Who has the most wins in MotoGP? 11 MotoGP riders that won the most Grand Prix
11 MotoGP riders that won the most Grand Prix
It is easy to list the top motorcycle riders with the most wins in MotoGP. But it is quite another thing to rate those drivers in terms of the best or the second-best. That is because all these drivers have raced across different eras. Technology, rules and regulations keep changing all the time. This article will list the 11 drivers to win the most motorcycle World Championships. All these riders have won three or more world championships. There will be a table at the end of the table listing the number of Grand Prix wins for these riders. One of the greatest motorcycle riders of all time, Valentino Rossi, has just retired in 2021.
The FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme; International Motorcycle Federation in English) has been conducting road racing events since 1949. Eleven riders have managed to win 3 or more championships over the years. Five riders have won two championships each and ten have won one championship each. This post will be limited to those drivers that have won three or more championships. Listed below are the number of MotoGP wins and MotoGP championships that each of these riders won. It is for the reader to choose who is the greatest among them all.
8 500cc/World Championships 7 35,0cc/World Championships, 122 Grands Prix Race Wins
Giacomo Agostini (born in 1942), an Italian, started motorcycle racing at a very young age without his father’s knowledge. When his father came to terms with his racing, Agostini won the Italian 175cc Championship in 1963. In 1965 he raced for the MV Agusta (owned by Count Domenico Agusta) squad. Agostini proceeded to win seven consecutive 500cc World Championship titles from 1966 to 1972 for MV Agusta. He would go on to win another title in 1975 for the company to take his title tally to 8 World Championships.
Along the way, he also won seven 350cc Championships for the MV Agusta. In 1972 Giacomo Agostini suddenly announced that he would never race at the Isle of Man TT again. That announcement was the result of the death of his close friend, Gilberto Parlotti, during the Grand Prix that year. Agostini retired from motorcycle racing at the end of the 1977 season. In 1980, he returned as the Marlboro Yamaha team manager. For his Grand Prix exploits over 17 years, the American Motorcyclists Association called him the greatest Grand Prix rider of all time.
Giacomo Agostini won a record 122 Grands Prix, the highest ever by any rider. His last win came in the 500cc West German Grand Prix in 1976. His first Grand Prix win was also the 350cc West German Grand Prix in 1965. Agostini will always be considered among the greatest motorcycle riders of all time, if not the greatest.
7 500cc/World Championships, 1 250cc/World Championships, 125cc/World Championships, 115 Grands Prix Race Wins
Valentino Rossi (born in 1979) has been the most charismatic MotoGP rider of them all. An Italian by birth, he was known as the “doctor” by one and all. He is responsible for increasing the popularity of MotoGP not only in Italy and Europe but all across the world. His twenty-six year-long tenure as a racer at MotoGP and his affable personality were honoured by the FIM when he retired. He was awarded the MotoGP Legend award after an emotional lap of honour cementing his place in the MotoGP Hall of Fame.
Nineteen ninety-six was the year when Rossi began his career in MotoGP racing. After finishing his first MotoGP season in the 125cc class he won the 125cc/Moto3 World Riders’ Championship in 1997. After finishing second in 1991, his rookie year in the 250cc class, he won the 250cc World Rider’s Championship in 1999. On winning the championship Honda invited Rossi to represent them in the highest class, the 500cc class. He finished second in the 500cc MotoGP in his rookie year, 2000.
Rossi won his first premier class title in 2001 with a 106 points lead over Max Biaggi. 2002 was the inaugural year of the MotoGP World Championship and Rossi was ready. Valentino Rossi won the inaugural MotoGP World Championship with four races to spare. He repeated the feat in 2003 with two races to spare. Rossi won his fourth top category title and his third MotoGP crown in 2004. Rossi had no intention of stopping there. He went on to clinch his fifth World Championship in 2005. In 2006, Nicky Hayden, an American piped Rossi to the title.
Rossi was to come back strongly in 2008 to win the wrest the championship from Casey Stoner, the reigning champion by 93 points. Rossi repeated the performance in 2009 to claim his seventh world championship crown. That was the last world championship that Rossi won. Rossi retired in 2021 after winning 9 world championship crowns, seven of them in the 500cc category and MotoGP. He earned 115 Grand Prix race wins and 235 podium finishes. Rossi started in a record 432 Grand Prix races. Rossi is another candidate for the greatest riders of all time given the advance in technology.
READ MORE: Valentino Rossi to retire at the end of 2021
Marc Márquez Alentà
6 500cc/World Championships, 1 250cc/World Championships, 1 125cc/World Championships, 115 Grands Prix titles
Marc Márquez was born in 1993 in Spain. He has won six 500cc World Championships, one 250cc World Championship and one 125cc World Championship. Márquez is the third Spaniard after Alex Criville and Jorge Lorenzo to win the premier class title. He is the most successful Spanish motorcycle racer. With 59 MotoGP wins, Márquez became the first rider to win the premier class championship in his rookie season after Kenny Roberts in 1978. At 20 years and 266 days of age, he is also the youngest ever rider to win the premier championship.
Márquez won the 125cc World Championship in 2010 and followed it up with the 250cc Moto2 World Championship in 2012. He won two MotoGP Championships starting with his debut year 2013. After missing out in 2015, he won four successive World Championships in 2016, 2017,2018 and 2019. Márquez had a bad fall in the first race of the 2020 season which kept him out of racing for more than a year. On returning to MotoGP in 2021, he finished 7th in the championship despite missing out on four races. Márquez is still racing and has his eyes set on Rossi’s record.
5 500cc/World Championships, 54 Grands Prix Race Wins
Mick Doohan, an Australian born in 1965, made his Grand Prix debut with Honda in 1989. He earned his first victory in the 1990 Hungarian Grand Prix. Since that year, Doohan ranked always among the first four at the end of a racing season. Doohan stuck with Honda for his entire MotoGP racing career. In 1994 he burst forth claiming the MotoGP World Championship. He won the championship successively for five years till 1998. His domination of the championship can be gauged from the fact that he won 44 Grands Prix in that period of the 54 that he won during his career of 11 years.
Doohan had suffered a serious accident in 1992 and took eight weeks to recover from it. As a result, the engineers modified his bike so that Doohan could operate his rear brake with his left hand. This was because his right foot could no longer operate the brake pedal. Doohan, however, bravely won his five championships after this accident. To honour his contributions to motor racing, Doohan was inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia in 1996. In 1999 Doohan met with another accident and broke his leg in several places. It was only then that he announced his retirement from motor racing, ending a brave and illustrious career.
4 500cc/World Championships, 2 350cc/World Championships, 3 250cc/World Championships, 76 Grands Prix Race Wins
Stanley Michael Bailey Hailwood was born in 1940 in England. He was an amazing motorcycle racer and a racing driver. Hailwood is regarded as one of the best racers of all time. He was popularly known as “Mike the Bike” because of the ease with which he rode bikes, no matter what the engine capacity of the bike was. He contested in Grand Prix motorcycle racing between 1958 and 1967. Hailwood also contested in Formula 1 racing between 1963 and 1974. He won a European Formula Two Championship in 1972.
Hailwood will be remembered more for his exploits in motorcycle racing contests. He has won 76 Grand Prix which includes 14 wins at the Isle of Mann. Hailwood is a nine-time World Champion including four consecutive championships between 1962 and 1966. After his accomplishments in the motorcycle racing world, he started racing in Formula One. He was one of the few competitors who raced at the premiere levels in both motorcycle and four-wheeler racing. He returned to motorcycle racing in 1978 at the age of 38 and won at the Isle of Mann. He is one of the contenders for the greatest motorcycle racers of all time.
4 500cc/World Championships, 3 350cc/World Championships, 38 Grands Prix Race Wins
John Surtees (born in 1934 in England) was a unique motor racer. He won two different World Championships: the motorcycle World Championship and the Formula One World Championship. He won four motorcycles World Championships and one Formula One World Championship. Given the contracts that drivers and riders have to sign today, that record will stand for a very long time. Surtees won three of the four motorcycle 500cc World Championships in a row from 1958 to 1960 before shifting to four-wheeler racing. He won the Formula One World Championship in 1964.
John Surtees won 38 Grand Prix races across all categories in motorcycle racing. He also won six Formula One Grand Prix. Surtees was a determined racer whose will to excel prompted him to contest in Formula One. Surtees turned his attention to four-wheel racing after he had won three motorcycle World Championships in a row, After Formula One, he returned to motorcycle racing in 1979 before he retired. John Surtees is regarded by many racing fans as the greatest racer of all time.
4 500cc/World Championships, 2 350cc/World Championships, 33 Grands Prix titles
Geoffrey Ernest Duke was born on 29 March 1923 in England. After finishing his stint with the Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team, Duke turned his attention to motorcycle racing. Known simply as ‘The Duke” among his peers, he won his first Grand Prix in the first race the Isle of Mann. It was also the first race of the 1950 season and Duke was riding a single-cylinder Norton motorcycle. He stayed with Norton for the next two years bringing home three World Championships. He won the 350cc and 500cc class championships in 1951 and the 350cc class championship in 1952.
Dissatisfied with what he was paid at Norton, Duke dramatically shifted his allegiance to the Italian firm Gilera. He was criticised by the British media and fans as Gilera was a rival of Norton. Duke would ride with four-cylinder bikes at Gilera. Duke won three 500cc World Championships in a row with Gilera. He won 13 of the 20 races he contested during those three years. Duke continued at Gilera for a further two years before he returned to Norton in 1958. By the time that Geoff Duke retired from racing in the World Championship in 1959, his name was familiar all across European households.
4 500cc/World Championships, 30 Grands Prix Race Wins
Eddie Lawson was born in 1958 in California, USA. By the time he came to Europe to compete in the 500cc class World Championship, he had already won four National Championships in the USA. Late in 1982 Yamaha offered Lawson a chance to ride alongside Kenny Roberts in the World Championship. Lawson accepted the offer and spent the first year (1983) learning the ropes of Grand Prix racing but still finishing fourth in the standings. He consistently finished in points and never crashed during his Grand Prix career, which earned him the nickname “Steady Eddie.”
Lawson won his first Grand Prix title at the 1984 South African motorcycle Grand Prix, the first race of the season. He won 3 more Grands Prix and never finished below the 4th position in the remaining races to win his first World Championship. After finishing second in 1985, Lawson was true to his nickname in 1986. He won 7 Grands Prix and never finished below the 3rd position in the other races. He won the 1988 and the 1989 World Championships in a similar fashion. Lawson called it a day in 1992 in which he had won his last Grand Prix, the Hungarian Grand Prix.
3 500cc/World Championships, 2 250cc/World Championships, 47 Grand Prix Race Wins
Jorge Lorenzo Guerrero is a professional Spanish motorcycle racer born in 1987. Yamaha offered him a contract to race in the 500cc class after he had won the 2006 and 2007 250cc World Championships. Lorenzo accepted the offer and raced on Yamaha motorcycles in MotoGP for the next nine years. At the 2008 Portugal motorcycle Grand Prix, the third race of the season, he won the first Grand Prix. Lorenzo finished consistently in points throughout the season whenever he completed the race. He finished the first season with Yamaha in 4th position. Lorenzo improved his performance in the 2009 season and finished 2nd, winning four Grands Prix in all.
It was in 2010 that Lorenzo hit the peak form winning 9 of the 18 races. He finished among points in all the other races and won his first 500cc World Championship. His second World Championship in the category was to come in 2012 when he won 6 Grands Prix. Lorenzo won his third and last World Championship in 2015 in which season he won 7 Grand Prix. He raced in MotoGP till 2019 winning 47 500cc Grand Prix in all. In 2020, Lorenzo was due to make a solo appearance which was cancelled due to the pandemic. Lorenzo announced his retirement from racing in 2021 without contesting in another Grand Prix.
3 500cc/World Championships, 24 Grands Prix Race Wins
Kenneth Leroy Roberts, an American motorcycle racer, became the first American to win the Grand Prix motorcycle racing World Championship in 1978. Roberts, born in 1957 in California, USA, had won two A.M.A. Grand National Championships before he started competing in the World Championships. Roberts was also a motorcycle engine and chassis constructor who left his mark on the World Championship by advocating for increased safety in motorcycle racing. He is one of the only four Americans to complete an American Motorcyclist Association Grand Slam; winning a mile, half-mile and short track races in the same season.
Roberts influenced the way Grand Prix motorcyclists rode their motorcycles with his dirt track racing style. As a team owner, he proposed to create a rival motorcycle championship in 1979 which improved the standing of Grand Prix racers in the eyes of the FIM. His stance led to improved safety standards for motorcycle riders and a professional approach to Grand Prix racing. In 2000, FIM named Kenny Roberts a Grand Prix Legend. Roberts won three successive 500cc World Championships from 1978 to 1980. He won 24 Grands Prix in all during his ten years of racing in the World Championships.
3 500cc/World Championships, 24 Grands Prix titles
Wayne Wesley Rainey was born in the USA in 1960 and was a Grand Prix motorcycle rider. He won three successive Grand Prix World Championships from 1990 to 1992. Rainey cut his teeth in motorcycle riding in the American Motor Cyclists Association’s Grand National Championships. In 1983 he won the National Championship, riding for Kawasaki. At the end of the year, Kenny Roberts made him an offer to ride for the Kenny Roberts Yamaha racing team in the 250cc class Grand Prix World Championship. Rainey accepted the offer and shifted to Europe in 1984.
Rainey had a less than successful season the first year and returned to America to race in the local championships. In 1987, Rainey won the Superbike National Championship in the USA after a fierce battle with Kevin Schwantz. In 1988, Rainey re-joined the team, Kenny Roberts Yamaha, to race in the World Championship. That year, he won his first 500cc Grand Prix, the British Grand Prix.
Kevin Sxhwantz followed him to Europe riding for the Team Suzuki in the 500cc class. Rainey and Schwantz were to continue their rivalry across all the European tracks. Rainey brought with him a uniquely smooth and calculating style of racing to the World Championship. That style was to win for him and the Kenny Roberts Yamaha team three World championships from 1990 to 1992. Rainey was to stay with the Roberts Yamaha team till his retirement in 1993. He won 24 Grand Prix during his seven years of World Championship racing.
Motorcycle riders that won the most Grand Prix (125cc and above)
|Rank||Rider||Country||Winning span||MotoGP500cc||350cc||Moto2 250cc||Moto3 125cc||Total|
|5||Mike Hailwood||United Kingdom||1961–1967||4||2||3||0||9|
|6||John Surtees||United Kingdom||1956–1960||4||3||0||0||7|
|7||Geoff Duke||United Kingdom||1951–1955||4||2||0||0||6|
|8||Eddie Lawson||United States||1984–1989||4||0||0||0||4|
|10||Kenny Roberts||United States||1978–1980||3||0||0||0||3|
|11||Wayne Rainey||United States||1990–1992||3||0||0||0||3|
See the 2022 MotoGP Calendar here.