You are here
Home > Other news >

MotoGP Hits 75

The motorcycle world championship (it’s only been called MotoGP since 2002) has just hit its 75th birthday, with the first event held on the Isle of Man on 13th June 1949. Back then, the TT was part of the world championship, which consisted of just six rounds (compared to 20 rounds in 2024) and stretched over 11 weeks (March to November this year). It was also Europe-centred, while the 2024 season includes rounds in Qatar, Indonesia and Kazakhstan.

The Island’s top race left the world championship in 1977, after it was boycotted by several top racers such as Giacomo Agostini, who argued that no rider should feel compelled to compete there.

Such concerns didn’t appear to get so much attention in 1949, though Motor Cycling reported: Retirements were few and the accident rate was low. Unfortunately one fatality occurred when Ben Drinkwater died from crash injuries.” The Junior 350cc race grid comprised entirely of British bikes and Freddie Frith (Velocette) took the flag, going on to win the 350cc championship. In the Senior four days later (just one non-British bike, a Moto Guzzi) Harold Daniell (Norton) took the honours. The TT was hugely popular with spectators, with an estimated 8000 at Creg ny Baa alone.

Since then the world championship has grown to include new rounds, a longer season, new bike marques and of course several generations of riders, not to mention MotoE, the class for electric racers. The question is, what will it look like when it hits 100?  Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF said: “GP racing has changed beyond all recognition throughout its history. When I was a young ‘un, the TT was already moving into non-Championship status. What would have surprised my generation was the ending of the two-stroke dominance, in the ‘70s the ‘stink wheels’ were the only serious contenders. Will MotoE be the future? I wonder what Freddie Frith or Harold Daniel would have made of them? ”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top image courtesy of Yamaha Motor