As the sport entered the 21st century it became clear that technical development required a modification of the traditional class structure and since the 2003 season the premier MXGP series has been open to two-stroke motor cycles with an engine size between 176cc and 250cc or four-strokes between 291cc and 450cc; within a couple of years the four-stroke motorcycles established their pre-eminence and it is now rare for a two-stroke machine to participate.
The MX2 class for four-strokes between 197cc and 250cc or two-strokes of 101cc to 125cc provides a stepping-stone to the "class of kings". In 2008 a Women’s World Championship (WMX) was added; this series races at five GPs and contestants use MX2 machinery.
At each GP riders contest two races (motos), each of thirty minutes plus two laps duration, and the first 20 finishers in each moto score points. The Grand Prix winner is the rider with the greatest combined points total from the two motos; in the case of a tie the better placing in the final moto is decisive. Riders must be at least sixteen years of age in the MXGP class and fifteen in MX2; an MX2 champion may only defend the title once and the series is restricted to riders who have not attained their 23rd birthday by January 1 of each respective year. There is no upper age limit in WMX and each moto has a duration of twenty minutes plus two laps.
Kawasaki’s involvement in the FIM Motocross World Championship dates back as far as 1972 when the Swede Olle Pettersson was signed as development rider in the 250cc class and two years later Kawasaki also officially entered the 500cc class with his compatriot Christer Hammargren.
After several near-misses Kawasaki finally secured its first world title when Stefan Everts won the 250cc series, then the "premier" class, in 1995, and Sebastien Tortelli followed this by taking the title three years later, the French teenager having already clinched the 125cc title in 1996. This honour was repeated in 2002 by Mickael Maschio and Christophe Pourcel claimed the MX2 world title in 2006. France’s Livia Lancelot won the initial WMX world title for Kawasaki and New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan has been victorious in each of the last two seasons since joining DRT Kawasaki.
Seven major manufacturers enter official teams in the premier off-road world series, and Kawasaki is a major player, having secured medals as a manufacturer ten times during the last decade with numerous GP victories annually throughout the same period.