Joey Dunlop (1952-2000)
With 26 victories at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, Joey Dunlop is one of the most typical figures of this terrible event. He also won the Ulster GP 24 times.
A great specialist in road racing, Dunlop has always remained a simple and accessible driver. He never gave in to Honda’s sirens who, at one point, wanted to bring him to the GP stage. Joey Dunlop hated the media circus.
He died in a road race in Estonia in 2000, when he lost control of a wet 125 after winning the 600 and 750 classes. He had survived a shipwreck when, in 1985, traveling from his native Northern Ireland to the Isle of Man for the TT, the Tornamona boat sank, taking the bikes to the bottom!
John Surtees (1934-2017)
In the history of mechanical sports, John Surtees is a unique case : he is both world champion in GP (with already no less than 4 world titles, in 500cc, in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960 and two others in 350 over the same period), but he is also F1 world champion (on Ferrari, in 1964). Only Rossi, for a moment, tried to take up such a challenge before changing his mind.
Son of a London Motorcycle dealership, John Surtees began working as a mechanic with Vincent while starting his racing career; at the age of 17, Surtees beat the star of the day, Geoff Duke, on a minor test. In 1955, he became an official Norton pilot and the following year gave MV Agusta the first of a long series of titles. In 1960, at the age of 26, he switched to the car and finished second in his first GP in F1, behind Jack Brabham on the difficult Monaco circuit. He took a pole position in Portugal for his third race. After his title with Ferrari open in 1964, Surtees suffered a serious injury in 1965, touched up a bit in Endurance racing, returned to the F1 with Honda in 1966 (a nice 3rd place in the South African GP), then launched his own F1 team with an auto of his own design, without however picking any convincing results.
Surtees has received many medals and honorary titles in his country. He was the oldest F1 world champion among us, before leaving us in early March 2017.
Mike Hailwood (1940-1981)
Nicknamed “Mike The Bike”, Mike Hailwood also marked his time with 9 GP titles and 14 victories at the Tourist Trophy. At the age of 10, he attended his first TT as a spectator and began competing at the age of 17. Hailwood’s career accelerated when in 1961 he became an official Honda rider and was the first to win 3 TT events (125, 250 and 500) in less than a week while winning the GP 250 title in the same year.
In 1962, however, he moved to MV Agusta and was the first driver to win four consecutive GP 500 titles. In 1964, he set a new hour record, averaging 233 km / h on an Agusta MV and the Daytona ring.
Hailwood returned to Honda in 1966 and signed four new titles, 250 and 350, 66 and 67.
History will remember his Homeric struggles with Agostini at the TT: in 1967, he signed a lap record at 175 km / h of average, on his Honda RC181, which held for eight years!
Like Surtees, Hailwood also competed in motor racing, with less splendor but not without honor: he finished third in the 1969 24 hours of Le Mans on a Ford GT40, he is European champion of F2 and has still taken 50 starts in F1.
After 11 years of interruption in motorcycle racing and after spending a few quiet years in South Africa and New Zealand, Hailwood returned to the competition and signed a masterful victory at the 1978 TT, on the hand of a Ducati 900 SS, less sharp than the Japanese Sportsmen of the time.
Hailwood disappeared tragically when, as a family and went to buy fish and chips for the evening meal, his SD1 Rover was hit by a heavy truck that made an illegal U-turn. His daughter Michelle (9) also disappeared in these tragic circumstances.
Giacomo Agostini (1942-)
The ten best drivers of all time: Giacomo Agostini
Fifteen titles and 123 wins: the great Giacomo Agostini is simply the most successful driver in GP history. He began his career with Hill races and then moved to the circuit, becoming champion of Italy 175 in 1963, on a Morini motorcycle.
He went to MV Agusta in 1965 and demonstrated all his potential (as well as that of his mount !) by winning his first GP at the Nürburgring. This will be the start of a colorful career, with no fewer than 13 world titles (6 in 350, 7 in 500) with the Italian manufacturer. Then, Ago went to Yamaha, took some time to get used to the 2-stroke driver, but managed to win a new world crown in 350 in 1974 and another in 500 in 1975. After That, Ago did a little bit of motor racing, but with no big results.
Ago was then team manager in GP, from 1982 to 1990 at Yamaha, then at Cagiva from 1992 to 1994. He still appears on the protests dedicated to the old motorcycle, even though he said he would hang up his leather after the 2017 edition of the Sunday Ride Classic.
Valentino Rossi (1979-)
Being still able to win a tenth World crown in GP at 38 years old shows that Valentino Rossi is not a driver like the others.
If he has 114 wins, the record of Ago seems difficult to beat, but Rossi impresses by his combativeness (he finished the last two seasons as vice-champion of the world), his ability to question himself, to make his driving evolve, the care of the details and the preparation that he imposes on his technical team. Worldwide, its reputation as a driver far exceeds that of all its other competitors.