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Is MotoGP a Drag Race?

Since the inception of the MotoGP class last season, it seems that the primary focus of the top race teams has been horsepower. The bikes that are winning races are primarily those with the most horsepower, and many teams and riders outside the top five routinely admit to being “down on power”.

The recent success of Ducati’s MotoGP effort has been tied to its V-4 motor (rumored to be even more powerful than Honda’s V-5), and of course Honda is rumored to be building a V-6 prototype to replace the RC211V. According to MotoGP rules, bikes with 6 or more cylinders must be 10kg (22lbs) heavier than 4- and 5-cylinder machines, and 20kg (44lbs) heavier than 2- and 3-cylinder bikes.

With the current factory V-5s probably making in the neighborhood of 230 wheel horsepower, it might seem crazy to add even more weight in exchange for more power. But if Honda does build a V-6, then someone obviously thinks a 341lb bike with power figures north of 250 wheel horsepower will go quicker than the current 319lb V-5. It would also indicate they believe that this horsepower advantage would negate the probable corner speed advantage of the lightweight 3-cylinder Aprilia Cube, which this season may finally approach its 297lb minimum weight.

Is outright horsepower that much more important than handling and corner speed as far as winning MotoGP races? Can tire manufacturers handle a heavier, much more powerful MotoGP bike? Only time, and possibly a new Honda V-6 machine, will tell.