MotoGP’s greatest moments 2002-2022


We’ve been thrilled by two decades of grand prix racing’s big-bore MotoGP world championship. So, what are its ten greatest moments? And the five worst?

Troy Bayliss leads Loris Capirossi at 2006 Valencia MotoGP round

Troy Bayliss leads runner-up Loris Capirossi and soon-to-be-crowned MotoGP king Nicky Hayden, while Valentino Rossi licks his wounds back in his motorhome


MotoGP Moment No 1

Valencia MotoGP finale, 2006

If you were going to make a blockbuster movie about MotoGP – a two-wheel Days of Thunder but MUCH, MUCH better – you’d get your scriptwriter and screenwriter to come up with this pretty much unbelievable story of the championship going down to the wire inside a giant stadium of a racetrack.

They would intertwine three separate stories into one movie.

First, there’s your number-one superstar, charging into this grand finale as clear favourite, cheered all the way by a hundred thousand spectators. The movie just about reaches its crescendo when a cruel twist in the plot has the superstar fall flat on his face, to the horror of tens of thousands of adoring fans.

At that moment the cameras switch their focus to the plucky underdog, the superstar’s great rival, who fights back from the cruellest of luck to grab the greatest prize of them all, against the odds, at the last gasp.

And then you have a sub-plot, of a gritty underdog, who finds real magic in the new brand of front tyre used by his old team, which had sacked him two years previously. This rider is bent on revenge and a huge pot of gold. He’s riding for nothing but has been promised a huge bonus if he wins the race, because no one expects him to win the race.

Inevitably, he does win the race. And then there’s a sub-plot to the sub-plot. The winner’s wife is at home in Monaco, celebrating her birthday, watching the race in a local bar, drinking margaritas. As her husband takes the chequered flag she sobs into her cocktail, while the underdog world champ breaks down during his victory lap and the superstar stays out all night to drink away his sorrows.

Pure Hollywood nonsense, of course.


MotoGP Moment No 2

Rossi versus Lorenzo, Barcelona 2009


While Rossi celebrates, Lorenzo plots his revenge

Lluis Gene/Getty Images

Valentino Rossi wasn’t happy when Yamaha signed Jorge Lorenzo at the start of 2008, because he knew the 250cc world champion was the first team-mate who would really threaten him on track.

Five races into the 2009 championship Rossi’s fears had been realised – Lorenzo was leading him on points – so he needed to stop the rot. He did so at Barcelona in magnificent fashion, duelling with the Spaniard throughout, then pulling off a remarkable pass at the high-speed final turn to win the race by nine hundredths of a second. Rossi went on to win the title, but Lorenzo’s growing status had the Italian quit Yamaha at the end of 2010 and move to Ducati. How many world tiles might he have won if he’d stayed?


MotoGP Moment No 3

Márquez’s first victory, COTA 2013

Marc Marquez celebrates his first MotoGP win

Márquez takes his historic first MotoGP win


Two weeks after his MotoGP debut in Qatar, Marc Márquez took his first victory at COTA in the USA, a success that made him the youngest-ever premier-class winner, taking the mantle from 1980s American legend ‘Fast’ Freddie Spencer.

A few months later Márquez became the first rookie MotoGP world champion since another American legend, ‘King’ Kenny Roberts, who won the title in 1978. This was fitting because both riders won by introducing a hugely significant new technique to motorcycle road-racing. Roberts slid the rear tyre like no one before. Márquez slid the front tyre like no one before.

Márquez won six MotoGP titles between 2013 and 2019, missing out in 2015 when Honda got its engine-spec wrong. Then he suffered a badly broken arm at the first race of 2020, from which he is still recovering. How many titles would he have won by now without the broken arm?


MotoGP Moment No4

Ducati’s first win, Barcelona 2003


Capirossi leads Rossi, Gibernau and Max Biaggi

Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP via Getty Images

Ducati’s arrival in MotoGP in 2003 was hugely significant for the championship. Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss were the riders and the Desmosedici was immediately competitive, scoring a podium first time out at Suzuka and its first victory ten weeks later at Barcelona, where Capirossi won a thrilling duel with Honda rivals Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau.

This year, Ducati’s 20th in the big-bore MotoGP championship and 50 years since it scored its first premier-class podium with its original v-twin, the non-desmo 500, the company won its first MotoGP triple crown: rider, constructor and team titles.


MotoGP Moment No 5

Rossi gives 100% at last


Rossi and Bayliss together at Phillip Island

Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

During the 2003 MotoGP race at Phillip Island, Valentino Rossi was given a ten-second penalty for passing under yellow flags. When his team communicated the penalty to him via his pitboard he took a while to understand what was going on. When the penny finally dropped he decided he would beat the penalty, by winning the race by more than ten seconds. Instead of riding within himself on Honda’s sublime RC211V he took off from the pack to cross the finish line 15 seconds ahead of runner-up Loris Capirossi to take victory by five seconds. Afterwards he revealed that this was the first time he’d ridden at 100% throughout a GP!


MotoGP Moment No 6

Casey Stoner arrives


Stoner’s skill didn’t take long to surface in MotoGP

Andrew Wong/Getty Images

Not many people were that excited when Casey Stoner graduated to MotoGP in 2006. The young Aussie had yet to win a world title, so most onlookers weren’t sure how good he really was. However, anyone who understood MotoGP was in no doubt after his second MotoGP weekend, the Qatar GP. Stoner missed a flight connection, spent Thursday night sleeping in a Dubai airport lounge, landed in Doha on Friday morning. He made it to the track just in time for FP1, which he ended in P1. The next day he took pole position, in front of reigning champ Valentino Rossi, Loris Capirossi, Nicky Hayden and the rest.


MotoGP Moment No 7

The Dovizioso cutback

Dovizioso passes Marquez in 2019 Red Bull Ring MotoGP round

Dovizioso outfoxes Márquez, Red Bull Ring 2019


Andrea Dovizioso was Marc Márquez’s chief rival from 2017 to 2019, enjoying some unforgettable duels with Spain’s class dominator. Márquez was more talented but Dovizioso worked out a way to beat him, which first required him to battle with the Honda rider all the way to the last corner. There, Dovizioso, a renowned late-braker, would set up his rival, by braking super-super-late, knowing Márquez would try and out-brake him anyway and inevitably go wide, which allowed Dovizioso to cut back on the inside and win the race to the finish line. The Italian beat Márquez in four races with this trick.


MotoGP Moment No 8

Fabio Quartararo arrives

Fabio Quartararo celebrates MotoGP pole at Jerez 2019

Quartararo and crew celebrate pole, Jerez 2019

Petronas SRT

Many fans were perplexed in 2019 when the Petronas Yamaha team hired a young rookie who had only won a single GP race in his life. Fabio Quartararo had had an up-and-down time in Moto3 and Moto2 – mostly down, in fact – but some paddock people could see the promise within. The Frenchman repaid that promise by scoring his first MotoGP pole on the eve of his fourth race, at Jerez, taking his first win the following year and securing the world title in 2021, with the factory Yamaha team.


MotoGP Moment N0 9

The 2015 MotoGP season

Jorge Lorenzo celebrates Jerez MotoGP win in Jerez 2015

Lorenzo, runner-up Márquez and Rossi, Jerez 2015


What, really? Yes, really. Until the 2015 MotoGP world championship turned ugly in its closing stages, for all kind of weird reasons, it was one of the greatest of all time, with three hugely talented riders at the absolute height of their powers, giving and taking no quarter.

Jorge Lorenzo fought back from a horrible start to the year – not a single podium from the first three races – to take the title with seven victories, to Marc Márquez’s five and Valentino Rossi’s four. Even more remarkable, Lorenzo wasn’t passed once by anyone in any of those seven wins.


MotoGP Moment No 10

Petrucci wins, Mugello 2019

Danilo Petrucci with his Ducati crew after winning the 2019 Mugello MotoGP round

An overcome Petrucci celebrates with his crew


Sometimes the underdog can win at the highest level, at one of the world’s greatest racetracks. Big and burly Danilo Petrucci wasn’t the ideal size for MotoGP – usually tipping the scales at around 80 kilos – while most of his rivals were in the 60s. That’s a lot of extra weight to carry around, which affects every aspect of machine performance. At Mugello 2019 the former Superstock rider battled with team-mate Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Márquez, seizing the lead on the last lap with a stunning pass between his rivals. Petrucci’s first of two MotoGP victories was one of the most popular of all time.


MotoGP’s worst moments 2002-2022

April 20, 2003

Daijiro Kato died two weeks after a huge crash during the Japanese MotoGP race at Suzuka.


September 5, 2010

Shoya Tomizawa was killed during the San Marino round of the Moto2 championship.


October 23, 2011

Marco Simoncelli died after losing control during the Malaysian GP at Sepang.


June 3, 2016

Luis Salom died after crashing during practice for the Catalan Moto2 race.


May 30, 2021

Jason Dupasquier passed away the day after falling during qualifying for the Italian Moto3 round. He died in same way as MotoGP’s previous four victims, being hit by a following rider (or riders).

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