If you are a regular spectator of MotoGP, whether at the track or via a screen, you are no doubt aware of the sound of a race-prepped engine howling down the front straight. But, did you know that each engine makes its own distinct sound, even with a similar number of pistons and layout?

At the top-flight of motorcycle racing, MotoGP, there are 12 teams contesting the championship, supplied by six manufacturers. The makers of engines for MotoGP are, in alphabetical order, Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Suzuki and Yamaha.

On the grid, the overwhelming majority of MotoGP race bikes use the V-four engine configuration, with Ducati running a 90-degree V4, while Honda, Aprilia and KTM use V-fours of varying degrees of angle between the cylinder banks. The traditional superbike engine layout, the inline-four, is campaigned by Yamaha and Suzuki.

Where the engines start to sound different is in the crankshaft angle, which designers use to set the firing sequence of the cylinders in relation to the crankshaft rotation. Thus, in the case of the Honda RC213-V, two cylinders in the same cylinder bank fire simultaneously, making the engine behave like a big twin, known colloquially as the “Big Bang” firing order.

Yamaha, naturally, uses its Crossplane configuration, with its uneven firing order giving the rider the greatest amount drive of drive out of the corner and allowing for fine control of the throttle, something at which Valentino Rossi is a master. However, with the advent of super- and turbocharging rumoured, the sound of motorcycle racing may yet change, and we may need to get used to strange whistling sounds coming from behind the fairing.