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Smaller engines, less aero, better racing? MotoGP’s 2027 rule changes explained

Dorna’s grand plan revealed and analysed

Published: 17 May 2024

Breathtaking lean angles. Acrobatic overtakes. Wheelies. All entertaining aspects of motorcycle racing, but they pale in comparison to the really fascinating bit: bureaucracy.

MotoGP’s owner Dorna has announced a set of rule changes that will come into effect in 2027, and they include a drop in engine size from 1000cc to 850cc, tighter restrictions on aero parts, and an outright ban on ride height devices.

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Rules and regulations in MotoGP run in five-year cycles. And just like Formula One, when a new set of rules comes in, it often leads to a dramatic shake-up. 

Now that the spec of those 2027 bikes has been laid out, both the paddock and the sport’s fanbase have had plenty to say in response, with some hailing a safety-conscious move and others voicing concerns that the new regs don’t tackle the real issues the sport currently faces.

But we’ll get to that. First we need to wrap our heads around the idea that motorcycle racing’s top category is deliberately trying to slow its bikes down.

Hang on, slower bikes?

We know. It seems wrong somehow, like a new F1 DRS system that makes the driver enter a twelve-digit PIN to activate it. But the consensus among the MotoGP paddock is that the bikes are starting to outgrow some of the calendar’s most historic circuits now. 

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The track runoff areas and Armcos can’t be pushed any further back at the likes of Jerez (where the sport’s been visiting since 1950), Mugello and Assen, and each year the updated prototypes visit, they hit faster top speeds – Brad Binder’s KTM hit a leather-soiling 227mph last year at Mugello.

Something had to give, then.

So it’s just about safety?

No, there’s a bit more to it. Dorna also reckons these 850cc engines are more “road-relevant”, although since these are prototype bikes in the first place it’s unlikely that your commute will suddenly be flooded by bikes with MotoGP-spec engines filtering past you. 

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Then there’s the sustainability bit. Not only will those new engines be running on a 100 per cent sustainable fuel mix, teams will also have one fewer engine per season, down from seven to six. 

Aside from the environmental upside, that’s probably a move to reduce operational costs and coax more manufacturers back into the fold following Suzuki’s abrupt 2022 exit.

So how much will those 850cc engines slow them down?

That’s the tricky bit: nobody knows. The speed gains we’ve been seeing over the last few years haven’t come from bigger engines, but more sophisticated aerodynamic parts and clever electronics that allow the riders to be harder on the throttle without highsiding into orbit or leaving half their tyre behind on the tarmac when they try to get the power down.

Didn’t everybody hate the 800cc bikes a few years ago?

Ah yes. 2007 to 2012 might be fondly remembered by Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo fans, but you’ll hear a lot of grumbling about boring racing in the 800 days. That was partly due to manufacturers shrinking the bore for shorter engine cycles, leading to bikes that squirmed around and ate through tyres.

The current 81mm bore length is only being slightly reduced to 75mm though, so the hope is that we won’t see similarly twitchy bikes in 2027.

What else is changing on the bikes?

The biggest news outside of engine size is that ‘holeshots’ - or ride height devices - will be banned completely. 

Currently, riders engage a device on the bike at race starts and on straights which changes the suspension to make the chassis sit lower, cutting through the air more efficiently.

In three season’s time, they’ll be gone. That should make for more interesting race starts, since getting off the line will be more about the rider and less about the bike’s spaceship-like systems. 

Are those ugly aero front fairings being banned?

Many expected they could be, but they’re only being reduced in width from 600mm to 550mm so the bikes will continue to look like they’ve collided headlong with Darth Vader for the foreseeable. 

They’re being pushed back 50mm on the front of the bike too, while aero parts on the rear will be homologated and teams will be restricted to one upgrade per season to this part. That’s all in an effort to minimise the dirty air effect for bikes in their wake and promote closer racing.

Any other big changes?

Just one: all riders’ GPS data will be shared among the teams, and with the public, after every session. 

The idea is that this information will help struggling riders and teams to find the extra time, although we’re not convinced. Without the setup and telemetry data to accompany it, watching Marquez’s line through COTA and being expected to follow it is going to be like sitting in on a brain surgery and then being bundled into scrubs and handed a scalpel.

What do the riders think about all this?

There’s an interesting collection of reactions out there in the aftermath to Dorna’s announcement. As The Race reports, Aleix Espargaro agrees that the changes mean they can keep racing at the same historic circuits where the old 500cc bikes raced. He wants other Dorna-owned bike categories like WSBK to follow suit to ensure MotoGP is still the quickest.

KTM rider Jack Miller wanted a wholesale ban on aero and Gresini’s Alex Marquez was expecting that too, but Trackhouse Aprilia’s Miguel Oliveira doesn’t think aero makes much difference.

Maverick Vinales, ironically somewhat notorious for his weak race starts, thinks the ride height device ban will “help the riders who have more technique,” (via Autosport) so expect to see him leading into many a turn one apex in 2027 or risk eating his words.

And Crash reports that Johann Zarco thinks all the changes are "interesting", but reckons it'll be tougher for engineers to find lap time with fewer tools to play with.

We’ll leave you with Jack Miller’s thought-provoking ruminations on the GPS-sharing proposal: “What the **** is that about?”

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