MotoGP is a sport that can seem at once old and new. On the one hand it revolves around arguably the most basic form of competition – racing – and involves vehicles that have now been around for over a century, in one form or another. On the other hand, there is enough focus on new innovations in equipment (such as mandatory airbag suits), improved vehicles, and optimally designed tracks that MotoGP can also seem somewhat cutting edge. But what we’re looking into here is the history of the sport – as well as where it might be going.
The history of MotoGP is actually fairly interesting in that the entire sport, to some degree, was held up by World War II. Motorcycle Grands Prix had actually been held since very early in the 20th century, but it wasn’t until 1938 that the Federation Internationale des Clubs Motorcyclistes (predecessor to the FIM) organized a European Championship. That event would be held up by the war however, and as one account points out it would be a while before fuel would be available for the creation of a full international series.
Following the war however the sport would progress at a fairly steady rate through the decades. The first World Championship was held in 1949, featuring four classes of solo racers; by the ‘60s we started to see some of the brands (most of which originated in Japan) that we’re still familiar with today for motorbikes. Honda, Yamaha, and most notably Suzuki became serious players and ultimately changed the sport for the better.
In the mid-‘60s Giacomo Agostini rose to prominence as arguably the sport’s first major international star – riding, somewhat ironically, for Italian factory MV Agusta, despite the aforementioned rise of the Japanese manufacturers. Agostini would go on to win 15 World Championship titles through the ‘60s and ‘70s and, as you likely know, is now widely recognized as the best MotoGP driver in history.
Following Agostini’s prime the sport spread out in some respects, with more international manufacturers and drivers and a little more diversity in title winners. Competition regulations changed, regulating the sport a little more with each passing decade, and by 1992 MotoGP – a minor twist on the World Championship – was born. This is the sport as we know it today, more or less, provided changes in trendy manufacturers, leading drivers, and prominent courses from year to year.
As to how MotoGP might still change in the years ahead, it’s difficult to pinpoint any on-track adjustments that need to be made. Needless to say the vehicles will continue to be refined and perfected, and competitions will change accordingly. But this is a 100-year sport and there’s no glaring need to change it.
That said, there may be major changes on the horizon from the fan perspective – most notably in how races are viewed remotely. Virtual reality has potential to drastically alter (and improve) this experience, as evidenced in its impact on gaming and some smaller racing competitions. As one blog post stated, VR can facilitate the exploration of new environments, and some innovative developers have already applied this idea to exotic and/or realistic racecourses. A racing video game in VR can allow a player to feel as if he or she is really out on the track.
Meanwhile, VR has also enabled the rise of drone racing to some extent. Pilots controlling fast drones are able to direct them through long courses by using what are effectively VR goggles to watch from the drones’ perspective. Now, combine these two ideas – racing in VR and the pilot’s view – and you can begin to see what the future of MotoGP might be from a fan viewing perspective. There’s a very good bet that in the near future cameras mounted on bikes or helmets will provide first-person viewing opportunities, either in VR or otherwise, bringing fans closer to the action than ever.
The sport itself, again, doesn’t seem to require much change. However, should the developments just outlined come to fruition, it’s easy to imagine MotoGP growing, with more fans becoming interested in the new perspective.