Hello Riders!! If you have been following our website and have been with us since some time on our Facebook page, then you would have probably understood by now that we are absolutely mad about MotoGP. We also know that this sport is getting bigger and bigger every passing day in India and with a view that the new followers of this pinnacle of motorcycle racing sport in India get to understand this sport more, we are starting a series of articles that will explain in depth various aspects of this sport.
To start of this endeavour of ours to make sure the love for MotoGP expands even further and faster in India, let's start off with the History of this pinnacle of motorcycle racing.
History - MotoGP
MotoGP is the oldest of all motorsports World Championships - it was over 65 years ago when the foundation of MotoGP was laid in history, its first annual competition having been held in 1949. It was as early as in the early 1900s that the motorcycle Grand Prix were held in various countries and in 1938 the predecessor to the current FIM, the FICM (Fédération Internationale des Clubs Motocyclistes), announced a European Championship.
However, the start of the Second World War interrupted the competition and it then took some time after the war for fuel to become available, before a truly international series could be created.
The first formal World Championship was held in 1949, back then the Grand Prix racing comprised of four solo classes, with the inaugural ‘premier class’ 500cc title being won by British rider Leslie Graham on AJS machinery. Another Brit, Freddie Frith (Velocette) took the first ever 350cc World title, while Italians Bruno Ruffo (Moto Guzzi) and Nello Pagani (Mondial) were the first 250cc and 125cc World Champions respectively.
During the ‘60s the Japanese motorbike industry began to boom and this translated into the participation of Japanese manufacturers such as Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha of in modern day MotoGP racing. The late ‘60s brought the start of the glory days for MotoGP Legend Giacomo Agostini – the most successful rider in the history of World Championship competition. Up until the modern era riders regularly competed in two or three classes simultaneously and Agostini took 10 of his 15 titles in five successive seasons as double champion in 350cc and 500cc - in a golden period commencing in 1968, riding for MV Agusta.
At this time the escalating costs associated with Grand Prix racing had reached such a level that several Japanese firms withdrew from competition - with only Yamaha left at the end of the ‘60s. In response the FIM introduced rules which limited the bikes to single cylinder engines in the 50cc class, two cylinders in 125cc and 250cc, and four cylinders in 350cc and 500cc. This translated in creation of a level playing field, which saw title wins for firms from Europe, Japan and North America – with the Japanese firms finally breaking MV Agusta’s stranglehold on the premier class by the mid 1970s.
After a break of almost 12 years from racing, Honda rejoined the World Championships in the late 1970s and by 1983 they had changed their philosophy from using 4-stroke machinery to build the V3 500 2-stroke, known as the NS500, on which Freddie Spencer took the 500cc World title – his first championship win and the first for Honda since their return to Grand Prix. The previous season racing in the 350cc class had been brought to a conclusion after 34 years of competition, leaving four classes in the World Championship - 50cc, 125cc, 250cc and 500cc – with 50cc subsequently replaced by an 80cc category in 1984.
The 1980s and 1990s saw some superb quality racing in the premier class in particular with fierce competition between Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha and some great battles between American stars such as Eddie Lawson, Randy Mamola, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz. Meanwhile in the 125cc and 250cc categories European factories such as Derbi, Garelli and later Aprilia were fighting for the honours with the Japanese giants.
In the late 1990s the 500cc class was utterly dominated by Honda hero and MotoGP Legend Mick Doohan who took five consecutive titles, before a combination of racing injuries brought the Australian’s career to a premature end in 1999.
The Modern Age!!
Before the revision of regulations which brought about the move to 990cc 4-stroke competition in the premier class - in line with modern engineering and production trends - now legendary rider Valentino Rossi who was a young lad back in those times took the last ever 500cc title in 2001 on Honda machinery, having won the 1997 edition of the 125cc championship and the 1999 250cc crown with Aprilia.
After the re-branding of the World Championship as MotoGP in 2002 and the introduction of 990cc racing, Rossi went on to win four further consecutive titles, two with Honda and two after a famous and spectacular move to Yamaha.
In recent seasons the lower cylinder categories have been ruled by young European riders preparing for MotoGP™ on Aprilia and Honda bikes, with Dani Pedrosa epitomising the trend with three successive titles – one in 125 in 2003 followed by two in 250 – riding for Honda before moving into the premier class. In his first season in MotoGP Pedrosa shared the Repsol Honda pit-box with American rider Nicky Hayden, whose aggressive but consistent riding earned him the 2006 title and ended Rossi’s annual procession to glory.
At the start of the 2007 season, new rules restricting the number of tyres used on Grand Prix weekends and a reduction in engine size from 990cc to 800cc again levelled the playing field in MotoGP – with Bridgestone-equipped Ducati rider Casey Stoner emerging as the first standout rider of the new era, as the runaway 2007 World Champion. In 2008, however, Rossi returned to the pinnacle, taking his sixth premier class title.
The 2009 season saw the introduction of a single-tyre rule, as Bridgestone were named the sole suppliers for the MotoGP™ class. Rossi took his seventh title in the premier class after a battle with team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, taking him to within one more of equalling Giacomo Agostini’s all-time record of eight. The 2010 season saw a new name enter into the MotoGP class history book as Jorge Lorenzo was crowned World Champion following an exciting season long battle with team mate Rossi for the title. Lorenzo showed superb consistency and remarkable maturity to claim the premier class crown aged just 23 years old.
2011 saw Casey Stoner move to factory Honda, a switch that proved a resounding success. Stoner clinched the 2011 title with a win at Phillip Island, his 9th but not his final victory of the season (he also won the last round in Valencia).
In 2012 as the grid switched to the 1000cc machines it was Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo that took the title, while Casey Stoner finished his final season in third, following a mid-season injury, before heading into retirement. The current MotoGP World Champion is Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez, who in 2013 and 2014 earned 2 consecutive World Championship titles after he claimed his first premier-class title in his rookie season of 2013, breaking numerous records along the way.
Biggest Manufacturers through MotoGP History!!
The following list provides the main statistics of the biggest manufacturers in terms of wins who have participated in the World Championships over the past six decades till 2014:
AJS - 1 Constructors World title, 9 victories in all classes
Aprilia - 18 Constructors World titles, 274 victories in all classes
Derbi - 8 Constructors World titles, 93 victories in all classes
Ducati - 1 Constructors World title, 32 victories in all classes
Garelli - 5 Constructors World titles, 51 victories in all classes
Gilera - 5 Constructors World titles, 59 victories in all classes
Kreidler - 7 Constructors World titles, 71 victories in all classes
KTM - 3 Constructors World titles, 24 victories in all classes
Harley Davidson - 1 Constructors World title, 28 victories in all classes
Honda - 62 Constructors World titles, 667 victories in all classes
Kawasaki - 9 Constructors World titles, 85 victories in all classes
Mondial - 5 Constructors World titles, 18 victories in all classes
Moto Guzzi - 6 Constructors World titles, 45 victories in all classes
MV Agusta - 37 Constructors World titles, 275 victories in all classes
Norton - 4 Constructors World titles, 41 victories in all classes
Suzuki - 15 Constructors World titles, 155 victories in all classes
Yamaha - 37 Constructors World titles, 479 victories in all classes
Since the launch of the MotoGP™ Hall of Fame in 2000, a series of riders who have each been key protagonists throughout more than half a century of Grand Prix racing have been inducted as MotoGP Legends. The first rider to become a MotoGP™ Legend was five-time World Champion and an Australian Racing Legend Mick Doohan, who was honoured at Mugello, in May 2000.
Since then several additional illustrious names from different eras of racing have been inducted into the MotoGP™ Hall of Fame, as listed in full here:
Giacomo Agostini (Italy) - 15 World titles, 122 victories in all classes
Mick Doohan (Australia) - 5 World titles, 54 victories in all classes
Geoffrey Duke (GB) - 6 World titles, 33 victories in all classes
Mike Hailwood (GB) - 9 World titles, 76 victories in all classes
Daijiro Kato (Japan) - 1 World title, 17 victories in all classes
Wayne Gardner (Australia) - 1 World title, 18 victories in all classes
Eddie Lawson (USA) - 4 World titles, 31 victories in all classes
Anton Mang (Germany) - 5 World titles, 42 victories in all classes
Angel Nieto (Spain) - 13 World titles, 90 victories in all classes
Wayne Rainey (USA) - 3 World titles, 24 victories in all classes
Phil Read (GB) - 7 World titles, 52 victories in all classes
Kenny Roberts (USA) - 3 World titles, 24 victories in all classes
Jarno Saarinen (FIN) - 1 World titles, 15 victories in all classes
Kevin Schwantz (USA) - 1 World title, 25 victories in all classes
Barry Sheene (GB) - 2 World titles, 23 victories in all classes
Freddie Spencer (USA) - 3 World titles, 27 victories in all classes
John Surtees (GB) - 7 World titles, 38 victories in all classes
Carlo Ubbiali (Italy) - 9 World titles, 39 victories in all classes
Casey Stoner (Australia) - 2 World titles, 45 victories in all classes