In the 65-year history of motorcycle Grand Prix racing there’s been a total of 815 premier class races: 580 500cc class races and 235 MotoGP class races. Of the 16 manufacturers that have won premier-class races, the manufacturer in the #1 spot in this list has won 32% of the total 815 races. The second-place finisher has won 25% of all races, while third place has won 17%. Possibly more interesting is that the third-place finisher in this list hasn’t won a race since 1976.
With Suzuki returning to MotoGP for 2015, hopefully it can add to its tally of 11% of total races won. What also would really be great is for Aprilia (also returning in 2015) to begin amassing its own number of premier-class race wins. The Italian OEM already has a great record in the 250cc class, winning 143 of 716 (20%) of total races run in that series.
Let’s begin, however, with a four-way tie between some manufacturers you’ve probably never heard of, each with a single premier-class victory.
11. Jawa, Koenig, Linto, Sanvenero: 1 Race Win
These four manufacturers all won a single premier-class Grand Prix race: Jawa in 1966, Linto in 1969, Koenig in 1973 and Sanvenero in 1982. While Jawa is recognizable for some sales success in U.S., and for remaining a viable motorcycle manufacturer, the same can’t be said of the other three. Each has an interesting story regarding its one-and-done race win, such as Swiss rider, Michel Frutschi, piloting the Sanvenero to its 1982 victory in the French GP due to the Japanese factory riders refusing to race because of deplorable track conditions.
10. Kawasaki: 2 Race Wins
Believe it or not, Kawasaki has only triumphed in two 500cc class races. In 1971, Brit Dave Simmons, crossed the finish line first on a Kawasaki H1R at Jarama, and in 1975 another Brit, Mike Grant, won the Isle of Man aboard a Kawasaki when it was still a part of the Grand Prix calendar. Team Green has experienced much greater success in the smaller 125cc, 250cc and 350cc classes.
9. Cagiva, Matchless, Moto Guzzi: 3 Race Wins
Eddie Lawson won 30 premier class Grand Prix for Honda and Yamaha, and one for Cagiva (which he’s rumored to have received a Ferrari for the achievement). John Kocinski gave Cagiva its other two race wins. Matchless won a single race in 1961 and two in 1962. What’s important, however, is not that Moto Guzzi won three GPs in 1951, 1955 and 1957, but that it never won a GP on the V-8-powered motorcycle pictured above that reached 178 mph at the 1957 Belgian GP.
8. AJS: 5 Race Wins
In the inaugural year of Grand Prix motorcycle racing (1949), British manufacturer AJS won three races of the six-round series, claiming both the Constructor championship and Rider title (Leslie Graham) that first year. AJS would only go on to win two more Grand Prix races; one in 1950 and the other in 1952.
7. Norton: 21 Race Wins
AJS won the inaugural 500cc Grand Prix Championship, but Norton is recognized as winning the first official 500cc Grand Prix race at the Isle of Man with Harold Daniell at the controls. It would be the legendary Geoff Duke (pictured) who would give Norton its first and only Grand Prix Rider Championship in 1951. Duke was responsible for eight of Norton’s 21 GP race wins, the first being in 1949 and the last in 1958 after many years aboard Gilera.
6. Ducati: 31 Race Wins
Ducati missed out on being in the top five of this list by the narrowest of margins. An impressive feat considering the OEM scored its first GP win in 2003 with Loris Capirossi and its last GP win in 2010 with Casey Stoner. A two-time MotoGP World Champion, Stoner, is, in fact, responsible for 23 of Ducati’s 31 race wins. Capirossi owns seven wins aboard the Duc, while Troy Bayliss found his way to the top of the podium at the last round of the 2006 season, where Valentino Rossi crashed out and Nicky Hayden won that year’s title.
5. Gilera: 35 Wins
Before there was MV Agusta and its four-stroke inline-Four there was Gilera. In the first nine years of Grand Prix racing Gilera won 35 of a total of 77 500cc races (nearly half!). Geoff Duke was responsible for 14 of those 35 wins. Gilera quit 500cc Grand Prix racing in 1957, leaving a vacuum in the series which MV Agusta promptly filled. You have to wonder how different Grand Prix motorcycle racing would have been had Gilera continued.
4. Suzuki: 90 Race Wins
Compared to its Team Green competitor, Suzuki has a much better record in 500cc Grand Prix racing. GP legend Kevin Schwantz leads as Suzuki’s all-time race-win leader with 25 victories. He’s followed by other notable names such as Barry Sheene with 18 wins, Kenny Roberts Jr. with eight wins (and the 2000 Rider Championship), and Randy Mamola and Franco Uncini with five wins apiece.
3. MV Agusta: 139 Race Wins
With MV Agusta we make a leap into triple-digit figures with an astonishing 139 race wins. MV dominated Grand Prix racing for nearly two decades, winning both the Rider and Constructor Championships every year from 1958 through 1974. Of course it wasn’t just the bike but also the men piloting the bikes. Grand Prix GOAT, Giacomo Agostini won 62 races for MV Agusta (six for Yamaha) while other greats like Mike “The Bike” Hailwood (28 wins), John Surtees (22 wins), Phil Read (10 wins), and Gary Hocking (8 wins) helped amass MV’s third-place standing in this list, despite not having won a race since 1976.
2. Yamaha: 205 Race Wins
Of Valentino Rossi’s 82 premier class victories (the current premier class race win record holder), 49 have come aboard a Yamaha, 33 aboard a Honda. Of course “The Doctor” is standing on the shoulders of the giants before him. “Steady” Eddie Lawson won 26 races for Yamaha, Wayne Rainey 24, and “King” Kenny Roberts has 22 race wins for Yamaha. Of course we can’t overlook Rossi’s current teammate and two-time World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, whose 33 MotoGP race wins have all been aboard a Yamaha. Together, Rossi and Lorenzo own 40% of all Yamaha’s race wins.
1. Honda: 263 Race Wins
In just two years of MotoGP racing, Marc Marquez has already amassed 19 race wins, all aboard a Honda. But he is far from the winningest Honda rider. As mentioned earlier, Valentino Rossi won 33 races for Honda, while Dani Pedrosa has netted 26, Freddie Spencer 20, and Wayne Gardner 18. But it’s the legendary Aussie, Mick Doohan, who holds the record for most wins aboard a Honda, the NSR500 two-stroker, with 54 victories. Honda won its first Constructor Championship in 1966 and before leaving Grand Prix motorcycle racing in 1968 had accumulated 10 500cc class wins. Had Honda chosen to compete instead of taking a decade-long hiatus from Grand Prix racing (1968-1978), who knows how many race wins the company would have amassed by now.