When talking about racing, it usually goes hand in hand with the circuits. As of 2022, the MotoGP World Championship has twenty races on all different tracks. Let’s overview them and see what they might have in common or what makes them send out.
The FIM has a document stating the regulation for the circuits to be considered “MotoGP Safe,” Grade A circuit. It’s an elective list that has only twenty-nine racetracks approved. After the director of the track thinks it is good enough to be considered Grade A, they must pay around twelve thousand euros to have an FIA representative come and see if all the regulations are respected. When a circuit is approved, it can be revoked after a routine check-up. It is up to the track to keep up with the safety regulations and racing standards.
The circuits in 2022
Just like bikes or divers, the tracks have different specificities. Some circuits are most suited for fast bikes provided by more than on straight or very long ones.
Those tracks are The Red Bull Ring, Phillip Island, Circuit Ricardo Tormo, MotorLand Aragon, or Motegi, Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.
Others favor corner speed to either overtake or gain an advantage. It includes the Pertamina Mandalika Circuit, Termas de Rio Hondo, Autodrom Internacional do Algarve, Le Mans Circuit, the TT Circuit Assen, Silverstone, and Chang International Circuit. Those tracks’ straights provide a lot of speed to fast bikes like Hondas or Ducatis, but the fast corners sections or the harsh braking zone will advantage bikes like the Susukis or Yamahas but also riders who are late breakers.
Some tracks have a great mix of both. Some are made for testing, others just for racing, but it usually tracks where Grand Prix are full of fights.
The Lusail International Circuit in Qatar is one of those built at the beginning of the 2000s. The 1068-kilometer-long straights make for an excellent braking zone going into turn one. The rest of the track has sixteen corners, six lefts, and ten rights, a mix of slow and fast. The turn seven, eight, nine, and ten sequence is especially fast and is popular amongst the riders. In the same category, we have Barcelona; many riders like it. The average speed is 165 kilometers per hour, and the record belongs to Johann Zarco on his Ducati. Still, on Sunday, the Yamaha of Fabio Quartararo was better with its better corner speed. We could also include The Sepang International Circuit or the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto.
Two circuits have their category because, despite having other specificities, what makes them different is that most corners are to the left, the Circuit of the Americas, eleven to the left, and nine to the right. And the Sachsenring with ten to the left and three to the right. They represent a challenge for all parties because the riders are used to taking corners to the left. Michelin, the tire supplier, also must create more resistant ones twice a year to equip the bikes.
The diversity and the different evolution of the bikes make for more title fights as we are out of the Marc Marquez and Honda domination. Even if the calendar has not changed much in the past couple of years due to contracts, it still gives a good mix of particularities that will suit different riders and bikes almost every weekend.
The Speed World Championship has a rich history. Rules, drivers, places many things are linked to this history, but today, we'll focus on the constructors.
Since the beginning, a few brands have marked the Championship; the first was MV Agusta.
The story of the Italian constructors started like a few others during the First World War. A Sicilian aristocrat Count Giovanni Agusta created the company in 1907. Despite his intention, it began as an aeronautics company; they started to build motorcycles after World War I to avoid being shut down. The project had started before, so it was easy to start anew.
They entered their first Championship race in 1950; they were the first to create the five-speed gearbox. They had a great season start in 52, but after 53 people died at the Isle of Man TT, it diminished their joy, so they withdrew for the year. After that, in 1958, as people started to stop racing in the different categories, they began to win. In 58, they won 8 titles and many races, especially with John Surtees. They continued to win championships and most races until 1966, accompanied by their star driver, Giacomo Agostini. That year Honda arrived in the Championship. It was the first time they had had real competition in almost ten years. Agostini was still crowned because of Honda's reliability issues and won in 67. Honda pulled out in 68, and the Italian association continued to win. They were the only stable team against new and evolving teams and knew the sport.
Honda is a name that all people know. They managed to make a name for themselves as the best-selling manufacturer in the world, and for a reason, but the conception of the bikes started by bringing innovation to the speed World Championship.
They first entered racing in Europe through the classic Isle of Man TT in 1959. They were the first Japanese team to join the World Championship. In 1960 they were racing in two categories, 125cc and 250cc. They moved to the big sister's category in 1967. Their six-cylinder engines and seven to ten-gearbox speed were very fast and brought many innovations. When in 1969, the FIM introduced new regulations to try and even out the playing field, they decided to leave.
Honda came back in 1977 in the 500cc category with a four-stroke engine, while the sport had mostly two-stroke engines. Despite their knowledge, the return did not bring success to the Japanese factory, and they left again in 1982, only for a year.
When they returned in 83, they had changed their philosophy on the sport and tried to adapt the bike to the new regulations, especially on tires. They produced their first two-stoke engine in 1985, and in 1992, they introduced the "big bang," a new machine with an unconventional ignition timing that made much noise. That new technology helped Mike Doohan win 5 championships in a row starting in 1994. And this new strategy worked great because they took the fight to Roberts and ended up winning the title by two points.
The following significant change came in 2009 with a lot more off-season work with computers and the tyers revolution. Those data- analyses helped the development of the commercial bikes. With Casey Stoner in 2011, they won their 60th constructors title. In 2013 they signed Marc Marquez, and he will mark the history of the bike, making it evolve. He shaped it for his aggressive riding style as Honda brought more technological innovations.
Today they have 18 rider's World Championship titles and 22 constructors' titles in the highest class, but across all the categories, they have 65 titles to their name. On the flip side, as Marquez was physically diminished, they started to have a rigid bike that was hard to drive. At the Sachsenring without "the King of the Ring," Marc Marquez, they hit a very low point by not scoring for the first time since their return in 1983.
Another big team and another Japanese group, Yamaha, joined the road racing competition in 1961, just after Honda did. They had already started to race in Japan and were successful enough to enter the Daytona race with only Japanese riders. That year their rider, Fumio Ito, finished second for the Isle of Man TT, which directly impacted the European market. They started to make a name for themselves in Europe, and it got even better when they took their first win in the Championship in 1963, still with Ito. The year after that, they contacted European driver Phil Read, and they won four championships in two years with him. They continued to grow and took another dimension when in 1967, they won their first 125cc title.
As they made a name for themselves, they started to work on a 'road safe' racing bike that they could sell to amateurs who desired to try road racing legally. When they created this bike, the Japan Grand Prix was added to the calendar, and they became extremely popular, so the new bike sold with parts easily added to the bike to race was a hit.
Yamaha made its return with new regulations. They took a break from road racing to focus their efforts on dirt bikes and motocross racing. In 1973 they launched the YZR500 to race in 500cc and the YZR250 to race in, you guessed it, 250cc. Despite an early success that year, they did not finish the season because their driver died during a race.
When they came back in 1974, they brought Agostini freshly out of MV Augusta, and they conquered the 500cc title in 1975.
They stopped again in 76 to come back in 77, and after they failed to win Agostini, they recruited "King Kenny," Kenny Roberts, who would accompany them in one of their most successful eras. They were consistently in the battle for the title, and Roberts had two bikes that switched depending on the circuit. They created bikes after bikes to keep up with the regulation changes throughout the years and won many races a title during the 80s and 90s.
With the new century came the biggest change the sport had seen and the arrival of the MotoGP era. In 2002 they created the YZR-M1 four-stoke four-in-line cylinder engine. They did not do well that year and did a 180 in 2003 as they signed Valentino Rossi. They won races and championships with him during the 2000s and created, with time, a bike that turned well. Today, it's the most significant advantage that a motorcycle has as it still lacks speed.
Rossi started to be less efficient with the years but still took the fight to Lorenzo and Marquez in 2015. As Honda was the bike that won and they had no other star to replace Rossi, they tried many things, and as they saw Fabio Quartararo perform in the Yamaha Petronas satellite team, they decided to sign him in 2020. It was a challenging year for the bike and its driver. In 2021 the Frenchmen Quartararo won the first Yamaha Championship after 11 years without anything, bringing the team its 38th rider title. The Iwata factory bike still lacks speed. As the reigning Champion signed another contract with them a few weeks ago, they announced a collaboration with a Ferrari F1 engineer; to try and bring more speed. They want to elongate their already impressive track record of 37 constructor's titles, 47 125cc wins, 165 250cc wins, 63 350cc wins, 120 500cc wins, and since 2002 they have won 117 MotoGP races bringing them to an all-round 512 wins.
Staying with Japanese teams before coming back to Europe with the red bikes of Ducati. Suzuki was the second Japanese team to join the Championship in 1960 when they entered their first Isle of Man TT. They rapidly won their first title in 62 in the 50cc category with Hugh Anderson, who also won the first race victory that year. They continued to improve their bike, and in 65, they took their first Isle of Man TT victory, still with Anderson. They won championships in 63, 50cc, and 125cc, then again in 50cc in 64, and in 65, they took the 125cc title. Thanks to Hans-Georg Anscheidt, they seemed unstoppable in the smaller classes. They continued that success in small cylinder engine categories and took more titles until they launched a prototype in 1970. They wanted to confirm their success, but that time in the 500cc class, and they did just that as the prototype they presented to the world in 70, driven by Jack Findlay, gave them their first-ever 500cc victory on the 12th of August 1971.
In 1976 they signed Barry Sheene, which was the beginning of a Suzuki domination that was impressive despite lasting only two years. They took their first title in 500cc with him, and with the RG500 bike, they occupied the first six places in the championship standings. Entering the 80s, they collaborated with Marco Lucchinelli and Franco Uncini, and they took two successive titles with them in 81 and 82; the second year, they won the first five races after there was not much debate on who would win.
In 1993 we saw a new start rise, Kevin Schwantz, who will become famous for the phrase: "When I see God in know it's time to brake" he was a very late barker that made some hold their breath as he almost defied the laws of physics.
After him, they had in their ranks the son of a champion, Kenny Roberts Jr, that took the fight to the rising star of Honda at the time, Valentino Rossi.
When the MotoGP era arrived, they struggled to adapt to the new regulation and took some time to return to the top. They took their first MotoGP win in 2007 On a rain-soaked Le Mans circuit. After that, they took a break from 2011 until 2015, when they came back. That time they were quicker to be back on a podium as they took on the year after with Maverick Viñales in Silverstone, England. The win came in 2019 in Texas with Alex Rins; in Silverstone again, they ended up 4th in the Championship that year. In 2020, in a year marked by the Covid-19 Pandemic, they took their first title since Roberts Jr in 2000. They were expected to be at the top for the next season, but it was a disaster for the riders who fell and saw their lack of speed on one lap ruin their qualification, depriving them of good results. This year they announced that due to financial difficulties, they will be withdrawing from the sport starting in 2023.
Despite their withdrawal from the MotoGP racing world at the end of the year, they will continue to race in the endurance championship that they are dominating thanks to their reliability which was also a significant advantage in Grand Prix racing.
The sport that started as exclusively European started to be dominated and driven by non-European teams. Today Ducati is part of the only two European teams, the second one being Aprilia, but as it stands today, they are the most present bike on the grid. Today they have a reputation of being the fasted bike, making them a very popular brand in and out of the paddock.
Their racing history started in the 40s with small bikes, and they had a lot of riders ready to take those bikes on circuits. As it is said at the time, people on Ducati's were not just driving them. It was a lifestyle to be a Ducati rider; they lived for the brand. Ducati's first motorcycles were named the Cucciolo, meaning puppy in Italian. Those small bikes were extremely fast. They broke twelve-speed records. They had to wait until 1956 to harvest their first championship points in 125cc at their national race in Monza. They took their first 250cc point in 1960 to do the same in 500cc. They had to wait ten years. In 1972 they came out with their first V-twin, now a landmark of the brand, giving them their first 500cc championship points. And the year after, they finally won their first 500cc Grand Prix again in Italy, but this time in Imola. They continued racing with ups and downs until Hailwood won the Ilse of Man TT in 1978, securing the Championship for Ducati. The speed racing championship was not a success, but they were competing in other Championship where they succeeded, like in Superbike.
In 1986 they created the Pantah, changing the engine. These engines are still used today, and this bike is considered the common ancestor of all other bikes the Italian factory produces today.
With the regulation change in 2002, Ducati decided to try to make a new bike to suit those changes. They took part in the Championship starting in 2003 and never stopped since they were mildly successful, only winning one title in 2007 with Casey Stoner and 3 Constructors' titles in 2020 and 2021. They won a total of 18 titles, 15 riders titles, and won 407 races. Since 2003 they have won 64 Grand Prix as of now. They are nowadays the team that brings the technological innovations to the sport, and they have the fastest engine helping them win more races that helped them secure the constructor's titles in the last two years.
The Frenchman was born in Nice in 1999. He left the family home very early to settle in Spain with his mentor, Juan Borja, a former motorcycle rider. At only fourteen years old and in his first year in the category, he won ahead of drivers, often much older and more experienced, which earned him the nickname "El Diablo." He competed in the world's greatest junior championship, the CEV, Spanish Speed Championship. He also won the following year; he is a two-time Spanish Champion.
The Qatar circuit always announces the start of a new season, and in 2015 it also marked his debut in Moto3. He did not do a fantastic race, but the double Spain champion changed things. Before he arrived in the Championship, the mandatory age to race was 16 years old. A year before and already crowned, he was denied a possible entry in Moto3. One year later, the same scenario was repeated, but this time HRC, the official sponsor of the CEV, asked for a regulation change and got it. This new rule states that the CEV champion can switch to Moto3 even if not of age. A derogation was therefore given to Fabio Quartararo, who celebrated his sixteenth birthday later in the year. But the talent and precocity of the Frenchmen marked a significant change in the category. After 2 years without much success, he entered Moto2, where he did not shine either, but in 2019 he signed his first contract in MotoGP with the private Yamaha Petronas team. It was a big sign of trust for this team because he did not yet have a significant track record.
The trust of two men
The two bosses of the Yamaha satellite team gave him a chance, and never regretted it. He adapted very well to the machine during the off-season tests, and in Qatar, for the first Grand Prix, he qualified well for a rookie before stalling on the grid during the warm-up lap. He must start from the pits. During this incident, we see an irritated young Quartararo kicking the door leading back to the pits. His mentor Juan Borja explained the gesture to AFP "The only flaw I can find him was when he did not have the bike he wanted, he got very angry, maybe too much." The Frenchman later confirmed that this was one of his worse flaws, and during the season, we saw glimpses of that part of his personality.
But in 2019, what we remember above all is that he impressed most. After the disappointment of Qatar, he qualified on pole at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona and became the youngest driver to do so. Before him, it was Marc Marquez's record. And he went further only a few days later; he again did the fastest lap in Assen, Netherlands, and became the youngest to make two poles in a row. He fought great battles on a few occasions, especially against the multiple championship winner Marc Marquez, who will say of him after a hard race, "if Fabio has the right bike the day he wins, he will be tough to beat." During this season, he finished seven times on the podium, did six poles, and scored one hundred and eighty-two points. He finished fifth in the Championship and got the title of Best Independent Driver and Best Rookie.
Writing his name in history.
It is probably everyone's obsession in such an elite sport, but more than anything for the Frenchman, he wanted to be a World Champion. He did not get a taste of a title victory since the CEV in 2014. In 2020 he had one goal: to be crowned champion. He had to do one more thing before thinking of a title: win his first race in this category. But his plans were thwarted by Covid-19, the season started very late, in July on a circuit that Quartararo appreciates enormously, Jerez.
July 19, 2020, was the long-awaited consecration for him. The tears he shed on the podium after dominating a race where the heat was stifling were telling, and El Diablo started his season in the best way. Fabio Quartararo was very much ahead in the Championship after winning a second time the following week because the reigning champion was not there. He became the favorite as it was he who managed to fight against Marquez the previous year. He kept this place for a long time, but as Quartararo explained later, he put pressure on himself to win, which did not help. He made mistakes, and in the end, he took second place in the Championship, which was tainted by the pandemic.
The beginning of the official Yamaha adventure
Already with an affiliated team, in 2021, he moved to the Yamaha factory team, replacing Valentino Rossi. In multiple interviews with Canal+, he admitted that he worked a lot on his mindset during the winter break and felt better equipped to handle the pressure of sport. Since 2020, his outbursts of anger have become increasingly rare. He started the season with a fifth-place at the first GP in Qatar, but the following week on the same circuit, he finished on the top step of the podium, scoring his first victory of the season. A few weeks later, he started on pole in Portugal and escaped seconds ahead; again, he finished first. He had never managed to do much in the rain and scored a podium at the Le Mans Grand Prix in a complicated race. He built his season in the best way. With the absence of Marquez at the front, the Championship became very contested. He was regularly on the box, and if he didn't, he scored points in almost all races.
When Championship stopped in Misano, Italy, he was fifty-two points clear of Francesco Bagnaia, and the latter was ahead at the start of the Grand Prix. Still, he fell with only five laps to go, offering the title to El Diablo, who became the first Frenchman to obtain a title in the premier class category since the creation of the Championship in 1946.
In 2022, the season is one of the most contested in history, with different winners at almost every race, but Fabio Quartararo is ahead in the standings with 10 weekends to go.
The Marquez era in MotoGP ended in 2020, but before that, the Spaniard dominated for almost ten years, winning several titles against confirmed champions. Already in junior categories, he dominated and won quickly. Marc Marquez is a Spanish racing driver born in 1993. He started riding young and made his Championship debut in 2008 in 125cc at only fifteen years old. He got his first podium after six races and became the youngest Spanish rider to be on the podium at a Grand Prix event. Marquez also had his first pole position in France the following year, becoming the youngest Spanish rider to do so. He became the second-youngest to be crowned champion of the smallest category in 2010 at seventeen years old and 263 days before moving to the higher class.
After his title in Moto3 or 125cc, he moved to Moto2 in 2011 by signing a 2-year contract. He started the season relatively slowly behind the championship leader, Stefan Bradl. In the middle of the season, he began to gain confidence and ability. Marquez won six races in a row and was six points away from Bradl. He took the lead of the championship in Japan when he finished second, and Bradl was fourth. He made an incredible comeback in Australia after starting last on the grid and finishing on the podium's third step. While the Championship stopped in Malaysia, he ended the rumors of a possible passage in MotoGP. He fell at the beginning of the weekend, ending his season and giving the championship to Stefan Bradl.
For his second season, he battled throughout the year with a compatriot, Pol Espargaro. He won the title with nine victories, having finished off the podium only three times. He ended the season with a race where he started thirty-third, on the first lap, overtook 20 bikes, and finished on the podium. His record of points and consistency has still not been surpassed.
Honda and him a story that lasts
Since arriving in MotoGP, the Spaniard has not known any bike other than the Honda. He signed a 2-year contract to start off in 2013, and he took advantage of the retirement of Casey Stoner to join Dani Pedrosa in the factory team. The pre-season tests were conclusive, and Marquez did well on the bike. And he confirmed the result at the first race, where he finished on the podium. He then won in the United States on the brand-new Austin circuit. With this victory, he became the youngest winner in MotoGP, twenty years and sixty-three days, breaking a thirty-year-old record. He continued to have a great season, staying at the forefront and battling big names like his teammate, Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, and Andrea Dovizioso. He won the title in his first year, an achievement that had not been done since Kenny Roberts and Marquez became the youngest champion in history.
He broke his right leg at the end-of-season tests, which did not allow him to participate in all the off-season activities but it did not slow him down for his second season in MotoGP. It began with a beautiful battle with the multiple champion Valentino Rossi who saw the Spaniard triumph by little. He won race after race, and on his tenth consecutive win streak, he joined Mick Doohan and Giacomo Agostini, the only two that had done it. He continued to race for podiums throughout the season and managed to win 13 races in the year, passing Doohan, who had done 12.
In 2015 he was the favorite for the second year in a row, but everything did not go as planned. During this year, he fell more than usual which put him at a disadvantage against his direct rival, Jorge Lorenzo, and even if he won races and finished on the podium, arriving in Valencia for the last Grand Prix of the year, he finished behind Lorenzo giving the title to his compatriot.
He won the titles in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 even if he sees another champion in the making with whom he will fight from mid-season till the end. They engaged in exciting battles that brought a breath of fresh air after several years of domination by the alliance of the Spaniard and the Japanese factory.
During the 2020 winter, he signed a four-year contract with Honda, but everything did not go as planned in the world, especially for him.
Multiple injuries that slow him down
Since the beginning of his career, Marquez has fallen a lot; this is part of his technique. He seeks the limit during the first two days. Despite the protections, the more than one hundred and thirty crashes through the years have affected him. He fell during training and suffered a head injury at 18 in Malaysia, which led to Diplopia, a vision problem that makes you see double. He suffered several episodes during his career, especially after his repeated falls in 2021 and 2022.
Like many racers, if not every single one of them, he had arm pump surgery, which, because the forearm muscle does not have the place to extend, causes uncontrollable pain.
He broke his fibula just before the start of the 2015 season, and for a few years, it was rather good. In 2018 he dislocated his shoulder twice in a row. The second time he had to have surgery during the winter, he managed to do his rehabilitation before the start of the 2019 season. And had to have the same surgery at the beginning of the 2019 winter but on the right side this time.
As everywhere, the start of the 2020 MotoGP season was disrupted by Covid-19. The season started very late, in July in Spain. It was complicated for everyone, the track was scorching, and at the beginning of the race, Marc Marquez went into the gravel trap still standing he had to recover if he wanted to score. After a crazy race, he fell at the end of the Grand Prix. He got hit by his bike as he rolled on the ground. He fractured his humerus and went directly to the hospital for surgery. He still tried to come back the following weekend, but after eighteen laps on Friday, he gave up; the stress and pressure put on his arm broke the titanium plate but also the bone. He underwent another surgery to fix that.
He returned to Portimão, Portugal, two hundred and sixty-five days after Jerez.
He was not at his best but still able to fight for podiums and even wins at some tracks he knows very well, like in Germany 2021, where he dominated and proved that he was still able to win. You could see the emotion on his face while on the podium. He also dominated on the Austin circuit in Texas, where he has always performed; on this Sunday, he stood on the top step of the podium accompanied by the traditional cowboy hat that is given to the winners.
During all this time, he continued to say that his shoulder made him uncomfortable, and his movements were restricted. He decided to have a third surgery, this time in the United States, to put his humerus back in place.
He will miss a big part of the 2022 season to get back to his highest level and fight for the title in 2023. Before this break in 2022, he won eight World Championship titles, participated in one hundred and forty-eight Grands Prix, finished ninety-nine times on a podium, including fifty victories, and amassed two thousand four hundred and seventy-seven championship points.
"The Doctor," as he is nicknamed, is a former motorcycle rider born in Italy in 1979. Even before his retirement in 2021, he was considered one of the greatest in the discipline.
Valentino Rossi started racing very early, but his first love was not two-wheelers but karting. For several years he will have a promising career in karting, finishing in the top five of the Italian Championship and winning many races. In 1993, Rossi had his first opportunity to ride a 125cc motorcycle thanks to a former Italian champion, Paolo Pileri, now at the head of a team. With a second-class bike during this first year, he did not have a very regular season but managed to score a pole position and a podium in the season's last race.
He was given a factory bike for his second year and won the Sport Production Italian Championship. He gradually rose and continued winning until he appeared on the biggest stage in 1996.
He began to make a name for himself as soon as he arrived with an Aprilia, an Italian brand; in the 150cc World Championship, he dominated and won his first World Title. In 1998 he moved up a category and raced in the 250cc class. The Aprilia was a very good bike, but due to technical problems several times in the season, he missed the Championship by twenty-three points. He won it the following year by dominating and finishing the season with three hundred and nine points and was even crowned before the end of the season because no one was able to catch up with him. And during this season, we could see him dress up as Robin Hood to celebrate wins; with that, the Doctor won the hearts of a lot of motorcycle fans.
After being crowned two times World Champion already, Honda gave him his chance in the highest category, the 500cc at the time. He finished the year second even though it was his first season. It took him some time to adapt to the bike, but after 9 races, he got his first victory.
In his second season, he dominated the Championship and was crowned with, three hundred and twenty-five points, one hundred and six more than the second, a very comfortable lead.
The start of MotoGP
After its title in 2001, the Speed World Championship changed and became what we know today: MotoGP. He will forever be the last to have won the 500cc title and the first to have won the title in the new category. On his Honda, while everyone, including him, tried to understand the new machines, he won 11 races. Thanks to this, he won his fourth Championship. He then dominated until 2006 despite a machine change, from Honda to Yamaha in 2004. He was dethroned in 2006 by Nicky Hayden and Honda, then thanks to the evolution of regulation in 2007, it was Casey Stoner's turn. Rossi and Yamaha won two more titles in 2008 and 2009 before never winning again because two Spanish stars emerged, Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo. Despite everything, the Doctor will remain at the front of the stage. He gathered thousands of fans over the years, but also because he continued to play pole positions, victories, and podiums until 2017 when he won his last race and got on his final podium in 2020 in Jerez, where he finished 3rd.
He continued to race despite his decline in the Championship because, as said many times, he "will stay as long as he takes pleasure" he is also known for his adaptability. During his many years of competition, he had to change his riding style several times. For example, he popularized the fact of putting the leg out before a turn as a breaking zone mark, which is still used today. In 2021 he announced at a special press conference that he would retire to dedicate himself to his family life and participate in car endurance racing.
After more than twenty-five years in the sport, Rossi took four hundred and thirty-two Grands Prix starts, won nine Championships, and finished two hundred and thirty-five times on the podium, including one hundred and fifteen times on the highest step, sixty-five pole positions, and a record six thousand three hundred and fifty-seven Championship points in his name.
Rossi did not wait for new Italian drivers to arrive; he recruited them himself and took them under his wing. In 2014 he created the VR46 academy in his village of Tavullia. It gives these young riders a dirt track training ground called The Ranch and privileged access to the Mugello racetrack located right next door. In addition to the advice he gives, they are well surrounded by a staff that helps them with their careers. Thanks to this academy, the Doctor created his team first with a smaller engine capacity and since 2021 in MotoGP. The VR46 has seen several riders like Romano Fenati, Andrea Migno, Lorenzo Della Porta, Celestino Vietti, and Franco Morbidelli, who today is alongside Fabio Quartararo in the Yamaha team; or Rossi's his half-brother Luca Marini who now competes in MotoGP in his brother's team. But perhaps the most notorious of his youngsters is the vice World Champion Francesco Bagnaia, who in the lower categories managed to shine and has been fighting for two seasons on the official Ducati to get the title.
Kenny Roberts was born in 1951; he is an American motorcycle racer. He grew up in a very rural environment. Roberts was not interested in bikes right away but rather in horses. It was only at twelve that a friend of his challenged him to ride a small motorcycle. This first experience enchanted him, and he built his bike by attaching a land mower engine to a bike frame.
He first began racing in motocross races and immediately showed a natural talent for the sport. He was very comfortable and was starting to catch the eye of more experienced racers. Jim Doyle, an aircraft pilot, and amateur motocross racer became Roberts' manager and pushed for him to become a team-sponsored rider. In 71, they were denied by Triumph because they believed that the American was too small for the brand's motorcycles.
He turned to the American branch of Yamaha, and they agreed to sponsor the now nineteen years old Kenny Roberts; they also allowed him to work and be advised by a former 250cc champion, Kel Carruthers.
Arrival in Europe
After winning many races and even a Regional Championship, he started in Europe. He first compared himself to the multiple champion Giacomo Agostini during a Daytona race, and in April 1974, he participated in his first road race in Italy. For this competition in Imola on a 750cc, he still competed against Agostini and finished 2nd. Despite this defeat, this first European experience left a mark on the American, who said that the enthusiasm of the Italian fans marked him, especially the number of spectators by the trackside. He continued to race in Europe and the United States, where he won several more Regional Championships before dedicating himself to the road racing World Championship. His move to Europe was largely motivated by his team, Yamaha, which was no longer able to compete against Harley-Davidson; they then offered him to move to road racing.
He arrived in 1978 with the financial support of Goodyear tires. He was set to race in 250cc to try it out, but after the double champion of Suzuki, Barry Sheene, said of Roberts that he was not a danger, it convinced the American to take part in the 500cc Championship.
Little thought him capable of winning, and yet. He will show a completely different way of riding from the rest of the field, and instead of breaking as late as possible in the corners, he was braking very early and then accelerating just a little, letting the bike slide on the track.
This style that strongly reminded people of motocross shocked the road racing world because it had never been done before. It was a good idea as he managed to be the fastest on track. The opening season went well for him. He managed to win for the first time in Austria, then France, and Italy. He and Barry Sheene led the title race, and the suspense remained until the last race. By finishing 3rd in front of Sheene, Kenny Roberts became the first American World Champion and proved to everyone that he was as talented as the Europeans.
Roberts is known for revolutionizing motorcycle racing in several ways; one of which was his riding style. 'The Martian' as he was called from his beginnings in Europe, particularly in Italy, a photographer, Franco Villani, said: "he is not very tall, dressed in yellow and clearly he does not come from the same world as us." When he was asked about the champion's nickname, he will later be called 'King Kenny.' Roberts introduced a very impressive way of riding that is essentially the same as on a dirt track. He also began to shift on the bike and put his knee on the ground while taking corners to turn more easily. That way of doing things forced him to stick his sliders, knee protection, with tape so that they held in place.
He also uses his notoriety to promote the American Championship, and he returned every summer during the break to participate in races in his native country.
In 1979, the American began to make his voice heard, which strongly displeased the FIM. After his appearance the previous year, he did things very differently from all the others. He was seriously injured at the beginning of his second season, and when he returned to the track, he had a very good race and finish on the podium. Arriving in Spain, Roberts needed to win and participate in the race to stay at the top of the Championship board, but the organizers refused to pay him. Enraged, the Martian took the start and won, but he refused to take the trophy handed to him on the podium, which earned him probation. He received a second probation in Belgium after he and the championship leader refused to race because they considered the track unsafe as it had been resurfaced only 3 days before. Indeed, it was still full of oil particles, making the motorcycles slide. In England, his bike broke a few minutes before the start. After they rapidly fixed it, he arrived on the grid, his gloves covered with oil. His hands slipped on the handlebars throughout the race, but after a battle considered as one of the best of the 70s, he managed to win his second championship title. While he was again crowned, he threatened the FIM to create, in association with other drivers, a new championship called the "world series" to compete with the FIM if they did not change things. The drivers did not go as far as the creation because of a lack of organization, but they forced the FIM to change the safety rules so that they were stricter and ensured that drivers were paid more and could make a living out of motorcycle racing.
When he retired, he did not retire from the motorcycle world. He briefly became a car driver before creating his team. In 1984 his riders raced in the 250cc championship, always supported by his engine manufacturer, Yamaha. He also participated in other motorcycle Championships for several years before shocking the world and leaving the Japanese factory after 25 years of collaboration. Therefore, in 1997, he created his motorcycle brand in England, wanting to take advantage of the geniuses of the Formula 1 engineers willing to help him. Unfortunately, he took too long to develop his machine. He was behind the other manufacturers, which led him to alliances with different factories to help him. Still, he withdrew from the MotoGP competition in 2007 because he lacked the money.
Kenny Roberts is a name that evokes many things but especially changes. He is far from being on the podium of the most successful or breaking records, but he has managed to mark the world of motorcycling. With his three World titles, two National Championships, and his many victories in Europe and the United States during his thirteen-year career, he has put himself in the history books.
Ángel Nieto was a Spanish driver who began his Grand Prix career at nineteen on a circuit in Barcelona in 1966. The Derbi team, a Spanish one seeing his result of fifth in this race, made him compete in Grand Prix races the following year. He used the next few years to progress. He will be ahead in the Championship but never in the run for the title. He had to wait until 1969 to win his first World Championship title in 50cc. Still, on his Derbi, he competed with the Dutchman, Aalt Toersen. The regulations stipulated that only half of the races, plus one counted for the title. So at the checkered flag, he finished with seventy-six points at the end of the last race, one more than his opponent in the Championship race.
After his first title, he began to compete not only in 50cc but also in 125cc. He won his second title in a row in 50cc by winning four Grand Prix back-to-back and one more at the end of the season, bringing him to eighty-seven points out of ninety. Next to that, in 125cc, he scored many points and carved a place for himself, finishing second.
In 1971 he lost the 50cc Championship because his opponent Jan De Vries scored the maximum possible points, but in 125cc, it is the consecration. He won his first race at the opening race and amassed four more, winning his first 125cc World Championship.
He then won both titles for the first time in 1972 before changing bikes because Derbi had decided to stop Grand Prix racing. He moved to the Italians with a Morbidelli. Unfortunately, the bike was less efficient than he had experienced before, and he finished seventh. He will eventually go back to Derbi before changing manufacturers several times.
An impressive track record
At the end of his career, Nieto amassed thirteen World Championship titles, six in 50cc and seven in 125cc, which placed him second in the ranking of the greatest champions. He always refused to say the number thirteen, probably because it might bring bad luck, so it is often said that he won twelve Championships plus one.
In terms of victory, he is third in the standing. He finished on the top step of the podium ninety times, once in 80cc, twenty-seven times in 50cc, and sixty-two times in 125cc; it placed him second for a long time before he was equaled in 2008 and then surpassed only a few days later by the Italian legend, Valentino Rossi. For the Italian's 90th victory at the France Grand Prix, they did a victory lap on a motorcycle with a 90+90 flag to the applause of the Le Mans' crowd.
He also obtained several national titles, not only with small engine size. He was crowned champion in 50, 125, 250, 500, and 750cc.
Like Agostini, he was honored in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame when it was created in 2000.
Always in the same world
When he retired in 1985, he remained in the motorcycle world; he spent much time as the head of teams. Despite a lesser success as a director, he helped the Via Digital team win a title in 125cc with driver Emilio Alzamora. At the same time, he occupied the role of Grand Prix commentator.
He died at seventy in 2017 after a road accident in which he hit a car on a quad bike.
Giacomo Agostini was born in 1942 and is an Italian racing driver. He started riding behind his father's back at a very young age, who was against his practice of the sport. Agostini used to leave the house unnoticed to participate in the Italian Hill Climb Championship, a sport that consists of climbing mountains with cross-country bikes. He also entered some road races but did not move into the category until 1964, after his father finally accepted his son's passion. At 21, in 1963, he won his first Italian championship in Hill Climb with a 175cc motorcycle.
His first year in the motorcycle World Championship was not the most impressive; he did not participate in all the races. A year later, in 65, he entered a team, MV Agusta, an Italian manufacturer with which he would stay most of his career.
The beginning of hegemony
The team already had in its ranks a champion Mike Hailwood, eight times titled thanks to whom, Ago as he is nicknamed, will evolve. His first victory came after his teammate withdrew from the last Grand Prix of the season, allowing him to take the championship lead and win it by a fine margin. It was his first victory but far from being the last, it marked the beginning of a dominance that would last seve, years. He won his first two championships in the 350cc category. In 1968 he began to race in two categories simultaneously, still the 350, but he also raced in 500cc. And no one could stop him; he won the two championships every year until 1972. He also won all the races he finished during these years. But even more impressive, over five years, he won all the races he finished on his Agusta.
He will end his career after two hundred and twenty-three races and one hundred and fifty-nine podiums, including one hundred and twenty-two victories, but he will also have managed to do one hundred and seventeen fastest laps but has only six pole positions to his name because they are counted only from 1974. His record of victories still stands.
He will also be at the origin of the withdrawal of the Isle of Man race from the calendar because, in 1972, he announced he never wanted to race again on the Isle because the same year, a close friend of his, Gilberto Parlotti, lost his life on the circuit. Despite its prestige, Ago stated that the circuit was not secure enough for a World Championship stop. Several drivers will join him in his initiative for the year, but the removal of the track from the calendar did not happen until 1977.
He switched to the Japanese Yamaha team as his historical partner left the competition.
He retired with seven 500 cc World Championship titles in a row, from 66 to 72; seven 350 cc World Championship titles from 68-74, and he expanded his record with another 500 cc Championship thanks to Yamaha in 1975, which makes a total of fifthteen titles. His career ended two years after his 1977 win; he is the most successful driver in history and will probably always remain so because the regulations today prohibit the participation of drivers in several categories.
After a short adventure in four wheels, he was put at the head of Yamaha as a manager; in this role, he won 3 500cc titles with Eddie Lawson. He will also help other drivers like Graeme Crosby or Kenny Roberts. At the same time, he also took care of the car speed championship. He retired permanently in 1995, and when the MotoGP Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 2000 was honored alongside others like Nieto and his former teammate Mike Hailwood.
MotoGP is over 70 years old, which makes this competition the oldest motorsport world championship. The first race using Grand Prix was held in Paris, France. Long before that, there were road competitions after the sale of the first motorcycle in 1894.
At the time, it was the International Motorcycle Cup, with riders from several European countries. It was also the first race organized on a circuit, which was a very different one from what we call a circuit today.
With this race, we see the appearance of the FICM, the International Federation of Motorcycle Clubs, which will remain at the head of European races for more than 40 years.
The interwar period and the birth of the first motorcycle championship
It was during this time period that the FICM organized the first Championship. From 1924 until 38, it took place with only one race at different circuits every year. On the eve of the War in 1938, the first European Championship was organized, and we saw the birth of the three categories, 250cc, 350cc, and 500cc, along with a title given after several races.
A break was necessary during the Second World War; in 1947, a race was organized, and a driver was crowned. After the War, in November 1948, at a congress in London, the Federation changed its name and became the FIM, International Motorcycling Federation; it also replaced the European Championship with the World Championship.
In January of that year, after the FIM reviewed every detail, the name change was official, and the new rules were written.
The regulations explain that: "the title will be given to the best driver and the best team, at the end of the competitions organized during the year and this in all recognized categories, 125cc, 250cc, 350cc, 500cc, and 600cc sidecar and after at least 3 races."
These rules also introduce a minimum distance to be considered a race in each category: "the minimum racing distance is 100 kilometers for 125cc and 600cc sidecars, 125 kilometers for 250cc, 150 kilometers for 350cc, and 200 kilometers for 500cc."
The first race was held during the well-known Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man, where races are held on the roads traversing the island. On June 13th, 1949, the first Motorcycle World Championship was launched.
Assen, a historic Grand Prix
The Dutch Grand Prix, or Assen TT, has been a historical event on the calendar since its first edition. Before the circuit was inaugurated in 1955, the races were held on the road, the same as the Isle of Man. This circuit was built using parts of the old route, mainly made of city roads at the time. In 1992, the circuit was fenced and definitively separated from the road. This track is full of secrets and anecdotes. First, it was built in record time, only 4 months, which was called 'the miracle of Assen.' But already before that, when we started racing on this circuit for the Motorcycle World Championship in 1949, the track was talked about because of an ancient Protestant tradition, which prohibited any non-religious activity on Sundays; the races were held on Saturday and, more precisely on the last Saturday of June. We had to wait until 2016 to see this tradition change, and the race is now held on the last Sunday of June.
This Grand Prix is an event that brings together and has seen the greatest triumph. This circuit is also called "The Cathedral" or "Cathedral of Speed" because even if we take away its history, it is a circuit that tests the drivers, their styles, and their endurance. Doing well in this circuit proves the drivers' abilities; it also signals the start of the summer break.
From the post-war period to the 2000s, the Championship remained the same in general, minus a few changes in regulations. The only additions were the tracks on which the Grands Prix took place. In 49, the calendar has only 6 races that were held on the Isle of Man, in Bern, Switzerland, Assen, Netherlands, and Belgium on the famous track of Spa Francorchamps, in Ireland in the Belfast region. The Championship was concluded in Monza, Italy, for the Grand Prix des Nations. And being there was enough; at the time, you did not need to register to participate.
To decide who would be champion, there were, just like today, points awarded, 10 for the first, then we go to 8, 7, 6 and finally 5 points for the fifth. In addition, only the drivers' three best results were counted.
For manufacturers like MV Agusta, Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda, and others, points were only given for the best bike. If a motorcycle finished first and the team's second driver was second, only the first place points were added to their tally. This rule is still relevant today; it is one of the few things that has not changed.
These many years of racing will see drivers coming and going. Tragic events that will gradually change things in terms of the safety for the drivers, the public, and the staff, but especially the safety of the circuits that will slowly become safer, separate from the road, gravel traps, and safety barriers will appear.
But we will also see dominations. In the highest category, the Italians were the best, and not only the riders but especially the bikes; they won 24 of the first 26 titles. We also saw the arrival of new brands. Once a very Eurocentric sport, brands from other continents gradually started to come and race in Europe. They were, for the most part, Japanese.
The birth of the modern Championship
The transition to the 2000s saw the most significant changes in circuit racing. One of the most important, the name of the sport officially became MotoGP. The year after, Valentino Rossi was crowned champion for the first time with his Honda, 500cc, in 2002; the changes and new rules were implemented, and the engines were back to 4 cylinders. They had disappeared from the sport a few years before, and the bikes were now 990cc. Those new regulations were a revolution, and even if the engine size of the highest category went down to 800cc in 2007, allowing Casey Stoner, the Australian, to end the Honda series that began in the 90s, today, the bikes are 1000cc.
Regarding rules, the Championship became longer. Nowadays, it is 20 weekends, spread from March to November, with free practice on Friday and Saturday, then qualification on Saturday afternoon to determine the starting order and the race on Sunday. Points are also awarded differently, always with a downgrade; it is 25 for the first, then 20, 16, 13, 11, 10, 9, and so on until the 15th, who gains 1 point in the Championship.
The last notable change is the tires, which since 2016 have been supplied by a single brand: Michelin. This new rule gave glorious battles because we saw 9 different winners throughout the season, a first.
Today the only changes we see are to try and be a more eco-friendly sport. Michelin today keeps the used tiers and recycles them for example.