Top 10 MotoGP/500cc World Champions
#s 4, 5, 6, 7 – Geoff Duke, Mike Hailwood, Eddie Lawson & John Surtees
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.