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Top Ten Two-Wheel Heroes: 1960-1989 Part 1

Submitted by on October 12, 2009

Following on from Nick Garton’s Top Ten Heroes of the four-wheel world, here’s our top-ten leather clad list. In no particular order, here’s our first five heroes with the second five to be presented next week:

1)      Bill Ivy – Statistically, Bill Ivy is one of the greatest riders in GP history. The winner of one world championship, the 1967 125cc title, Ivy had a GP win percentage of 46, a fastest lap rate of 63 percent, and an incredible podium rate of 42 top-three finishes from 46 starts (91%). He was also the first man to record a 100mph-plus lap at the TT on a 125 in 1968.

2)      Kel Carruthers – Dominated racing in Australia before heading to Europe for the world championships in 1966. Won two TTs and the 1969 250cc world title, and should’ve won it again in 1970 if not for several electrical gremlins. Raced successfully in America from 1971 to ’73 and mentored Kenny Roberts into the prototype modern GP rider and oversaw six world 500cc titles as team manager/engineer. Survived Europe’s most dangerous era without breaking a bone

3)      Mike Hailwood – Brilliant on the track with a cheeky and wicked sense of humour off it, Mike the Bike attracted a vast legion of fans all around the world. After switching to four wheels in the ‘70s, the nine-time world champ made his famous and successful return to the Isle of Man in 1978 and ’79. In the mid ‘70s, Mike rode a Honda CB250 roadbike sedately around parts of the TT course and afterwards declared of his exploits in the late ‘60s with Ago, “I must’ve been bloody mad!” After being told he broke the outright TT lap record in ’79, he was in utter disbelief, “You’re joking…I wasn’t even trying.”

4)      Kenny Roberts – From the mile dirt-tracks of Indianapolis, 31 degree banks of Daytona to the street circuits at Imatra and Spa to win the 500cc tile on debut, King Kenny is the most versatile and influential racer of the two-stroke era. The first rider to use slicks on a bike, Roberts introduced rear-wheel steering to the tar, a style that exists to this day. Principal of Team Roberts from 1986 to 2006 firstly with Yamaha (four world titles), then his own Modenas triples and later a Honda-powered machine in MotoGP, the King is set to return to Moto2 in 2010.

5)      Graeme Crosby – Crown prince of fun off the track, spectacular and flamboyant on it, Croz delighted crowds in NZ, Australia, England, Japan, the Isle of Man TT, the US and across Europe. In a stellar career starting on flex-flyer proddies and evil-handling Superbikes to pukka works 500s, Croz joined Agostini and Saarinen as the only riders to win the Daytona 200/Imola 200 double in the same year (1982). He also won the Suzuka 8-Hour, an Isle of Man Senior TT and the Formula One world title. Croz is currently writing his autobiography which is due out later in 2010. Given the witty nature of the subject, it should be a cracking read.

Darryl Flack

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