By Dan Moakes
March 11 2007
see the season guide for the latest reports
Motorcycle Grand Prix Championship
The FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix series, more popularly referred to as MotoGP, has been running since 1949, which puts it a year ahead of Formula One. In that time, the constant features have been the 125cc, 250cc, and 500cc engine formula competitions. Additionally, a 350cc category ran until 1982, whilst smaller bikes of 50cc (1962-1983) and 80cc (1984-1989) have also been part of the Grand Prix package, not to mention sidecars.
Whilst the 125 and 250 competitions remain, the year 2002 saw the 500cc formula, by then all two-stroke, superseded by the new MotoGP class rules, allowing 990cc four-stroke machinery. After five years of success for Honda and Yamaha, and with additional race wins for Ducati, a reduction to 800cc has been agreed for 2007, in an effort to reduce speeds and promote safety. These manufacturers are again joined by Suzuki, Kawasaki, the KR of Team Roberts, and the new Ilmor.
The current MGP rider line-up includes the last two 500cc Champions, in Kenny Roberts Jr (2000) and Valentino Rossi (2001), with the Italian having added the first four MotoGP crowns to his previous titles in both 250 (1999) and 125 (1997). The only other man to take the 990 title is the current holder Nicky Hayden, but there is no shortage of further World Champions. Both Olivier Jacque and Marco Melandri have 250cc crowns, and they are joined by Loris Capirossi, who has titles in both 250 (1998) and 125 (1990 and 1991). Dani Pedrosa arrived in 2006, and has taken three consecutive crowns in 125/250 competition, and Colin Edwards has won a pair of World Superbike titles. Most of the other top class riders this year have race victories in one World or European category or another.
Historically, the most successful GP rider is Giacomo Agostini, who won fifteen titles, and 122 individual races, in the 500 and 350 championships, the last in 1975. A bit more recently, Angel Nieto took thirteen titles and 90 wins in 125 and the smaller classes, with his final podium visit coming in 1986. Several other exceptional riders have taken multiple crowns, with such as Mike Hailwood, Mick Doohan and Phil Read winning over fifty races in the process.
Quite possibly the most celebrated achievement is that of John Surtees, the man who won seven GP titles between 1956 and 1960 before converting to Formula One racing, where he was World Champion for Ferrari in 1964. Valentino Rossi has already secured seven GP titles in eleven years of competition, and nearly made it eight in 2006. He has recorded over eighty individual race victories, and is very definitely the sport’s latest superstar. Can he fight back against the new challengers, such as Hayden and Pedrosa?
most Grand Prix titles:
most Grand Prix wins: