Ten MotoGP Books You Must Read


There couldn’t be a better time to learn more about motorcycle racing than now. A lot of us are in a kind of lockdown, with more time than usual, so these are the perfect days to deepen the sport.

I’ve been addicted to motorcycles, motorcycle racing, and books for almost 50 years, which is why my house is full of around 400 books on bikes and racing. I always buy a week or two. (That’s one of the best things about being a motorcycle journalist – I can claim them all against tax.)

Motorcycle racing is not a simple game, so your enjoyment of watching the action on TV will increase along with your knowledge of both riders and machines.

The idea of ​​this list is to help you understand and enjoy racing even more than you already do. You’ll notice that most of these books deal with the past rather than the present, and there’s a good reason for that. Pilots and engineers very rarely tell the truth about what happened today, but they will be happy to tell you the truth about what happened a few years ago as there are far less. confidentiality reasons. And this is where the scores are settled and things get interesting!

You can find most of these books at regular online sellers – eBay, Abebooks, Amazon, etc. Most are readily available and reasonably priced.

One final point: Dorna coined the name MotoGP in the late 1990s, so not all Grand Prix races that have taken place before were not MotoGP. However, MotoGP has become a catch-all term, as still referring to grand prix racing as a whole as a 500cc / MotoGP championship is just too heavy.

The Grand Prix bike, by Kevin Cameron

Published 2009. Used from 20 €

Kevin Cameron is by far the greatest motorcycle technical writer of all time. He was a winning engineer in motorcycle racing in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, so he knows exactly what he is talking about. But what makes it really special is its ability to translate complex subjects into beautiful handwriting, which also defines history in time, by referring to industrial issues outside of motorcycles, so that you find out where much of the technology comes from and why.

This book goes from year to year, analyzing the machine that has won each first class title and investigating the reasons. It also has substantive sections that explain the evolution of technology and the people who made it possible. The book runs from the first GP season from 1949 to 2008. It would be nice to see an updated edition.

Wayne Rainey, My Story, by Michael Scott

Released 1997 Used from £ 10

Wayne Rainey My Story It is the greatest biography ever written on a motorcycle racer. Auto Racing Editor-in-Chief Michael Scott has covered Grand Prix racing since the early 1980s and has forged a close bond with Rainey – arguably one of the sport’s all-time greats – during the American’s six years as a GP 500cc rider.

Scott traces Rainey’s life in his usual melodious prose, going into the kind of detail you don’t seem to find in more recent biographies. You certainly won’t get any further in the mind of a top runner than by reading this book.

The three-time 500cc world champion has given the author weeks of his time, including after his career-ending accident, when their dialogue is so deep it’s like a psychotherapy session. The book is both sweet and punchy. It’s also an emotional race. Unmissable.

Team Suzuki, by Ray Battersby

£ 29.95 at teamsuzuki.co.uk

Suzuki Team
Ray Battersby’s book on Suzuki racing history is unique. Battersby worked for the company for a while, so he had unprecedented access to pilots, engineers and documents. And he’s a technical writer, so he explains the technology in a readable way.

The early years of any business are always the most fascinating, so the story of Suzuki’s rise from its 1950s racing roots to its early first-class successes with Barry Sheene and Marco Lucchinelli is mind-boggling.

And you really get the impression of the endless work that went into improving the racing bike during that time – work that led up to Ernst Degner’s industrial espionage case (that’s where I got first learned of the story from my book Stealing Speed), the creation of a 50cc three-cylinder GP engine, Suzuki’s terrifying early years at Daytona and so on.

Casey Stoner, pushing the limits

Released 2013. £ 18.99

Casey Stoner, pushing the limits

Sports autobiographies are tricky things – if you’re not careful, you end up listening to a few tell you how fast they were and nothing else.

Casey Stoner’s autobiography is the best of recent years. You can hear the voice of the Australian in every paragraph which is an essential part of any autobiography. He tells his story well, never missing the opportunity to pop anyone who has raised his anger during his career.

When he was running, Stoner was always interesting to talk about. He mostly answered questions head-on and was perfectly happy to get into a discussion or even an argument with reporters. I liked this. He was still trying to find a reporter who he felt treated him unfairly. I liked that too and, yes, I got scolded on several occasions.

I once asked Stoner why he reads the press if he doesn’t like what reporters write. “So I know who to talk to and who not to talk to,” he replied.

The Art of the Racing Motorcycle, by Philip Tooth

Published in 2010. Second hand from € 20

The Art of the Motorcycle Racing Book

This is a very rare thing – a coffee table motorcycle tech book. Phillip Tooth and photographer Jean-Pierre Praderes selected 50 of the most important racing bikes since the dawn of racing, took them to studios and photographed them in color. There are full-page photos of everything from MotoGP bikes to the Egli Vincent and America’s first board-track riders. Sometimes it feels like you can reach out and touch a cylinder head or shock absorber.

Tooth knows his stuff and gives details about each machine, examining why some succeeded and others failed.

Barry Sheene, by Michael Scott

Published 2006. Used from £ 5

Barry sheene

Scott knew Wayne Rainey well and he also got to know Barry Sheene by writing several books on the late British Champion First Class. There was not always the same opinion, which is for the good. This is not a fanboy assessment of Sheene’s career.

Barry Sheene: Motorcycle Racing Superstar Jet Set is a large format book with photos and is arguably the best biography of Sheene, who was in many ways the prototype of Valentino Rossi, a man who knew how to sell himself and break into the industry. main stream. .

MotoGP Technology (Third Edition), by Neil Spalding

€ 39.95 on motogptechnology.com

MotoGP technology

Neil Spalding has covered the technological and technological developments of MotoGP since the premier class rose to four-stroke in 2002. MotoGP Technology is the must-read book for anyone who wants to understand how the six MotoGP manufacturers operate as they go. are fighting for the greatest gong bike of all.

The book contains individual chapters on all the manufacturers – from Honda and Yamaha to Team Roberts and Ilmor – as well as chapters on the different characteristics of a MotoGP motorcycle that are essential to its performance. It’s a big book, with color photos and technical illustrations all over it.

The racing bike, by Vic Willoughby

Published in 1980. used from € 5

The Race Motorcycle Book

Vic Willoughby was almost as good a technical writer as Cameron. He also has this ability to explain complex engineering to non-technical people and place motorcycle technology in the world around him. It covers the development of the racing motorcycle from the 1920s to the late 1970s, from the early four-stroke era to the two-stroke era.

Willoughby was the first journalist to regularly test racing bikes. These tests were often carried out on the Isle of Man at dawn on open roads halfway up the mountain. The book is full of photos and illustrations of “exploded” engines.

Classic Motorcycle Racing Engines, by Kevin Cameron

Published 2012. Used from 170 €

Classic Motorcycle Racing Engines

This monumental work spans 53 flagship GP engines, from Norton’s venerable Manx to Honda’s wonderful RC211V and Yamaha’s YZR-M1, to Kawasaki triples, Moto Guzzi’s V8 50, Honda 250 six and NSR500 and many more. other.

The knowledge and details on these pages are breathtaking, as is the second hand value of the book. Once again, Cameron’s writing covers the culture and philosophy behind each engine design, helping readers understand more than just metal.

Speed: Truly Modern Pleasure, by Mat Oxley

£ 25

Sorry, one of my own books! When I got into the bike, I was only interested in today and tomorrow. I used to laugh at historic races, which I called hysterical races. But the deeper you go the more you want to know why things are the way they are and the only way to answer that question is to find out what they looked like before.

I wrote about MotoGP in the 1990s, 1980s, 1970s and 1960s. Then I wondered what had happened before that, which took me two years to research racing. motorcycles from its genesis in the 1890s until the start of World War II.

People think the runners of the 1960s and 1970s were wild, but they had nothing on what the runners of the 1920s did. So many mind-blowing stories: the British WWI fighter ace who took down 15 Fokkers in 1918 and became a Brooklands champion, the horribly dangerous murder races of the United States, the crazy bike life of Lawrence Arabia and the epic and deadly 1930s battle for the land speed record. , between brave Briton Eric Crudgington Fernihough on his supercharged Brough Superior and Nazi-backed BMW and Gilera backed by Mussolini.

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About Todd Wurtsbach

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