Just a short while ago, me and some friends were discussing who we thought were the best MotoGP riders. Soon we agreed that it more or less depends on the period, or better the decade that we’re talking about. Below I’ve therefor given three names of great riders in the decade of the 1980’s. Do you agree, that these were the best in those days? Let me know. I’m anxious about your opinion.
First of all Kenny Roberts
Kenny had a very serious crash in 1979, when he tested a motorcycle in Japan. Not only did he have a back injury, but he also suffered a ruptured spleen, which seemed to threaten his career as a Racer. However, he didn’t give-up. While his main rival crashed and Kenny himself ended third in the season-ending French GP, it brought him his second consecutive world championship.
A year later, in February 1980, Kenny returned to the American Grand National Championship for two races at the Houston TT. The races were held in the Houston Astrodome over two evenings. He won and even tied Bart Markel's career record of 28 Grand National victories. The next evening he became third in the Houston short-track national. In the 1980 Transatlantic Match races, Kenny again was the rider with the most individual points, as he led the American team to victory over the British.
Wayne Gardner in 1987, was the first Australian who won the 500cc World Championship. Not the fact that he is Australian made him a great rider, but the fact that he won seven out of sixteen races and wrapping up the title with a win in the penultimate round in Brazil at Goiania. His championship that year made the MotoGP in Australia a lot more popular. Television and media coverages were enormously increased, which even led to the inaugural running of the Australian motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island in 1989. Of course the home crowd had a lot to cheer for, as Wayne won his home race, edging out competitors as Wayne Rainey and Cristian Sarron.
Eddie had a nickname, called ‘Steady Eddie’ thanks to his record of not crashing and consistently finishing. He was an American former four-time Grand Prix motorcycle racing World Champion.
In 1983 Yamaha made him an offer to contest in the 500 cc World Championship as a teammate of Kenny Roberts. In 1984 he won his first of in total four world championships as well as the prestigious Imola 200 pre-season race in 1985. In 1988 he announced that he was leaving Yamaha and signed up at the arch rivals Rothmans Honda. There he became the teammate of his own arch rival Wayne Gardner. The GP-world was quite in shock over this switch Eddie made. Eddie however fulfilled his desire to work with Erv Kanemoto.
In 1989 won the title for Honda, which made him the first rider to win back-to-back championships on machines from different manufacturers.