MotoGP’s biggest winners: Rossi and Honda

MotoGP

MotoGP’s four-stroke era enters its 20th season in 2021, so here are the biggest winners, plus why MotoGP technical rules will remain unchanged till 2026

Valentino Rossi on his Honda in 2002

Rossi and Honda’s sublime RC211V at Sepang, October 2002

Honda

The 2021 MotoGP season will be the 73rd season of motorcycle grand prix racing and, more significantly, the 20th year of the four-stroke MotoGP world championship.

In 2002 the premier-class engine size was changed for the first time since 1949, with 990cc four-strokes introduced to eliminate the 500cc two-strokes.

The reason for the shift to four-strokes was straightforward: increasingly strict anti-pollution legislation (starting with the USA’s Clean Air Act of 1970) had killed off two-stroke road bikes, so what was the point of racing two-strokes?

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Some fans hated saying goodbye to the 500s, others were delighted by the arrival of the roaring 990s, which had the added bonus of stealing some thunder from World Superbikes. During the 1990s WSB had grown in popularity while fans had drifted away from GPs, bored of waking up on race day wondering who would finish second to Mick Doohan. Of course, at that time MotoGP rights-holder Dorna didn’t own WSB.

Since the start of the 2002 MotoGP season there have been 329 races, with two clear winners: Valentino Rossi is the most successful rider of the four-stroke era, with 76 victories, while Honda is far and away the most successful manufacturer, with 153 race wins.

Thus far 29 different riders have won MotoGP races, with the three most successful – Rossi, Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo – accounting for more than half those victories, which confirms the Italian and two Spaniards as the stand-out performers of the last two decades.

And only two or three of the top ten winners are still racing, which confirms that MotoGP is entering a new era. That new era started last season when there were five first-time winners, something which had never happened before in the premier class.

MotoGP rider victories 2002-2020:

Rider(s) Wins
Valentino Rossi 76
Marc Márquez 56
Jorge Lorenzo 47
Casey Stoner 38
Dani Pedrosa 31
Andrea Dovizioso 15
Sete Gibernau and Maverick Viñales 8
Loris Capirossi 7
Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri 5
Cal Crutchlow, Franco Morbidelli, Alex Barros, Nicky Hayden, Fabio Quartararo and Álex Rins 3
Miguel Oliveira, Danilo Petrucci and Makoto Tamada 2
Troy Bayliss, Brad Binder, Toni Elias, Andrea Iannone, Jack Miller, Joan Mir, Ben Spies, Chris Vermeulen and Tohru Ukawa 1

 

Marc Marquez on his MotoGP Honda bike

Ride it cowboy! When will Marc Marquez be able to do this again?

Honda

Rossi is the only winner whose success spans all three four-stroke MotoGP engine eras – 990cc, 800cc and 1000cc. He’s also one of only six riders to have won races with more than one manufacturer: Honda and Yamaha. The others are Biaggi (Yamaha and Honda), Dovizioso (Honda and Ducati), Lorenzo (Yamaha and Ducati), Stoner (Ducati and Honda) and Viñales (Suzuki and Yamaha).

Honda leads the manufacturer charge by a wide margin, despite failing to win a race last year, the first time that’s happened in the four-stroke MotoGP era.

MotoGP manufacturer victories 2002-2020:

Manufacturer Wins
Honda 153
Yamaha 115
Ducati 51
Suzuki 6
KTM 3

 

MotoGP has run under three different engine capacity limits since 2002: 990cc from 2002 to 2006, 800cc from 2007 to 2011 and 1000cc from 2012. Honda’s most successful machine is the 1000cc RC213V, which has won 81 races over the past nine years, while its least successful is the 800cc RC212V, which won 24 races in five years. The legendary V5 won twice that number during its five-year term.

Since the start of the four-stroke MotoGP era technical regulations have run under five-year segments. The 990s were got rid of due to concerns over speed and horsepower, following the death of Daijiro Kato at Suzuka in 2003, and the unloved 800s were dumped after five years because their low-torque engines had created one-line racing that gave us some of the most boring grand prix races in living memory.

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The 1000s remained in place after their first five-year stint and will come to the end of their second five-year segment at the end of this season.

Dorna and the MSMA (the Motorcycle Sports Manufacturers Association) both agree that they shouldn’t try to fix something that isn’t broken. MotoGP is closer than it’s ever been – some say it’s sometimes too close – so the current technical rules will remain in place for the next five seasons from 2022 to 2026.

There is one anomaly between the total of rider and manufacturer victories – 329 versus 328 – because there was no constructors’ winner of last year’s Spanish GP, because Yamaha had its victory cancelled, for using illegal valves.