MotoGP is the oldest motorsport in the world. The first world championship was held in 1949. The FICM, now called FIM, was supposed to start the competition in 1938, but due to the Second World War, the championship was canceled and finally started in 1949.
In the first MotoGP championship, the Grand Prix consisted of four individual classes. Leslie Graham won the first title in the premier class. It was Freddie Frith who won the very first 350cc title, while Bruno Ruffo and Nello Pagani won the first 250cc and 125cc championships respectively.
In the 1980s there was fierce competition between the big three, Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki. Many racers have come and gone, but few have taken the MotoGP world by storm. Only racers like Mick Doohan, Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi have been able to master the art of MotoGP.
Here’s a list of 10 great racers who have mastered the sport of MotoGP.
1. Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi, a professional Italian motorcycle racer, is a multiple MotoGP World Champion. He is the only racer in the history of the championship to have won it in four different classes: 125 cc, 250 cc, 500 and MotoGP.
He also has nine Grand Prix championships to his name, making him the most successful racer in the world. Amazingly, he has won seven of his nine races in the premier class.
Rossi started with Honda by winning the 500cc championship in 2001 and the 2002 and 2003 world championships. He also won the 2004 and 2005 championships, but this time with Yamaha instead of Honda, which he left before the 2004 season.
Rossi had several battles with Casey Stoner and eventually he replaced Stoner at Ducati in 2011. Rossi had two difficult seasons with Ducati, after which he switched back to Yamaha. After returning to Yamaha, he finished second in 2014, 2015 and 2016. 2015 was the season in which he looked like winning the title, but was overtaken by Jorge Lorenzo and eventually finished second.
2. Casey Stoner
Casey Stoner, a retired Australian professional motorcycle road racer, is a two-time MotoGP World Champion, which he won in 2007 and 2011. After his retirement, he worked as a test and development rider for Ducati from 2016 to 2018. Stoner was born in Queensland but had to move to the UK to pursue his racing career.
His ability to ride any bike beyond its perceived limits was his greatest talent. He could win on a much worse Ducati bike than a Honda or a Yamaha. The 2007 world championship that Stoner won remains Ducati’s only world championship to this day.
He always had some intense battles with Valentino Rossi, but somehow always seemed to be behind when Rossi won the championships in the next two seasons. In 2010 he moved to Repsol Honda, where he won the championship in 2011. He was the winner of six consecutive Grand Prix on his home soil.
Casey was an amazing racer who had performed well on the world stage, but always seemed to be in the shadow of Valentino Rossi, who was enjoying his best years when Stoner retired in 2012.
3. Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez, a Spanish Grand Prix motorcycle racer, is one of the most successful racers in the world. He has seven world championships to his credit, five of them in the premier class. He got his nickname “Ant of Cervera” because he is known for his wild riding style. He is only one of four riders who have won world championships in three different categories.
He is one of the greatest innovators the world has ever seen, as his excessive cornering technique of leaning over the bike makes him look like he is falling out. He is only the third Spaniard after Alex Criville and Jorge Lorenzo to win a premier class title.
He is also the first rider after Kenny Roberts to win a premier class title in his first season. In 2014 he won 10 races in a row, which is a remarkable achievement as he retained the title with three races to go. He is third in the eternal list of winners of most MotoGP championships. He is considered a worthy opponent of Valentino Rossi, currently the best racer in the world.
4. Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo, another great Spaniard, was 250cc world champion in 2006 and 2007. He is also the MotoGP world champion of 2010, 2012 and 2015. He currently competes with Honda in the MotoGP class. In addition to winning the world title three times, he also finished second three times.
In 2012, Lorenzo became the first racer from Spain to win the premier class title. In the eternal list of the most victories in MotoGP, he is in sixth place with 67 races. In 2008 he became Valentino Rossi’s teammate at Yamaha. He started his MotoGP career on a great note, finishing second in the Qatar race.
He finally converted a victory at the third race of the season in Portugal, which was also his first win in the premier class.
Lorenzo is the youngest rider to finish on the podium in his first three races. He is such a dedicated rider that even after suffering injuries from falling off his bike, he was still able to finish the race in fourth place. Lorenzo is famous for his celebrations after he finishes a race. He once imitated a spaceman jumping into the lake in the infield of the Jerez circuit.
5. Giacomo Agostini
Giacomo Agostini, an Italian road racer, is a multiple world champion. He goes by the nickname Ago. Agostini holds an amazing record of 122 Grand Prix victories and 15 world titles.
Agostini was born in Brescia, Lombardy. He had a tough childhood when he had to steal away to start his racing career, first in hill climbs and later in road races. He won his first world championship in 1963 in the 175cc class aboard a Morini.
Agostini got his big break for Morini when Tarquinio Provini left the team to ride for Benelli and he was hired by Count Alfonso Morini. In 1964 he won the championship again in the 350cc class. His performance attracted the attention of Dominico Agusto, who hired him as a teammate of Mike Hailwood. He almost won the championship in 1965 before his bike let him down and the title went to Jim Redman.
He went on to win seven consecutive 500cc titles after becoming the best rider for MV Agusta. Agostini decided he would never race again at the Isle of Man, TT, having lost his close friend Gilberto Parlotti during the 1972 TT. He left MV Agusta in 1974 and joined Yamaha, where he won the prestigious Daytona 200. He is considered one of the best racers of his time.
6. Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa is a former Spanish motorcycle racer. He is the youngest racer to win the 250cc Grand Prix. Although he has never won a world championship, Pedrosa has won races in 12 consecutive seasons. It’s still a mystery why he couldn’t win a world championship. He also finished second three times.
Pedrosa rode only for Honda throughout his MotoGP career and announced his retirement from the sport in 2018. In October 2018, it was confirmed that he would join KTM MotoGP as a test and development rider, ending his long relationship with Repsol Honda.
Numbers don’t lie, as he has an impressive record in MotoGP. Injuries and bad luck contributed to his problems not winning a MotoGP championship. Who knows what would have happened if he hadn’t had to deal with injuries, because his record shows what a good racer he could be.
In 2012 he had more wins than Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo. He is one of the best but unlucky racers of this generation
7. Mike Hailwood
Mike Hailwood, a former British Grand Prix road racer, is considered one of the greatest racers of all time. He was known as “Mike the Bike” due to his ability to race on bikes with different engines. He is also part of a rare company that competed in both Formula 1 and MotoGP. Sadly, Hailwood died in a car accident in Warwickshire.
He began his career at a very early age, riding a mini-bike in a field near his home. He raced for the first time at Outon Park in 1957 at the age of 17. He finished in 11th place, but soon began to achieve impressive results. The next year he won the ACU Stars in the 125cc, 250cc and 350cc classes. He was awarded the Pinhard Prize, given to young motorcyclists under 21.
He joined Honda in 1961, with which he became the first racer to win three races in a week, a remarkable achievement. He went on to win the 1961 world championship. In 1962 he switched to MV Agusta and won four consecutive world championships.
He recorded the highest one-hour speed at 144.8 miles per hour. When he returned to Honda in 1966, he won four more world titles in the 250 and 350 cc categories. He is known for his amazing performances in the Isle of Man TT, considered one of the toughest races.
8. Michael Doohan
Michael Doohan, also known as Mick, is a retired Australian world road racing champion. He has won five consecutive 500cc world championships. Only Giacomo Agostini with eight and Valentino Rossi with seven have won more world championships in the premier class than Mick. In the early 1980s, Mick raced Australian Superbikes, where he won the 1988 World Championship.
He belongs to a rare class of racers who have won a World Superbike Championship in the 500cc class. He began his MotoGP career in 1989 with Honda on an NSR 500cc two-stroke bike. He made an immediate impact when he won his world championship in 1990. He went on to win the 1991 world championship before suffering a serious injury and nearly facing amputation of his right leg.
It was amazing to see him return to the racing arena in 1993, but this time unable to win the championship as Wayne Rainey won his third consecutive title.
Mick won his first 500cc world championship in 1994. His most successful year was 1997, where he won 12 out of 15 races and finished second in the remaining races. He was inducted as a member of the Order of Australia for his great contribution to the sport. He also participated in the design of an Intamin Motorbike Launch roller coaster named after him.
9. Kenny Roberts Sr.
Kenny Roberts Sr, a former American motorcycle racer and team owner. In 1978, he became the first American to win the MotoGP World Championship. Roberts Sr. is also a two-time winner of the A.M.A Grand National Championship. He is only one of four riders in American Motorcyclist Association history to win the AMA Grand Slam.
He is known for his world championships as well as an advocate of increased safety standards in racing. He had made a proposal in 1979 to create a rival motorcycle championship that broke the hegemony of the Federation Internationale de Motorcyclisme. This move led to improved safety procedures and a new era in professional racing. He was named a Legend by the FIM in 2000.
Yamaha USA offered to send Roberts to race in the World Championship along with Kel Caruthers. He secured the support of the Goodyear tire company. Few people thought Roberts would win the championship, thinking it would take him at least a year to get used to the conditions in Europe. Roberts did not start the 1978 season well, but recovered amazingly well to win the championship.
After his Grand Prix career ended in 1983, he briefly got involved in auto racing before starting his own team in 1984. His team included two of MotoGP’s greatest riders, Wayne Rainey and Alan Carter. In 1990 he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame.
10. Maverick Vinales
Maverick Vinales, a Spanish Grand Prix motorcycle racer, is a former Moto3 World Champion, which he won in 2013.
He currently races in the premier class of MotoGP. In 2015, he won the Rookie Award in the MotoGP class. He started racing very early before moving to motocross and then circuit racing in 2002.
In 2007 he became the winner of the Catalan 125cc championship. In the same year he also won the Mediterranean Trophy. In 2008 he participated in various selected events of the German IDM 125GP Championship, where he finished seventh. Vinales ended the 2007 season as Rookie of the Year, finishing second in the championship standings behind Alberto Moncayo. He finished on the podium four times during the season, which is a great achievement for a rookie.
In 2010, he won the championship by just two points over Oliveira after Vinales finished on the podium seven times while Oliveira crashed in one race. Vinales is one of the greatest rookie racers of this generation.