With the start of the new MotoGP season this weekend, I thought now would be a good time to produce a guide to all that is MotoGP. This guide will help you understand MotoGP, regardless of whether you're new to the sport or a veteran watcher as a lot has changed this year. Rider Changes Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda) - Born in Owensboro, Kentucky USA. Nicky is the reigning world champion, narrowly beating Valentino Rossi in the 2006 season. Nicky rides for Honda, and is the factory team leader. Although he is a title contender, he has been struggling on the 800cc RC212V Honda. Valentino Rossi (FIAT Yamaha Team) - The charismatic Italian team leader of Yamaha, Rossi finished a close second in the 2006 championship. Rossi is a seven time world champion in the big class (500cc and MotoGP). Rossi and the Yamaha are widely considered to be the combination to beat this year. Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team) - The oldest man on the grid will lead the Ducati effort this year as he did last year. Loris is widely respected by almost every rider on the grid, especially Rossi. He may be an outside chance for the championship. However, he will probably be more valuable to Ducati as a mentor for his young Australian team mate,Casey Stoner. Marco Melandri (Honda Gresini) - Melandri is regarded as a talented rider, however he's never seemed to get the most out of his RC211V Honda 990cc bike. On a good day, he could mix it with Rossi and Hayden at the front of the race. An ex-winner in the 250 series, the new lighter 800cc bikes could be more suited to his tastes. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) - Nicky Hayden's young Spanish team mate. Dani finished fifth in the 2006 championship on his first year in the big class. He is considered to be one of the title contenders for this year. Kenny Roberts Jr (Team Roberts Honda) - The second of four Americans on the grid this year. Kenny is riding for his dad's Team Roberts unit. Last year saw him progress up the grid as the team managed to gain permission to use the Honda V5 engine. This year sees the team struggling to get sponsors, even though they have been granted the use of Honda's new V4 800cc engine. Colin Edwards (FIAT Yamaha Team) - The "Texas Tornado" is back again this year, although there were rumours that he would return to Superbikes after not seeming to be able to tame MotoGP's 990cc bikes. Colin regularly topped the winter testing time sheets, bettering even Rossi on most occasions. If he has mastered the leap from Superbikes then he could have a good season. Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro Team) - The young Australian racer showed that he could ride last year on the satellite RC211V Honda. The problem was that he seemed to have a little too much of an "all or nothing" attitude to his racing. This may have been curbed this year, as his older and wiser team leader at Ducati may be able to teach him a thing or two. If he managed to curb his enthusiasm and the Ducati is reliable, he is certainly in with a chance of the title. Tony Elias (Honda Gresini) - Tony comes from a long line of motorcycle racers. Tony is another rider that has shown genuine speed on occasions, but cannot seem to step up to the plate in every race. If the satellite Honda RC212V is quick, then he could be a fly in the front runners' ointment from time to time. John Hopkins (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP) - John is a good rider, he has shown this fact on many occasions. The Suzuki was considered to be the slowest of the factory teams last year, but John managed to finish fourth on occasion, and managed to set a pole time at Assen in 2006. If the 800cc Suzuki is a little more on the pace, then John could make his English parents proud this year. Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP) - Chris is the second of three Australians on the grid, and another rider that made the move from Superbike to MotoGP. Chris too showed pace last year on a bike that had no right to be quick. He managed to set the pole position in Turkey and Laguna Seca. Makoto Tamada (Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3) - Makoto is one of two Japanese riders on the grid this year. The Tech 3 Yamaha is the only team running with Dunlop tyres, and due to this are at a disadvantage. Makoto is one of the small numbers of riders to win races in both World Superbike and MotoGP. Although not a championship contender, he could possibly challenge at the front if the tyres improve. Shinya Nakano (Konica Minolta Honda) - Shinya is the second of the Japanese riders in MotoGP. Shinya has made the move from his long term Kawasaki ride over to Honda. Shinya is a well liked and respected on the circuit. It remains to be seen if he can live up to the challenge of a new team after so many years in the Kawasaki fold. Carlos Checa (Honda LCR) - Carlos is a likable veteran on the MotoGP circuit. Born in Barcelona, Spain he has a huge following in the sport (Spain is one of the sports biggest supporters). Carlos could have a good season if the Honda proves to be quick. Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki Racing Team) - Randy is the first in the all French lineup at Kawasaki this year. Randy is well supported in his home country. The Kawasaki could prove a little troublesome this year as it is the first year that the factory has run the team itself. Alex Hofmann (Pramac d'Antín) - The only German in the sport and is racing on the Pramac Ducati. He replaced Sete Gibernau at the factory team last year for a couple of races while Sete was injured, and proved himself a reliable, quick racer. The customer Ducati is very similar to the factory bike this year, and could prove to be quick. Alex Barros (Pramac d'Antín) - Alex is back from World Superbike and racing for the customer Ducati team. That makes the Pramac team an all Alex lineup. Olivier Jacque (Kawasaki Racing Team) - Olivier makes up the second rider in the Kawasaki team. Olivier has been promoted from his test duties of recent years to the main team. Another rider that is liked in his home nation of France. Sylvain Guintoli (Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3) - Sylvain moves up from the 250cc championship. He has suffered a couple of injuries in testing, however it remains to be seen if he can take the step up to the challenge. Andrew Pitt (Ilmor) - The third Australian on the grid and another ex-Superbike rider. The Ilmor team has a steep learning curve this year, so do not expect too much. Jeremy McWilliams (Ilmor) - The only Brit in the 2007 championship. The Irishman is a much loved and admired rider, and is know for his grit and determination even if he's on a bike that's not on the pace. He is still the only Brit to get a pole and win in the MotoGP era of the series. The Hardware This year sees a whole new breed of bikes. This is due to the FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) governing body trying to reduce the speed of the bikes for safety reasons. One of the most significant changes is in the engine department. Gone are the 990cc engines, in are the new 'slower' 800cc ones. There is also a change to the allowed fuel load: down from 22ltr to 21ltr tanks. The worrying thing is that the 800cc bikes have set new track records at all of their test tracks. This is partially due to the fact that the tyres have improved, and the engine can be placed lower in the chassis allowing for higher corner speeds. Honda RC212V - This is Honda's second 21st century race bike (hence the name RC Racing 21 21st Century 2 Second Generation V V style Engine). The RC211V was a 5 cylinder engine, and for the 2007 season the engine becomes a V4. The Honda has not performed as well in testing as was expected. Yamaha YZR-M1 - Although there is no new name for the 800cc Yamaha, it is certainly a new bike. The new Yamaha in the hands of Rossi and Colin has set records at all of the test tracks. Rossi used the Yamaha to win the annual BMW fastest lap at Barcelona. It appears the new chassis is better configurabled for the two riders this year. Roberts KR212V - This is the Team Roberts bike, and although the engine is based on the factory V4, the chassis is custom designed and built in the UK by the Roberts team. Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR - The 2007 Kawasaki team is not the same as the 2006 one. The engine in the Ninja has been reduced to 800cc like all the other teams, but this is the first time that Kawasaki have run the team themselves. It used to be that Harald Eckl ran the team on Kawasaki's behalf. This means that 'Team Green' has a huge learning curve to overcome. Suzuki GSV-R800 - Suzuki struggled with advanced technologies in the 990cc era. It looks like the team may have got some of the issues behind them: the 800cc Suzuki in testing consistently performed well, and was up around the Honda times. Ducati Desmosedici GP7 - The Ducati team have proved that they do not need to stick to the V-Twin concept of their road bikes to create a good engine. The GP7 is probably the most powerful of the 800cc bikes (as its predecessor was in the 990cc days). Having the fastest bike down the straights does not guarantee the fastest race bike around the track, and we must wait to see if Ducati can sort out the chassis this year as well. Ilmor X3 - The X3 showed up at circuits late last year, and they were given permission to race their 2007 spec bike in the 2006 series. Ilmor is a much respected engine manufacturer (they produce the Mercedes F1 engine for McLaren). Mario Illien decided that he wanted to try his talents on another race formula, and with Eskil Suter (designer of the previous Kawasaki MotoGP chassis) decided to try their hand at MotoGP. Tyres The two main tyre manufacturers (Michelin and Bridgestone) are to be restricted this year in the hope that it will slow the development and pace of the bikes down over the year. Dunlop - the third supplier - are not restricted, in the hope that they will catch up. So what are the restrictions? The teams that run either of the two restricted manufacturers are only allowed 14 front tyres and 17 rear tyres over the course of the whole weekend. This includes the team's chosen compounds and qualifying tyres as well. The idea is that if the numbers are restricted, the teams will be unable to bring as many tyre combinations to a race. This may not appear to be a big thing, but the MotoGP tyres are possibly the most advanced tyres used anywhere; they contain multi-compound technology (for example: soft on the right side, medium in the middle section and then a super soft on the left) and come in multiple sizes. With a limited allowance, teams have to try to decide what to take to a race before the weekend starts. This means that they could get caught out if the temperature or conditions are not as expected. Summary A good season is ahead. Rossi will, without doubt, be the man to beat, but if one of the young up-and-comers like Pedrosa or Stoner prove reliable, they could well be the ones to do it. Then again, if conditions are right, the old boys of Edwards or Capirossi could have a last stand.