500 driven by legends such as Mick Doohan and Álex Crivillé.
The category of sidecars disputed since the beginning of the World Championship used four and then two-stroke engines with this displacement since 1951, both in line, V and boxer configurations, having used 600cc engines before.
On 3 July, 1949, at the Swedish Grand Prix, the first race of what for years would be the lower category of the World Championship was held until the arrival of the 50cc class. The 125cc class raced in the World Championship until 2011, after which it was replaced by the current Moto3.
The power increased from 15 to close to 50 horsepower, also going through periods of single and multi-cylinder engines as well as from four to two-stroke engines.
It was in this class that Repsol achieved its first World Championship with Ángel Nieto in 1971 in a Derbi 125 Twin win, and the category for which many champions such as Álex Crivillé, Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa started their journey.
On 1 May, 1962, the first 50cc World Championship GP was held at the Spanish GP at Montjuich. The lowest class used in the World Championship.
The class raced continuously until 1983. As in the rest of
categories, the 50cc underwent major developments throughout the years. Single-cylinder and twin-cylinder engines were used that started with less than 10 horsepower and went up to almost 20. Such progress required the incorporation of gear ratios to take full advantage of the narrow power margin, ending up with gearboxes with more than ten ratios.
Ángel Nieto achieved six World Champion titles in this class.
Replacing the 50cc class, the lowest of the 1984 World Championship changed to 80cc engines until 1989, being the category that raced for the shortest period of time in the World Championship.
The single cylinder two-stroke engine produced around 30 horsepower at over 14 000 Rpm.
Jorge Martinez Aspar was one of the Repsol sponsored riders who managed to win three of the six World Championships that were held at this class. He did it on the Derbi GP 80, a machine that Paco Tombas developed, who in his day had prepared Ángel Nieto’s bikes at 50 and 125cc.
The 990cc class, MotoGP in its early years
In 2002 the regulations regarding the World Championship’s Top Category changed to replace the
polluting 500cc and two-stroke motorcycles with four-stroke 990cc engines.
From then until 2006, the new MotoGP category used that cylinder capacity, the most powerful used to date in the World Championship, with four and five-cylinder engines, as in the case of the Honda RC211V that achieved three World Championships for the Repsol Honda Team with Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden.
The engines in the first year produced over 210 horsepower and even exceeded 260 in the last year of races. The evolution that took place in those years marked a before and after in terms of technology and electronics used today in MotoGP.
800cc class, 2007 MotoGP to 2011
With the regulation change in 2007, manufacturers were forced to reduce the cylinder capacity of the engines to 800cc. This involved a complete overhaul of all manufacturers’ engines and the adoption of in-line and V-four cylinder engines.
The power decreased to 220 horsepower and then went up to about 230. The implementation of new technologies such as seamless gearboxes and pneumatic valve engines, as well as increasingly sophisticated electronics, achieved lap times similar to those of 990cc engines.
Casey Stoner won the World Title in 2011 with the Honda RC212V with the Repsol Team Honda.
Moto2 and the 600cc and 750cc classes
In 2010 the 250cc intermediate class disappeared and gave way to the new “Moto2”, a category with free chassis and fairings but that would use 600cc four-cylinder in-line engines and the same characteristics for all participants. These engines were based on the Honda CBR600R street model, with 125 horsepower. In 2019, the regulations were changed and the Triumph 765cc three-cylinder engines were used that produced around 140 hp.
Although historically there was a 750cc class in the 70s, it never officially became part of the Motorcycling World Championship.
Marc Márquez won the World Championship in 2012 on one of these machines and his brother Álex Márquez also did in 2019 with the new Triumph engine.
Moto3, the new 250cc class
In 2012, the Moto3 occupied the position of the 125cc and therefore become the new entry category to the Motorcycling World Championship.
The regulation establishes the use of 250cc single cylinder four-stroke prototype engines, with limited electronics, maximum revolutions, and limited specific elements, producing around 50 horsepower.
In 2014, Álex Márquez won the World Championship in this category, after a spellbinding last race at the Valencia GP.
The 1000cc class: 2012 MotoGP to today
Changes again in regulations forced manufacturers to seek new solutions. The regulation now allows four-cylinder engines up to 1000cc.
These new engines are four-cylinder in-line or in V at 90º, producing around 230 horsepower initially. They are currently approaching 260 and are capable of exceeding the 350 km/h barrier on some circuits.
This cylinder capacity has seen huge changes in terms of electronics and aerodynamics, using a common control unit for all participants and the addition of aerodynamic appendages to the fairings for better grip.
Marc Márquez has won 6 World Championships in this class.