6 Bike Racing Legends who have shaped the sport to what it is today
“4 wheels move a body, 2 wheels move the soul.”
There is a certain thrill to bike racing. Hanging on for dear life to a handlebar attached to a frame, which makes contact with the ground only via two wheels. There is something scary about this invention that has only two tyres and can attain speeds in excess of 250 kmph.
Motorbike racing is surely not for the faint hearted. The sport requires its participants to have a mindset and a skillset like no other. The possibility of things going wrong heavily outweigh the possibility of things going the way they should be in bike racing. The sport requires disciple and respect for the machine, yet most of the iconic racers have been outlaws (in a sense) and have gone ahead and created history.
Riding a bike at break neck speeds is a certain death wish; hence certain rider’s race like it’s their last time every time they put on their helmet. Motorsport has advanced over the decades and certain rules and regulations have been put in place to ensure safety. Technology has developed over the years allowing the bikers to have a certain sense of safety. All that being said, motorbike racing still remains one of the most dangerous forms of motorsport.
There have been a number of motorbike racers who have gone ahead and changed the face of the sport. They have made history and shaped the sport to what it is now. Let`s have a look at these legends and see how they helped shape the face of motorsport worldwide.
Here’s a small list of famous racers from the field of motorcycle racing (according to their DOB).
Born: April 2, 1940
Achievements: 76 GP victories, 112 GP podiums, 14 Isle of man TT wins and 9 World Championships.
There are very few people in this world who are so talented in their craft. Mike Hailwood was one of them. Regarded as the best Motorbike racer of all time (he also raced formula 1 cars!). Mike Hailwood defines the true spirit of motorbike racing.
The Brit champion was inspired by his father, who raced bikes before the First World War and was a well-known motorbike dealer. He grew up around bikes and went on to leave his mark in the motor sporting world.
He raced almost all capacity bikes and that earned him the name “Mike the bike”. In 1961 he started racing for Honda, which at the time was an upcoming team. He then went and joined MV Agusta and won 4 consecutive 500-cc World Championships with them.
He went back to Honda and won 4 more world titles to his name. His most famous race was when he made a comeback to the Isle of Man TT after 11 years and managed to win. He was riding a Ducati 900 SS, which helped him succeed.
He was known for heavy partying and legend has it he introduced James Hunt to that lifestyle. He passed away in a car accident at the age of 40 (not on a racetrack though).
Born: 16 June 1942
Achievements: 122 GP wins and 15 world titles
Italians have been known to contribute to the world of motorsport. One of their earliest and possibly best contributions came in the form of Giacomo Agostini. The Italian driver holds the record for the most World Championship titles in his name.
He started racing at a young age and the folks at Agusta, recognized his talent. He raced along with Mike Hailwood forming a partnership, which was nothing short of legendary.
He went on to win 10 Isle of Man TT titles before boycotting it, stating that it was unsafe for bike racing. He did so after the loss of a close friend at the said 37-mile course.
He and Mike had healthy competition amongst themselves, which made the sport exciting to watch. In 1967 he and Hailwood were neck to neck till the last race of the GP season. He went on to win it and proved his prowess to the motor sporting world.
He retired from competitive motorcycle racing in 1977 and continued his career as a team manager for Marlboro Yamaha from 1982 upto 1990. Post that he joined Cagiva as a factory racing team manager. His last stint with motorsports was in 1995 when he managed the Honda racing team.
Born: September 11, 1950,
Achievements: World Champion Formula 750 (year 1973), 500-cc Champion 1976, 1977.
Barry Sheene was one of the finest British racers to grace the world of bike racing. Sheene started at the young age of 18 by riding his father’s bike (125cc and 250cc Bultacos) and at the age of 20 was the 125cc British champion.
He was the last World champion from Britain until Danny Kent came in 2015, putting Britain back into the heart of MotoGP.
Barry Sheene rode for Suzuki and went on to win the 1976 and 1977 500cc World Championship. He was a very charismatic man and made the most amount of money. He used his popularity in the sport and combined it with his good looks (and acute business sense) to get endorsements. He had an extremely wild lifestyle drinking and smoking away along with all the other motorsport bad boys (James Hunt, George Harrison and the types).
A crash at Daytona would’ve almost ended his career, but the British lad got back on the race track soon after. After another crash at Silverstone, he decided to retire from his racing career.
He got married and shifted to Australia, where he worked as a property developer and did some small time TV-shows.
Born: 25 February 1952
Achievements: Three hat tricks at the Isle of Man TT (1985, 1988 and 2000) winning 26 races in total. Ulster GP won 24 times and TT Formula 1 title in 1986.
Now here’s an example of skill and hard work. Dunlop is regarded as one of the best motorcycle racers of all time. He has conquered the most dangerous Isle of Man circuit, which is controversial for being the most dangerous track.
What really comes to notice here is his shy and mysterious persona. He wouldn’t party hard or live a playboy lifestyle but would stay away from media attention and concentrate on his sport. He was a rather quiet person who excelled at his sport. He was known for his huge contributions to charity namely his contribution to the Romanian Orphans where he provided food and clothing in abundance.
Looking at the flashy lifestyle most of the guys had, Joey Dunlop’s lifestyle is something that should be recognized and appreciated.
Unfortunately he met an untimely death in 2000, when he lost control of his bike in wet conditions. He passed away immediately due to the mass impact of the bike when it hit the trees. He was racing a 125cc (after winning in the 750cc and 600cc class) in Estonia.
He was voted as Ireland’s greatest sports star in Jan 2015. Amongst other awards he also received the MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his contribution to the sport in 1986 and OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his charity (which he received in 1996).
Born: 4 June 1965
Achievements: 5 consecutive 500-cc World Championships.
Michael “Mick” Sydney Doohan is one of the most prolific and respectable bike racing legends to come from Australia. He won 5 consecutive 500-cc World Championships between 1994 -1998. He made his debut for Honda in the year 1989 riding a two stroke 500-cc bike.
In the year 1992, at the Dutch TT, Mick Doohan seriously injured himself. He went and injured his right leg so badly, it faced amputation at one stage. Once he recovered modifications were made to his bike to enable him to use the rear break from the handle bar, as his leg was unable to perform the function.
He went on to dominate the World Championship following his crash from 1994 to 1998. He had a great chief racing engineer, James Burgees, (who went ahead and worked with Rossi after) who perfected his bike for every race. Doohan wasn’t too open to try new innovations to the bike and was comfortable the way it was, much to the dismay of the engineers at Honda.
He retired in 1999, and made a brief appearance in the Isle of Man TT in 2011 and made a parade lap.
Born: 16 February 1979
Achievements: A total of 9 World Championships and counting.
“Doctor” Valentino Rossi is a living legend. He holds 9 World Championships to his name and still has years of racing left in him. The Italian legend has been touted as one of the greatest racers of all time and rightfully so.
He started racing in the 125cc category for Aprilla in 1996, winning the championship in the following year. He then went ahead and won the 250cc championship before graduating to the bigger categories.
He started his MotoGP career with Honda (’02-’03), then switched to Yamaha (’04-’10), then To Ducati (’11-’12) and finally back to Yamaha (’13-currently).
Valentino Rossi won bike racing championships in ‘02,’03,’04,’05 and then he won again in ‘08,’09. After racing for Honda he went ahead and joined team Yamaha and tasted success in both the teams. He joined Ducati for a season but that didn’t work for him and he came back to Yamaha (and is still currently with them).
He’s one of the most naturally gifted racers in all forms of motorsport. He had tested his hands in Formula 1 where he tested for Ferrari, but decided to stick to two wheelers. He was extremely talented behind the wheel of an F1 car and had Schumacher supporting him.
Apart from F1 he also has tried his hand at Rallying, where he has proven his talent is not limited to two wheelers. He has been trained by none other than WRC legend Colin McRae and has shown he can handle a car as well as he handles a bike.
In the current 2015 season he stands second in the overall ranking. Valentino Rossi is known for his outstanding style and superstitious rituals he follows before and after a race. His racing gear has a signature fluorescent neon color, which has become quite famous amongst his fans.
He is also a huge football supporter and his favorite club is Internazionale, which is evident from his vocal support for them.
Tune into the latest season to see the Doctor perform his magic on the track!
[Images credit – Official Facebook page of all bike racing legends mentioned in the article].