After the incredible dominance shown by two riders over the course of 20 years in the 4 stroke era, MotoGP had become a two horse race. In 2020, all that changed, after the infamous Rossi vs Marquez battles had dominated the sport for so long Rossi’s challenge had waned, and it was all about who could stop Marquez.
After winning an incredible 6 titles, 4 of which were on the bounce between 2016 and 2019, the rider who stopped Marquez would actually be Marquez himself. A crash in the 2020 pre-season would sideline him for the rest of the year, and even upon his return in 2021 was not yet at full fitness. That has opened the door for two new champions to emerge in his absence, and races have been more open than ever before.
10 The Bikes
With the exception of Kawasaki and BMW, who both focus on the SBK championship, every other major sportbike manufacturer has a team on the grid.
All these machines pack the latest technology, but the big differences in design philosophy are pretty clear to see on track. Suzuki and Yamaha have persevered with their inline-4 engines, but all the other teams have adopted the highly successful V4 platform. All the teams choose aluminum frames except KTM, who use a steel trellis frame.
9 The Technology
One of the biggest new additions to the MotoGP regulations is traction control and launch control devices. The launch control device, commonly referred to as the holeshot device, is by far the most interesting addition. The benefits of traction control are pretty clear, preventing nasty high-sides, but the holeshot device is playing a big part in results.
Ducati got a leg up with their device working the best early on, squatting the bike down to get maximum traction off the line. Other teams followed suit, but Ducati were the first to successfully start using it coming out of corners too, lowering the bike as they go into a corner to gain more traction coming out.
8 The Champions
One of the all-time greats, Valentino Rossi, retired at the end of the 2021 season and there is little doubt his enormous fan base will feel his absence this year.
A fully fit Marquez is well and truly back this year, but his Honda is a little different now, and it will take a few races to get back into it. Fabio Quatararo is the reigning world champion and will no doubt also be a threat, but the championship race is completely open, with a host of other riders also in with a shout.
7 The Talent
Getting to the premier class takes some doing, just securing a ride is already a dream come true for most riders.
This year, there will be 4 rookies graduating to the top flight, including Moto2 Champion Remy Gardner and Moto3 rider Darryn Binder. They will be sure to take the fight to all the other more experienced riders, all needing to get results to prove their worth and stay at the top for one more year.
6 The Brothers
For a premier class sport to have brothers competing is already fairly unusual, but this year MotoGP has three sets of brothers competing in the field.
The Espargaro brothers have been up there for years now, more recently Marc Marquez’s younger brother Alex graduated in 2020, and now this year, Darryn joins older brother Brad Binder.
5 Team Sport
All the big manufacturers have now got a feeder team on the grid to help with both technological and rider development.
Injuries are common in MotoGP and having a rider ready to hop onto their main factory bike has become essential, even test riders will get regular opportunities through the season to hone their Sunday skills.
4 Physical Demands
The physical demands on riders are immense, with crashing being such a big part of competitive racing at this level, riders will almost always be carrying some sort of injury. Riders are also always on the move, shifting their weight to maximize grip and minimize drag, all that movement combined with the power of these machines has led to a type of injury unique to the sport known as “arm pump.”
Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome is the medical term, but it is basically a result of overusing their forearms and will result in them losing all feeling in the affected arm. Not exactly ideal when you are trying to slow down from 150 mph for a corner.
3 Tight Competition
Since Marquez's last championship in 2019 we have had two different champions from two different manufacturers. It is arguably the most competitive period in the history of the sport, with almost every rider in with a chance come Sunday.
Even smaller teams with older bikes have proven to be highly competitive on certain tracks, with some riders seemingly coming out of the blue to win a race.
2 More Races
This year there will be more races in a calendar year than ever before, although considering how things have been forced to change at the last minute over the past couple years this remains to be seen.
One thing is for sure though, it is going to be an incredible year of racing ahead, and all of it is now easily accessible all over the world.
1 Great Coverage
In the past you would need an expensive subscription to a satellite or cable network to watch MotoGP (in most countries) but all that has changed.
All highlights and some behind the scenes action is posted on social media and if you want to watch live racing you can subscribe to a paid streaming service online.