Top 10 MotoGP/500cc World Champions

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#s 4, 5, 6, 7 – Geoff Duke, Mike Hailwood, Eddie Lawson & John Surtees

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Clockwise from upper left, Geoff Duke, Eddie Lawson, John Surtees and Mike Hailwood all share four Grand Prix world titles apiece. Umberto Masetti was the first two-time (’50 and ’52) World Champion but Geoff Duke, initially aboard a Norton Single then an inline-Four Gilera, won four championships in 1951 and ’53-’55.

Following “The Duke” in 1956 and ’59-’60, John Surtees became the second four-time world GP champion aboard MV Agusta, beginning the Italian manufacturer’s 17-year domination of the sport. Surtees is best known as the only Grand Prix motorcycle racer to successfully convert to auto racing winning the Formula One World Championship in 1964.

Mike “The Bike” Hailwood, already a World Champion in the 250cc class, signed with MV Agusta in 1962 and promptly won the premier class title for the next four years, ’62-’65. Like Surtees, Hailwood also went car racing but with much lesser success. A few years after his historical comeback win at the Isle of Man in 1978 Hailwood died in a non-racing-related car accident.

Fast-forward to 1984 when Eddie Lawson would win his first of three world GP championships aboard a Yamaha ’84, ’86 and ’88. He then switched to Honda for the 1989 season and became the first rider to ever win back-to-back championships aboard machines from two different manufacturers.

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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.