The glamour and sophistication of motorbike racers probably belong to the Italians, and they'll always be the Biaggis yesterday and the Rossis today to continue the proud tradition of European excellence in the world of bike racing.
But the British have always been on hand to deliver some of the best moments in this field. Historical moments such as Hutchinson’s fantastic returning to the road racing scene three years after nearly losing his legs, Hailwood storming the World Championships year-on-year in the 1960s, and McGuinness proving to everyone he really is King of the TT, and even Foggy winning reality TV show ‘I’m a Celeb’ bringing a whole new audience to the racing world!
Just so you can be reminded, here are the top four British motorcycle racers of all time.
4. Geoff Duke OBE
Recently passed away at 92, Duke's introduction came as a second-place finisher in the 1949 Manx Grand Prix Junior race and winning the Senior with a record lap and race averages. He also won the Clubman’s TT that year prompting the factory Norton team to sign him up for the 1950 season where he won the Senior TT, breaking lap and race records, and finishing second in the Junior.
He went on to win the 350cc and 500cc World Championships for Norton in 1951 retaining the former in 1952 and that success led to him joining Gilera for 1953. He won three consecutive 500cc World Championships for the Italian manufacturer, also coming close to the first ever 100mph lap of the TT course when he lapped at 99.97mph in 1955.
3. Phil Read MBE
They called him “The Prince of Speed” and his tally of 52 wins and 121 podiums are still, respectively, the seventh and sixth highest of all time despite his last GP coming back in 1976. He won Yamaha four World titles, famously defying team orders in 1968 to defeat team-mate Bill Ivy in both the 125cc and 250cc World Championships. Another 250cc title followed in 1971 before he moved to MV Agusta adding two 500cc titles to his collection in 1973 and 1974. In total he won 8 World Championships, 8 Isle of Man TT races and was the first man to win World Championships in the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc categories.
2. Carl Fogarty MBE
Already a legend coming up 250s to 750cc, he turned his attentions to the World Superbike Championship with Ducati from 1993 to 2000, “Foggy” established himself as the greatest WSB racer of all time. During that time, he won 59 races and four World Championships, totals that remain unbeaten, with over 120,000 fans attending the 1995 WSB round at Brands Hatch. Injury forced him to retire in 2000 and he then managed the Petronas Foggy team between 2002 and 2006.
1. Mike Hailwood, MBE, GM
Arguably the greatest motorcycle racer of all time, there is no argument that he was the best from Britain. Such was his talent that he won victories right from the beginning on 125, 250, 350 and 500cc bikes as a teenager. After easily winning several British Championships, he moved on to the global arena, taking his first 250cc world title at only 21.
After a spurt of victories with MV Augusta and Honda in the 1960s, he retired and found success with F1 and F2 racing before returning sensationally in 1978 to motorbikes and winning two TTs. Retiring for good in 1979, he was tragically killed in a traffic accident only two years later.