Since the motorcycle world championships started in 1949 there have been solo races for the 50cc, 125cc, 250cc, 350cc, 500cc, Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP categories.
Here’s the current list of the all-time top five Grand Prix race winners.
1. Giacomo Agostini – 122 wins
In a Grand Prix career that began in 1963 and ended in 1977, Italian Giacomo Agostini racked up a staggering 122 race wins and, despite retiring exactly forty years ago, that remains the highest number of race wins recorded by any rider. With 15 world titles taken during that time, 13 for MV Agusta and two for Yamaha, the Italian has rightly been labelled as one of the greatest riders of all time although the critics will point out that a large proportion of those race wins, between 1968 and 1972, were taken with very little opposition.
MV Agusta had no competition in the 500cc class after Honda withdrew at the end of 1967 until Yamaha and Suzuki came onto the scene in the early 1970s and many of Ago’s wins were taken with him lapping most of the field, who were mounted on outdated single cylinder British machines. However, more telling is the success he had between 1966 and 1967, when he fought tooth and nail with Mike Hailwood, Jim Redman and Phil Read and 1974-1975 when he moved to Yamaha to turn the tables on MV. Wins at practically every Grand Prix circuit, which were predominantly public road courses, show that Agostini could master any challenge that was put in front of him.
2. Valentino Rossi – 115 wins
It was back in 1996 when a fresh-faced Valentino Rossi took his first Grand Prix win with victory coming in the 125cc race at Brno, Czech Republic and whilst it was clear then he was an exceptional talent, few would have thought he would go on to have the career that he has. Twelve wins would be taken in the 125cc class, along with the title in 1997 and he then added 14 more wins in the 250cc category, a second world title being claimed in 1999. He immediately moved into the premier class, two years on 500cc two-strokes and then four-stroke MotoGP bikes ever since.
With his Grand Prix career currently spanning 22 years, one of the longest of all time, the Italian has taken seven premier class titles and 89 class wins to move him on to an all-time total of 115, just seven behind Agostini. His win rate has slowed down in recent years – ten being taken in the last five years – so beating his fellow countryman’s long-standing tally may ultimately elude him especially as he turns 39 in 2018. However, his appetite remains as strong as ever whilst he’s still a class act so he still has a great chance of moving to the top spot.
3. Angel Nieto – 90 wins
Just like Italian Carlo Ubbiali before him, Angel Nieto concentrated his efforts on the smaller capacity classes and with 90 wins in the 50cc and 125cc categories the Spaniard was the undisputed ‘King of the Tiddlers’. Having made his Grand Prix debut in 1964, Nieto’s career would span an incredible 23 years but he had to wait until 1969 for his first GP win, victory coming in the 50cc German Grand Prix that year on his way to winning his first World Championship.
Over the next 15 years, Nieto would ride works machines for Derbi, Morbidelli, Kreidler, Bultaco, Minarelli and Garelli and would claim 13 world championships (or ‘12+1’ as the superstitious Nieto used to say!), a figure only bettered by Agostini. 90 race wins were taken during that time with seven titles coming in the 125cc class and six in the 50cc division. Despite winning Spanish National Championships in the 50cc, 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and Superbike classes, his Grand Prix career was confined to the two smallest classes and he retired at the age of 39 in 1986.
He went on to run a successful Grand Prix team as well as work for Spanish television only to pass away in July 2017 after a quad bike accident in Ibiza.
4. Mike Hailwood – 76 wins
The most successful British rider of all-time, many still consider Mike Hailwood to be the greatest rider there’s ever been with Valentino Rossi the only one to come close. Hailwood’s achievements saw him win 76 Grand Prix races, the first in the 1959 125cc Ulster Grand Prix and the last in the 1967 350cc race in Japan with nine world championships coming in that time as he rode works machinery for MV Agusta and Honda.
After taking the 250cc World Championship for Honda in 1961 – when aged just 21 – MV Agusta snapped him up and he would give the Italian manufacturer four consecutive 500cc World Championships between 1962 and 1965. Success in the 350cc class was harder to come by and in 1966 he moved back to Honda to challenge for the 250cc, 350cc and 500cc titles, claiming 250cc-350cc doubles in both 1966 and 1967. He had to give best to Giacomo Agostini, who’d replaced him as the number one rider at MV Agusta, in the 500cc class and retired at the end of 1967 to forge a successful car racing career.
After being badly injured at the 1974 German Grand Prix he retired from four wheels only to return to bikes in 1978 after an 11-year hiatus. He famously took wins at the Isle of Man TT in both 1978 and 1979 before retiring for good only to lose his life in a road accident in March 1981.
5. Jorge Lorenzo – 65 wins
The second Spaniard in the current top ten, Jorge Lorenzo made his 125cc World Championship debut on his fifteenth birthday in 2002 and just a year later he claimed his first Grand Prix win in Brazil. Three more wins were taken in 2004 as he finished fourth overall and three seasons in the 250cc class subsequently followed, the first one on a factory Honda and then two years with Aprilia. No less than 17 race wins were taken across the 2006 and 2007 seasons as he claimed back to back World Championships and he was promptly signed by Yamaha for the 2008 MotoGP season.
The Majorcan rider remained with Yamaha from 2008 until 2016 and in those nine seasons he took three World Championships and only finished outside the top three in his maiden season in 2008. Lorenzo has now taken 44 MotoGP wins, the fourth highest ever in the class, to firmly establish himself as one of the finest Grand Prix racers not just currently but also in the history of the sport. 2017 saw him make a big money move to Ducati but it was the first time he hadn’t won a race during a season since 2005 although, still only 30, he has plenty of seasons ahead of him.