If you're a super bike racing fanatic, then you surely have your idol and your heroes, and for good reason. Everyone in GP or WSBK loves a rider who's fast, who's brave – and maybe even a bit crazy.
More likely than not, that favourite racer of yours is European or American. No surprise there, too. Europe is, after all, the birthplace of motorbike racing.
However, there are quite a few others, especially in the past, who raced just as well as their European and American counterparts. Here is a list of some of the greatest.
1. Gary Hocking – Rhodesia (today known as Zimbabwe)
After coming to Europe, Hocking was offered a ride with MZ in 1959, finishing second in that year’s 250cc World Championship and it was that form that saw him snapped up by MV Agusta. He immediately repaid their faith in him by finishing second in the 125cc, 250cc and 350cc World Championships.
He then became their number one rider, winning both the 350cc and 500cc Championships in 1961. He returned to defend his crowns after the death of his close friend Tom Phillis at the year's TT deeply affected him. He announced his retirement and returned to Rhodesia. Citing motorcycle racing as too dangerous, he took up car racing but was killed at the Natal Grand Prix at Durban later that year. He was just 25 years old.
2. Mick Doohan – Australia
Doohan raced in Australian Superbikes in the late 1980s, and also won the Australian round of the Superbike World Championship in 1988, which prompted Honda to sign him to their 500cc Grand prix team.
It wasn’t until 1994 that he was back to his best and he went on to win five successive 500cc world championships between 1994 and 1998 dominating the sport. Indeed, in 1997 he won 12 of the 15 races held but his career ended after a crash in qualifying for the 1999 Spanish Grand Prix left him with a badly broken leg. He retired with 54 GP wins to his name, the third highest in the premier Grand Prix category.
3. Kork Ballington – South Africa
After success in his native South Africa, Ballington enjoyed success in the British and then World Championships on production 250cc and 350cc Yamahas. Victories were taken and it earned him a place in the factory Kawasaki team for 1978 where won the 250cc and 350cc World Championships.
He repeated his success the following year before joining Kawasaki’s efforts on the 500cc class although the KR500 wasn’t as successful as the smaller machines. Ballington retired from GP competition at the end of 1982 before enjoying further success in America.
4. Carlos Lavado – Venezuela
Lavado made his international racing debut in the 1978 Venezuelan Grand Prix, finishing second in the 250cc class and, a year later, won the 350cc class at the same meeting. In 1980, he began competing full-time on the Grand Prix circuit and, riding Yamaha machinery, became one of the finest 250cc racers of his generation, winning the World Championship in both 1983 and 1986. A hard charger, Lavado took 19 GP wins and 42 podiums in total and, along with Johnny Cecotto, is one of only two Venezuelans to win Grand Prix titles.
5. Katazumi Katayama – Japan
Katayama first came to Europe in 1974 and he was immediately successful taking a win at Sweden and three podiums in total on his way to finishing fourth in the 250cc World Championship. He improved to second overall in 1976, when he also took second on his debut at the Isle of Man TT, and then became the first Japanese rider to win a motorcycle world championship when he claimed the 1977 350cc World Championship on a Yamaha.