10 motorcycle racers who were also brilliant on four wheels
1. John Surtees 1934-
Uniquely in motorsport, ‘Il Grande John’, as he was affectionately known by the Italian tifosi, won world titles on two and four wheels. He added to his seven bike crowns – four on 500cc MV Agusta machines, three on 350cc – in just his fifth season of Formula 1, with Ferrari in 1964. He went on to win races for Cooper and Honda, before running his own team in F2 and F1.
2. Mike Hailwood 1940-1981
Known universally as ‘Mike The Bike’, the Britain dovetailed early forays in F1 during the mid-1960s with an ultra-successful bike career that netted nine titles in 250, 350 and 500cc with MV Agusta and Honda. A full-time move to cars led to success in F2 (he was European champion in ’72 with Surtees’ team) and sportscars. A comeback win in the Isle of Man TT in 1978 added to his legendary status.
3. Valentino Rossi 1979-
For many the best bike racer of all time, the Italian has won titles at every modern-day GP level – 125, 250, 500cc and MotoGP – and is still going strong. He has also proved his ability with twice the number of wheels under him, thanks to several impressive showings in F1 tests with Ferrari and World Rally Championship outings with Peugeot and Subaru, as well as in Rally Sprint events on home soil.
4. Barry Sheene 1950-2003
A British sporting icon of the 1970s, Barry Sheene oozed charisma on and off a motorcycle. With a God-given talent in the saddle, plenty to say in front of the camera and an eye for the ladies, he was a hero to all ages, not least for his double 500cc world title wins for Suzuki. Once retired from international two-wheeled racing, he competed in touring cars, trucks and on historic bikes with aplomb.
5. Wayne Gardner 1959-
A winner for Honda in 500cc GPs from 1986-’92, the gritty Australian captured the world title in ’87. He moved to car racing in ’92, also his final year on two wheels, taking in four races in the German Touring Car championship (DTM) in a BMW M3. He then spent the next decade competing in Super GT in Japan and the V8 Supercars in his native Australia, proving competitive in both.
6. Johnny Cecotto 1956-
The Venezuelan secured the 1975 350cc world title and added the 750cc crown three years later. By 1980, with three wins in the 500cc class also on his CV, Cecotto had moved to cars. He was a winner in multiple categories over the next 20 years, including F2, World Touring cars, DTM and sportscars, but is equally well-known for his unsuccessful stint in F1, notably as Ayrton Senna’s team-mate at Toleman in 1984.
7. Gregg Hansford 1952-1995
Twice a runner-up in the 250cc world-championship class in 1978 and ’79, Australian Hansford moved to the Australian Endurance championship for sportscars, in which he raced competitively for many years. His four-wheeled career highlight was undoubtedly victory with Larry Perkins in the 1993 Bathurst 1000 aboard a Holden Commodore.
8. Eddie Lawson 1958-
Four 500cc world titles – three for Yamaha, one for Honda – confirm American Lawson’s status as a grand prix bike great; he even won a race in his first year with Cagiva in 1992. A move to the US Indy Lights single-seater series that same year – he did one race – soon led to a full-time campaign and he won a race at Cleveland in ’94 – against a field that included future IndyCar star Greg Moore. Lawson raced in IndyCar for Galles racing in 1996 doing 11 events with a best finish of 6th in the US500.
9. Stuart Graham 1942-
The son of inaugural 500cc world champion Les Graham, who was killed in the Isle of Man TT in 1953, Stuart soon caught the bug and became a TT winner himself in 1967. He also raced in the world championship in all the main classes until switching to cars. He famously won the RAC Tourist Trophy twice – in a Chevrolet Camaro – in 1974 and ’75 to complete an historic bike/car double.
10. Bill Ivy 1942-1969
A multiple GP bike race winner in 125 and 250cc and world champion (1967, 125cc), Briton Bill Ivy retired from two wheels to race in European F2 in 1968. Some excellent performances made him a man to watch. Sadly, that potential remained untapped as he returned to bikes for ’69 and was killed during 350cc GP practice at the Sachsenring.
By Henry Hope-Frost
Let us know if there are any riders who we have missed