Their former status on the track has helped attract sponsors, drivers and manufacturer support so they can continue to fight for title success. Here’s our look at ten of the best.
Giacomo Agostini remains the sport’s most successful rider with 122 Grand Prix wins and 15 World Championships. After retiring at the end of the 1977 season, Agostini enjoyed a few years without the sport but returned in 1982 with a 500cc Yamaha factory team when Graeme Crosby and Graziano Rossi were signed. With major support from Marlboro, Crosby finished second that year before the team moved up a gear in 1983 as Americans Kenny Roberts and Eddie Lawson battled for the title.
Roberts also finished second overall, edged out by Freddie Spencer by just two points for the title, but with Agostini at the helm of the ship, Lawson took titles in 1984, 1986 and 1988. Other riders under his management included Raymond Roche, Virginio Ferrari and Rob McElnea between 1986 and 1990 he also managed the Marlboro Yamaha 250cc team with Luca Cadalora, Martin Wimmer and Alex Criville among the riders.
When Lawson left for Honda in 1989, Agostini managed to lure Freddie Spencer out of retirement, but it didn’t bear the fruit both parties had hoped for, and Marlboro moved to Kenny Roberts’ team in 1990 instead. He returned as Cagiva team manager in 1992, a position he held until 1994 when the Italian manufacturer withdrew, and his final season as manager began in 1995 when he ran a 250cc Honda team with Doriano Romboni.
Steve Parrish, former British champion and 500cc World Championship podium finisher, rode for both the Heron Suzuki and Mitsui Yamaha teams during his career, and when he hung up his leathers at the end of 1986, he immediately turned to manage Loctite full-time for the Yamaha team in the British Championship and built his own highly successful career in truck racing, winning numerous European titles.
Steve Parish had a successful racing career, credit Phil Wain’s Family Archive.
British championship titles were won with Kenny Irons, Keith Huewen, Terry Rymer and Rob McElnea, while the team also enjoyed numerous wins and podiums at the Isle of Man TT races with riders such as Trevor Nation, Geoff Johnson, Nick Jefferies, Brian Morrison and Brian Reid. Parrish handed over the reins to McElnea in the early 1990s and became a highly respected commentator and pundit in the media.
Lincolnshire’s Neil Tuxworth had a long and distinguished racing career that lasted 20 years, and in that time he took no less than four podiums at the Isle of Man TT, four at the North West 200 and one at the Ulster Grand Prix to be a consistent leader on the British short circuits. After battling back from a serious injury at Aberdare Park in 1986 that nearly cost him his life, he retired at the end of 1989 to take up the post of team manager at Honda Britain.
For more than 25 years, Tuxworth has been at the helm in various guises, and in that time has had an unbroken history of success. Both World and British Superbike Championship titles have been won with names such as John Kocinski, Colin Edwards, Steve Hislop and Ryuichi Kiyonari, while the Isle of Man TT results is simply outstanding with countless wins by Hislop, Joey Dunlop, Carl, Fogarty, Phillip McCallen and John McGuinness among others. Tuxworth officially retired at the end of 2016 as one of the most successful team managers of all time.
After briefly competing in the 250s, Italian Davide Tardozzi turned his attention to the fledgling Superbike class, winning the very first stage of the inaugural meeting of the World Superbike Championship at Donington Park in 1988, although a crash in the second stage robbed him of overall victory. On a Bimota, he won five races that season, but only finished third overall due to a lack of consistency. He then won the 1991 European Superbike Championship before retiring to take up the position of team manager at Ducati.
Under his leadership, the team won numerous world championships with Carl Fogarty, Troy Corser, James Toseland and Troy Bayliss and took a total of eight titles, so it came as a shock to the racing world when he left Ducati at the end of the 2009 season. He soon took on a similar role with BMW Motorrad, but with the team only staying in WSB for a short time, he returned to Ducati to act as team coordinator for their MotoGP team, a role he still performs today.
A two-time 250cc World Champion in 1988 and 1989, Sito Pons did not have the same success in the 500cc category and retired at the end of the 1991 season, but soon returned to the sport and formed the Honda Pons Racing Team to compete 500cc World Championship. With factory NSR500 machines and people like Loris Capirossi and Alex Barros on board, the team won numerous races, although the championship eventually eluded them.
The same thing happened in the MotoGP division in the early 2000s, when Max Biaggi and Troy Bayliss were among the riders and it became more difficult to find sponsors and he was forced to dissolve the team before the 2006 season due to lack of funding. However, it wasn’t long before he was back, albeit in the Moto2 category, and success soon followed when Pol Espargaro won the world championship in 2013. Maverick Vinales also won a number of races and the team remains in the series in 2017.
With a Grand Prix racing career that lasted from 1982 to 1997, Jorge Martinez is another highly decorated Spanish rider to form a hugely successful World Championship team, with the four-time champion having one of the biggest presences in the paddock. After his retirement, ‘Aspar’ was soon back in the sport, first in the smaller classes, where all his titles were won and race wins and podiums soon began to flow for his various riders, while he also had an 18-year relationship with Aprilia.
Alvaro Bautista, Gabor Talmacsi, Julian Simon and Nicolas Terol all won the 125cc World Championship, with Simon finishing second overall in the inaugural Moto2 World Championship in 2010, and at that point, Martinez was steadily expanding his operation. His first year in the leading MotoGP division was in 2010, where they subsequently rode both Honda and Ducati satellite bikes with riders such as Hector Barbera, the late Nicky Hayden, Eugene Laverty and Bautista, although a podium continues to elude them.
Italian Fausto Gresini, a two-time 125cc champion in 1985 and 1987, formed his own team in 1997 and competed in the 500cc World Championship for two seasons with Alex Barros. They were then relegated to the 250cc class, which they won in 2001 with Daijiro Katoh, and that led to a return to the MotoGP class in 2002, where they have remained ever since while continuing to compete in the other classes.
Tragedy struck the team in 2003 when Katoh was killed at Suzuka, but they recovered and Sete Gibernau, Colin Edwards and Marco Melandri were among their riders in MotoGP, Gibernau finishing second twice. In 2010 they joined the brand new Moto2 championship and promptly won the world title with Toni Elias, but the following year tragedy struck again when MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli lost his life after a crash in Malaysia.
Again the team regrouped and both Sam Lowes (Moto2) and Enea Bastianini (Moto3) have since given them top-three finishes in the World Championship, while Gresini Racing now leads Aprilia’s factory efforts in MotoGP.
With a successful racing career that saw him ride factory bikes for Suzuki, Yamaha and Honda, compete in the 500cc and World Superbike championships, become British Superbike champion and win three races at the Isle of Man TT, Rob McElnea took over as team manager for Yamaha’s British Superbike efforts after Steve Parrish stepped down from the role in the early 1990s. Initially combining the role with his own driving duties, he focused on management after his racing career was ended by injury in 1993.
In the late 1990s, the team dominated the British Superbike Championship with the support of Cadbury’s Boost, as former GP rival Niall Mackenzie won three consecutive titles between 1996 and 1998. A subsequent deal with Richard Branson and Virgin Mobile did not lead to repeat their championship They won successes, but they scored race victories with Steve Plater, James Haydon and Tommy Hill, while McElnea played a crucial role in the Virgin Mobile Cup series, which produced many future Superbike riders. After being one of the longest-running Superbike teams in the British Superbike Championship, McElnea left the sport at the end of the 2011 season.
Lucio Cecchinello, a consistent 125cc rider in the 1990s, formed his own team in 1996 while continuing his own career, and just a year later he took his first Grand Prix victory. With Noboru Ueda as his teammate, the duo achieved some strong results, with the rider/manager finishing fourth overall, and in 2002 he stepped up his efforts to include the 250cc class with Casey Stoner on board. Cecchinello retired at the end of 2003 to concentrate on team management, and riders who have subsequently ridden for him read like a Who’s Who of the sport, including Alex de Angelis, Randy de Puniet, Roberto Locatelli, Carlos Checa and Toni Elias.
2006 was Cecchinello’s first foray into MotoGP, again with Stoner, and since 2008 he has focused his efforts exclusively on the premier class, with Stefan Bradl and Cal Crutchlow both finishing in the team’s highest championship position, seventh, in 2013 and 2016 respectively. Arguably their best moments, however, came in 2016, when Crutchlow took two MotoGP wins and the Briton continued with the team in a fourth season in 2018.
A former British Superbike Championship rider in the mid-1990s, Englishman Muir focused on his business interests after retiring before starting his own team, Shaun Muir Racing, in 2002. After entering the British Superbike competition in 2004, his results steadily improved and victories were taken towards the end of the decade for James Ellison and Stuart Easton, who finished third overall in the series in 2009. In 2011 they switched to Yamaha machines and the switch paid off when Tommy Hill beat them after a nail-biting final lap at.
In 2013 Milwaukee Tools came on board as title sponsor and with the signing of Australian Josh Brookes, they secured their second BSB title in 2015. This led to a move to the World Superbike Championship – one of Muir’s long ambitions – and BMW Power in 2016, however, the season did not go to plan and Brookes left the squad at the end of the season. However, the team then struck a deal with Aprilia to run their official WSB team for 2017 and both Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori had solid seasons on the RSV4.