Top 10 MotoGP/500cc World Champions

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#s 8 & 9 – Wayne Rainey & Kenny Roberts

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Not only is “King” Kenny Roberts a three-time World Champion he has the honor of being the first American to win a motorcycle Grand Prix title. Known for applying the U.S. version of dirt track racing to pavement, Roberts wowed European racers and spectators alike with his rear wheel sliding/steering style. Roberts won the championship from 1978 through 1980 and began a decade’s-long American domination of GP champions.

Wayne Rainey was one of Robert’s proteges. Racing for Team Roberts, Rainey won three consecutive world GP titles in ’90, ’91 and ’92 and was on his way to a fourth with a points lead over Kevin Schwantz when tragedy occurred in Misano. Rainey crashed out of the race while leading, severing his spinal cord in the process and ending his motorcycle racing career. His passion for the sport has never waned and Grand Prix motorcycle racing endures at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca largely due to Rainey’s efforts.

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  • TraderJoesSecrets

    It’s Hailwood. Take him out of the slot he’s in, and move him to #1. Shuffle the others back accordingly, and you’re good.

  • fastfreddie

    Tsk,tsk.No place for the great Freddie Spencer?

    Agree with TJS about Hailwood.

  • orangelion03

    Might argue with the rankings (and will enjoy arguing that over beers), but agree completely with the nominees.

  • Scott Holbrooks

    Yes, you better put Spencer in there, but you better not drop Schwantz off the back end either. Fast Freddie won the 500 & 250 in the same year. Unthinkable! I know Rossi is great, but riding the MotoGP bikes is just like a step above Superbikes. The 500′s were animals.

    • John Woods

      Rossi won a 500 title! In fact, he’s won in every class/configuration of GP bikes that have been around for the last 15 years – 125, 250, and 500cc two-strokes, 1000 (technically, 990) and 800cc four-strokes.

  • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

    Not including Fast Freddie was a hard decision, but this was about premier class championships so his winning a 250cc title didn’t weigh on the outcome. Yes, he was a two-time premier class champ, but so was Barry Sheene and Casey Stoner and Phil Read. These three riders were, in fact, the ones Schwantz beat out making the 10th slot in this list.

  • John

    Tom,
    I have to disagree about Fast Freddy. He won the 250 and the 500 World championship in the same year.
    good god man.

  • theUg

    Wrong. According to Wikipedia article, Sanyang Industrial Co. Ltd., as it was called then, formed joint venture with Honda in 1962, which persisted for 40 years until dissolution of that partnership in 2002.