MotoGP rankings through the last decade

MotoGP – the 2nd most popular motor sport in the world!

If there is one undeniable fact, MotoGP has certainly gained a lot of popularity over the last twenty years. Audience or spectator reach is one of the most important factors, along with the the charismatic riders, usually of Italian, Spanish or even Australian descent. The world’s favourite rider and we say this without bias must surely be Valentino Rossi.

MotoGP - the NSR500 engine
Honda NSR500 Engine – the sexiest engine ever. (source Wiki/Morio)

Whilst the USA may find NASCAR the ultimate sport to watch, MotoGP has taken 2nd place to F1 racing which for many has become, well, to say the least, rather monotonous. What can one say about a class of vehicle with four wheels on the ground – sometimes. The first time I watched televised MotoGP religiously was in the late 90s and this was only because of the extremely high competition levels, high quality signal and the pit girls. Although we like to think that there are other interesting things to watch on TV, I never looked back.

 

 

Danger on the track

There is argument to the fact that NASCAR racing could be the most dangerous of all sports and to stay up front is akin to lunacy but MotoGP is no different. Overtaking another two wheeler around a corner, braking at the last minute on rubberised shrapnel and neck breaking one wheel on the ground acceleration down the main straight is nothing short of pure madness. On all levels, MotoGP riders know they are only two wheels away from a certain spill. Yes, we all watch motor racing for the spills but there is nothing worse than to lose a rider through fatal injury. In motor racing, for that matter in any sport, one death is one too many. It should not come with the territory and extreme measures are taken to protect riders and drivers but sadly, when milliseconds matter, highly competitive sports people push themselves and their machines to the limits. MotoGP to me is just one of those sports – wrong tyre choices, geometrical misbehaviour and blown engines are problems in any motor race but when often the rider is only one wheel and not two away from a certain spill, things get beyond hairy.

MotoGP – The Top Four

Like all sports we have our favourite participants, our superstars and aces. It may be Hailwood, Rooney or Agostini. It may be Duke or Roberts. Often there is very little difference between riding styles. MotoGP racing often involves riders that have been either world champion or runner up in other events, superbike racing been one of them. Rossi has been world champion in the 125, 250 and 500/900cc classes. He may not be as good as what he was in his early twenties but he still runs on a full tank and remains as competitive as ever. Ducati may have been long shot but with Honda and Yamaha he seems to be at his best, with the right pit crews and support. Right now we have Marc Marquez, the current world champion and another world champion of the three MotoGP categories, an ability only shared with Rossie, Read and Agostini. What does not make this surprising is the fact that he did this over a three year period, almost similar to Rossi. Getting there and staying there is another thing altogether. I doubt whether there is another sport in the world where one could place any one of the riders on the track as being possible winners – magazines, ezines and blogs often complain that the racing has gone the way of F1 but I beg to differ. MotoGP remains in the top ten most watched sports because of the huge fan base of individual riders – I was a fan of Rossi’s 15 years back and still remain a fan. At 35 he should be thinking of retiring but he currently sits at number three. This is no mean feat.

MotoGP – the Manufacturers

 

 

Out of the many competing bikes the manufacturer which stands as the odd man out is Suzuki. Honda and Yamaha remain firmly in the top two positions of the manufacturers log. Although Ducati is known to be ‘the’ bike to have, it just fails to make the grade on this level despite numerous 2nd and 3rd positions. Australian Casey Stoner put Ducati on the map in 2007 whilst Suzuki last made it in 2000 by K. Roberts Junior. Looking back through the decades and having seen these bikes in action, MV Agusta ridden by all time superchamp, Agostini, this certainly was the most awesome machine of it’s time. (see below: NS500). The modern bikes are very closely matched in terms of speed and all round performance – is this what makes it exciting? I’d put 30% of any race’s outcome in the manufacturer’s lap, the other 50% on rider and form on the day and 20% on tyres. Just how many exciting finishes has one seen where all that remains is human versus fragments of rubber?

MotoGP – the Nationality

Over the last decade Rossi stands out as being the top performing rider and Yamaha as top manufacturer. Italy, Spain and Australia lead nationality with Italy a clear winner. Rossi of course. In the last decade we also saw a switchover of Rossi from Honda to Yamaha, winning two consecutive years on different bikes. Eddie Lawson was the last person to do this, in the late 80s.

MotoGP – from RC166 to NSR500

Basing my opinion on youth Marc Márquez is going to be the role model for junior riders for the next ten years. I had my money on either Lorenzo or Pedrosa a few years back but this had much to do with hype. It takes a very special type to be the Agostinis of this world and Rossi is definitely one of them. Going back 60 years the one thing that has stood out the most in my humble opinion will be Gilera and MV Augusta – until the NSR500, Honda’s 200HP V4 two-stroke rocket. Who can forget Mick Doohan on this instrument of ‘shit your pants’ stuff.

 

 

Mike Hailwood – the man, the hero (read some nostalgia here)

I had the privilege of seeing Mike Hailwood race when I still very, very young and to this day images of his ability around the track, where as far as I can recall he lapped number two still remain tacked inside the last working elements of my brain. Hailwood was possibly the greatest ace to have graced our shores (Cape Town) and have a relationship with the South African public. Hailwood was the hero of most pubescent, teens and older in the heady 60s.

Just slightly off track, for those that remember the NSR500 (who would not) we had the RC166, a six cylinder 250cc – found on YouTube.

If you need to see more, YouTube has a very good selection of videos covering this over 150 mph beast.

Two wheel racing – I am not biased, it is the best!

I am not biased, MotoGP is best. From riders, to engines, to frames, to braking and to the beautiful girls. Sadly, the best bikes were the two strokers, from the smell to the sound to the acceleration. You knew you had been to the race track when you smelt of methanol and your ears still rang.

The world’s greatest….. the NSR500