20 heroes of the motorcycle

bmf joey dunlop motorcycle hero

Published on 19 May 2016 by Mike Waters

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After more than 7,000 votes were cast, here's the top 20 riders of the National Motor Museum's Motorcycling Icons Wall of Fame, as voted for by the public.


1. Barry Sheene (1950-2003)

Barry Sheene Motorcycling Champion 1975

Barry Sheene

One of the most popular riders in the history of motorcycle racing. In a racing career that spanned the years 1968 to 1984 Barry Sheene won 22 Grand Prix, 19 in the 500cc class. He was 500cc World Champion in 1976 and 1977, continuing to carry his lucky number seven on his Suzuki even when he was entitled to display the World Champion’s number one. After retiring he began a television career, later emigrating to Australia. Sheene died of cancer in 2003.


2. Joey Dunlop (1952-2000)


Legendary Irish road racer Joey Dunlop is best remembered for his string of 26 Isle of Man TT victories between 1977 and 2000. During his career he won 230 road races including the Ulster Grand Prix 24 times and the North West 200 13 times. Dunlop won five consecutive TT Formula One World titles between 1982 and 1986. He was a tireless and modest charity worker, supporting Romanian orphanages. Dunlop was killed in Estonia in 2000 while leading a 125cc race.


3. Valentino Rossi (Born 1979)


Italian Valentino Rossi has been the dominant Grand Prix rider of the 21st century. ‘The Doctor’ has won nine World Championships since 1997, seven in the 500cc / Moto GP premier class and one each in the 250cc and 125cc classes. Still active, he may be considered among the most successful riders of all time, his total of 106 Grand Prix victories being second only to his countryman, the great Giacomo Agostini.


4. Mike Hailwood (1940-1981)


‘Mike the Bike’ is widely regarded as one of the greatest motorcycle road racers of all time. Between 1957 and 1967 Hailwood won nine World Championship titles and 12 Isle of Man TT races. He turned to car racing, competing in 50 Formula One Grand Prix races up to 1974. In 1978, aged 38, Hailwood made a dramatic return to the Isle of Man TT, riding a Ducati to victory in the Formula One race, following this up with victory in the Senior TT in 1979. Tragically, Hailwood died in 1981 following a car accident.

John McGuinness motorcycle hero - BMF

John McGuinness

5. John McGuinness (Born 1971)


A road racing legend and one of the most prolific Isle of Man TT winners with 20 victories (up to 2013), second only to the great Joey Dunlop. In 2007 McGuinness became the first rider to lap the TT course at 130mph, breaking the record again in 2009 with a speed of 131.58mph. Other notable successes for the ‘Morecambe Missile’ include being British 250cc Champion in 1999, six wins in the North West 200 and two Ulster Grand Prix victories.


6. Giacomo Agostini (Born 1942)


Giacomo Agostini is an Italian multiple World Champion, widely regarded as one of the greatest road racers ever. His international career began in 1964. Riding for MV Agusta, and later Yamaha, Agostini’s successes include 10 Isle of Man TT wins and an astonishing 122 Grand Prix victories. He won 15 World Championships in the 500cc and 350cc classes between 1966 and 1975. In the 1980s and 1990s he went on to manage racing teams for Yamaha and Cagiva.


7. Carl Fogarty (Born 1965)


Carl Fogarty is the most successful rider to have competed in World Superbike racing. ‘Foggy’ was Formula One TT World Champion three times in 1988, 1989 and 1990 riding Hondas. Together with Terry Rymer he was World Endurance Champion in 1992 on a Kawasaki. He dominated the World Superbike Championship in the 1990s, usually riding for Ducati, achieving 59 wins and 108 podium fi nishes. He was Superbike World Champion in 1994, 1995, 1998 and 1999.


8. Steve McQueen (1930-1980)


American movie actor Steve McQueen was also a motorcycle and car enthusiast. In the early 1960s he competed in off-road motorcycle races in California and was a member of the US team in the 1964 International Six Day Trial. His collection of classic motorcycles numbered around 100. Whenever possible, McQueen would do his own motorcycle stunts. Although the famous jump over the fence in The Great Escape was performed by stunt double Bud Ekins, McQueen did most of the riding in the film himself.


9. John Surtees (Born 1934)

Evel Knievel motorcycle hero - BMF

Evel Knievel

The only man to have won World Championships on two and four wheels. Between 1956 and 1960 Surtees won seven motorcycle World Championships and six Isle of Man TT races. In 1960 he switched from motorcycles to car racing, winning the Formula One Championship with Honda in 1964, and he was the Can-Am sportscar champion in 1966 at the wheel of a Lola.


10. Nick Sanders (Born 1957)


Adventurer and author Nick Sanders has completed seven motorcycle circumnavigations of the world, one in the record time of 19 days. He has also ridden bicycles across the Sahara, the length of South America and twice round the world. Other achievements include riding the length of the Americas eight times, including a double-transit, return journey in just 46 days. Bucking the trend for dual-sport bikes, Sanders’ preferred ride is a Yamaha YZF-R1.


11. Evel Knievel (1938-2007)


Robert ‘Evel’ Knievel was an American daredevil and stunt rider who became a 1970s icon. Famous for spectacular jumps and horrendous crashes, highlights included jumping the Caesar’s Palace fountain in Las Vegas and the Snake River Canyon in Idaho. His 1975 jump over 13 buses at Wembley Stadium in front of 90,000 people (resulting in a broken back, one of the 35 bones he is alleged to have broken), was broadcast on American TV by ABC Wide World of Sports and remains their highest rated show ever.


12. Jenny Tinmouth (Born 1978)


The first – and so far, only – woman to compete in the British Superbike Championship and the only female superbike team owner. On her first appearance in the Isle of Man TT in 2009, Tinmouth broke Maria Costello’s lap record, a feat she repeated in 2010 with a new record speed of 119.94mph. She is also a pioneer in electric bike racing. In 2010 she won the first UK Electric Bike Racing Championship and fi nished third in the World Electric Bike Championship.

bmf kenny roberts motorcycle hero

Kenny Roberts

13. Kenny Roberts (Born 1951)


‘King Kenny’ to his fans (‘Kenny Robot’ to his early rivals in the USA), Roberts was the first American to win a World Championship, taking the 500cc title in 1978, 1979 and 1980. Like many American riders, he started his career on local dirt tracks in his native California. Roberts applied dirt track riding techniques to road racing, sliding the rear wheels round corners, and changed the face of the sport forever. Following retirement he moved into team management.


14. Maria Costello (Born 1973)


Road racer Maria Costello entered the record books in 2004 when she became the fastest woman to lap the Isle of Man TT course with a speed of 114.73mph. In 2005 she was the first woman to record a podium finish in an Isle of Man road race when she finished third in the Ultra Lightweight class at the Manx Grand Prix. In 2010 she became the fastest woman to lap the Ulster Grand Prix circuit, recording a speed of 114.32mph.


15. Dougie Lampkin (Born 1976)


Following in the footsteps of his father Martin and uncle Arthur, Dougie Lampkin is a multiple World Championship winning trials rider. Since his first British Schoolboy title in 1991 he has gone on to win numerous National, European and World titles. These include five consecutive World Indoor Championships and seven consecutive World Outdoor Championships. He has also won four World Team Championships, six British Adult Championships, two Spanish Adult Championships and the Scott Trial on four occasions.


Charley Boorman16. Sammy Miller (Born 1933)

    

17. Ewan McGregor (Born 1971)

       

18. Charley Boorman (Born 1966)

 

Charley Boorman

19. Becky Cook (Born 1986)

       

20. Ted Simon (Born 1931)

 


Main Image: Joey Dunlop, image cropped to size, author Christof Berger under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence. Image Right: Barry Sheene, author Lawson Speedway. Image First Left: John McGuinness, image cropped to size, author Phil Long under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Image Second Left: Kenny Roberts, author Stephan Gross under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence.