80 Best British Riders

It’s safe to say that us Brits have some of the best motorcycle racers of all time, but maybe we’re just a little bit biased. Over the past 80 years there have been some phenomenal moments making history including Hutchinson’s fantastic returning to the road racing scene three years after nearly losing his legs, Hailwood storming the World Championships year-on-year during the 1960’s, and McGuinness proving to everyone he really is King of the TT, and even Foggy winning reality TV show ‘I’m a Celeb’ bringing a whole new audience to the racing world!

It was tough to only pick 80 racers, but check out our greatest British motorcycle racers of all time… 

80. Roger Burnett

Lincolnshire’s Burnett started out as mechanic to near neighbour Roger Marshall but began to make his own mark as a rider in 1983. Two years later, he was signed by Honda Britain and repaid the faith shown in him by winning the 1986 1300cc British Championship and Senior TT.

A year in the 500cc World Championship followed before he switched to the World Superbike Championship for two seasons where he stood on the podium. Another rostrum came at the TT in 1988 and he returned to the UK, firstly with Suzuki and then Honda, retiring at the end of the 1991 season.

British Motorcycle Racers Roger Burnett
Roger Burnett at TT, 1998. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

79. Stuart Easton 

Hailing from the same town, Hawick, as his idol Steve Hislop, Easton made his mark as a teenager when he finished third in the 2000 125cc British Championship and two years later he became British Supersport Champion. Since then he’s become a front runner in the British Superbike Championship, briefly returning to the Supersport class which he won again in 2013, as well as winning the Macau Grand Prix on four occasions.

British motorcycle racers Stuart Easton
Stuart Easton credit GCS

78. Jim Moodie 

A tough Glaswegian, Moodie was a multiple British Champion in the 1990s enjoying success in both the British Superbike and Supersport Championships. He was equally adept on both the short circuits and road circuits, taking eight victories at the Isle of Man TT and 29 International road race podiums in total.

British motorcycle racers Jim Moodie
Jim Moodie ,1999. Credit: Official Team Postcard

77. Karl Harris

One of Britain’s most naturally talented riders, Harris first appeared in the British Superteen Championship before going on to win the 1999 European Superstock Championship. He returned to the UK in 2001 and won three British Supersport titles in the space of four years which enabled him to make the move into British Superbikes. Riding for Suzuki, Honda and Yamaha, he stood on a BSB podium on 12 occasions but sadly lost his life at the Isle of Man TT in 2014.

76. Ian McConnachie

Derbyshire rider valiantly flew the British flag in the 80cc World Championship in the mid-1980s, finishing fifth overall in 1987 and sixth in both 1985 and 1986. He famously won the 80cc British Grand Prix in 1986 and when he returned to the UK towards the end of the decade, he was equally successful being a regular winner in the 125cc, 250cc and Supersport 400cc classes.

British motorcycle racers Ian McConnachie
Ian McConnachie at Brno,1987. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

75. Charlie Collier 

Born in 1885, Collier is famous for winning the first ever Isle of Man TT race in 1907, a feat he repeated in 1910 whilst he was also the first rider to be disqualified from a TT race after illegally refueling. Riding Matchless motorcycles manufactured by his father’s company, Collier set numerous world motorcycle records and later became joint managing director of AJS and Matchless.

74. Artie Bell

Bell began motorcycling as a teenager with his significant result being second at the 1938 North West 200. The outbreak of the Second World War robbed him of, perhaps, his finest year, but he resumed racing in 1947 and promptly won at both the North West and Ulster Grand Prix.

Second in that year’s Senior TT saw him snapped up by the factory Norton team and he repaid them by winning the 1948 Senior and 1950 Junior races. His promising career was cut short though by a heavy accident in the 1950 Belgian Grand Prix with many convinced his successes could have been even greater.

73. Peter Williams 

Williams started racing in 1964 and enjoyed an excellent career which included a TT win in 1973 as well as no less than seven second places around the Mountain Course. He also won at the North West 200 and was both a Norton employee and rider from 1969 onwards, playing a key role in the development of the Norton Commando. His racing career was cut short by arm injuries received in an accident at Oulton Park in 1974. A talented engineer, Williams introduced alloy wheels to motorbikes and was also an early pioneer of disc brakes.

72. Steve Plater

Plater enjoyed a highly successful career, primarily in the British Superbike and Supersport Championships, riding for the official Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha teams and winning the latter in 2009. The Lincolnshire rider was victorious at the North West 200 on seven occasions, also winning two TT races, the first one coming just a year after he made his debut.

He set the fastest ever TT Newcomer’s Lap in 2007 and was the second rider to break the 130mph barrier in 2009 when he won the Senior race whilst he also won the Macau Grand Prix twice.

Steve Plater - 2004
Steve Plater, 2004. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

71. Alan Carter

Carter burst onto the British scene as a teenager in the early 1980s and went on to compete in the 250cc World Championship between 1983 and 1990. He won the second Grand Prix race he entered, the 1983 French GP and, at the time, was the youngest ever GP winner. However, he was never able to fulfill his potential and never won another Grand Prix, his best season coming in 1985 when he finished seventh overall. He also won at the North West 200 in 1994.

Alan Carter
Alan Carter at Donington Park, 1983. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

70. Jeremy McWilliams

A late starter to road racing, McWilliams was almost 30 when he made his Grand Prix debut in 1993 and had only achieved moderate success in the UK. However, as the 90s progressed he established himself as one of the UK’s finest 250cc Grand Prix riders and if he’d had more competitive machinery would surely have stood on the podium on more occasions.

His win at the 2001 Dutch Grand Prix was the first by a British rider, in any solo classes, since 1986 whilst he also enjoyed strong performances in the 500cc/MotoGP class for Aprilia and Team Roberts. He’s still racing today and won the Supertwins race at the North West 200 in both 2013 and 2015.

69. Alan Shepherd 

Shepherd was one of Britain’s finest riders in the early 1960s, finishing second as a privateer to Mike Hailwood in the 1962 and 1963 500cc World Championships. He was also a three-time winner at the North West 200 and double podium finisher at the TT but was seriously injured whilst testing a works Honda towards the end of 1964. He made a full recovery but retired shortly afterwards and die peacefully in 2007.

Alan Shepherd
Alan Shepherd at TT, 1962. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

68. Ray McCullough

Considered by many to be second only to Joey Dunlop when it comes to naming Northern Ireland’s best ever racer, McCullough enjoyed his greatest success in his homeland winning the Ulster Grand Prix on 12 occasions and the North West 200 on seven. He won countless road races and Championships in Ireland and although he never contested the TT, being reluctant to travel, he did win the Southern 100 Championship.

67. John Williams

Williams began racing in 1966 and soon established himself as a formidable competitor, particularly at the International road races, where he was a five time winner at the North West 200, being the first rider to win three races in a day in 1974, and Ulster Grand Prix, where he achieved the same feat a year earlier. In 1976, he became the first rider to lap the Isle of Man TT Course at more than 110mph, a year that also saw him beat Barry Sheene to victory in the 500cc Belgian Grand Prix.

66. Charlie Williams 

Williams was primarily a 250cc and 350cc specialist, winning the Isle of Man TT races on no less than nine occasions although he did take podiums across the classes with 21 in total. He won three Grand Prix races as well as the 1980 Formula 2 World Championship whilst he was also successful on the UK short circuits. He retired in 1984 to run a motorcycling accessory business and, more recently, has been part of the Radio TT presenting team.

Charlie Williams
Charlie WIlliams at Brands Hatch at 1980. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

65. Stuart Graham

Son of 1949 500cc World Champion Les Graham, Stuart began racing in 1961 with his big break coming when he was signed for the Honda factory team in July 1966. He later rode for Suzuki with his best season coming in 1967 when he won two Grand Prix races and finished the year in third place in both the 50cc and the 125cc world championships.

Stuart Graham
Stuart Graham at Donnington Park (1981) Credit: Phil Wain Family Archive

64. Paul Smart 

Smart started racing in the mid-1960s winning the ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ race at Mallory Park in 1966 and took his debut podium at the Isle of Man TT in 1967 when he finished second in the 750cc Production race, a result he repeated two years later.

His best finish in the World Championship was fifth overall in the 1971 350cc class whilst he also enjoyed success in America riding for Kawasaki and Suzuki. His finest moment, arguably, was in 1972 when he rode an unfancied Ducati to victory in the Imola 200, becoming the first British rider to in the race.

Paul Smart
Paul Smart at TT, 2008. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

63. Guy Martin

Arguably the most famous British racer currently competing, Martin came to fame when he got banned from the British Championships before finding success on the roads. The first newcomer to lap the TT Mountain Course at more than 120mph, in 2004, the Lincolnshire rider has finished on a TT podium more times than any other rider, 16, without actually winning.

However, he’s won 11 Ulster Grand Prix races, 8 Scarborough Gold Cups and three Southern 100 Championships and is also enjoying a flourishing TV career.

Guy Martin credit iomtt.com

62. Tommy Robb

Northern Ireland’s Robb had his first road race in 1957 and he went on to finish third in that year’s 250cc Ulster Grand Prix. He joined the works Honda team in 1962, winning his first world championship race in the 1962 250cc Ulster Grand Prix with further wins coming at the Japanese GP.

He finished second in that year’s 350cc World championship and later joined the works Yamaha team ending his GP career with three wins and 28 podiums. In addition, he won the 1973 Lightweight 125cc TT and was victorious at the North West 200 on five occasions.

Tommy Robb
Tommy Robb, 1962. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

61. Brian Morrison 

Morrison was one of the UK’s most versatile riders for almost two decades and after winning at the Isle of Man TT (where he was the second rider ever to lap at more than 120mph) and taking numerous British Championships, he enjoyed considerable success in the World Superbike series. Some of his finest moments came in Endurance racing where he was World Champion and winner at both the Bol d’Or and Le Mans 24 hour events. He was also a podium finisher at the Macau Grand Prix.

Brian Morrison
Brian Morrison at Scarborough, 1988. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

60. Leon Camier

Camier started his racing career in grass track, becoming a multiple British Champion, a feat he repeated on the tarmac during the 2000s. The Kent rider was British 125cc, Supersport and Superbike Champion between 2001 and 2009, winning more Superbike races in a season, 19, than any other rider. Since 2010, he’s competed in the World Superbike Championship for the factory Aprilia, Suzuki and MV Agusta teams with his best year coming in 2011 when he placed seventh overall.

Leon Carnier
Leon Carnier at Cadwell Park, 2004. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

59. Chris Walker 

The best rider never to have won the British Superbike Championship, Walker finished second overall for four consecutive seasons from 1997-2000, famously losing the 2000 title with just a few laps of the final race remaining. He moved briefly into 500cc GP’s and then spent five seasons in the World Superbike Championship, winning his only race at Holland in 2006.

His best year came in 2003 when he took sixth overall whilst he also has a career total of 12 podiums. He returned to the UK in 2009 and has remained in the BSB Championship ever since, taking his last win at Oulton Park in 2012.

Chris Walker
Chris Walker, 2000. Credit: Official Team Postcard

58. Dave Simmonds 

Simmonds gave Kawasaki their first World championship in 1969 when he dominated the 125cc series with eight wins, the last time a British rider won the class. He was also successful in the 500cc class, finishing fourth in 1971 and seventh in 1972 but was tragically killed in a fire caused by an exploding gas cylinder in a caravan at Rouen, France at the end of that year.

57. Michael Rutter 

Son of Tony, Michael Rutter has competed in more British Superbike races than any other rider and although he’s never won the Championship, he’s finished second twice and third three times. His BSB record currently reads 28 race wins and 102 podiums, the latter the third highest of all time.

With 13 race wins at the North West 200 and four at the Isle of Man TT, Rutter is also one of the rare breed of current riders who is equally successful on both the roads and the short circuits. He’s also won the Macau Grand Prix more times than any other rider with eight victories.

Michael Rutter - Macau 2013 image by Stephen Davison - Pacemaker Press International

56. Roger Marshall 

British Solo Champion in 1975 and 1977, Marshall was Britain’s best privateer in the late 1970s, finally getting his break as team-mate to Wayne Gardner at Moriwaki Kawasaki in 1981. A move to Heron Suzuki and then Honda Britain saw him go on to win a total of 11 British Championships, dominating the UK scene in 1982, 1985 and 1987, also finishing a close second to Joey Dunlop in the 1984 World F1 Championship. He never quite managed a TT win, taking second three times, but he was twice a winner at both the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix.

Roger Marshall
Roger Marshall at Cadwell Park, 1985. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

55. Ian Simpson 

Scottish ace Simpson came to prominence in 1988 when, aged just 18, he finished second in the British Production Championship. He went on to win five British Championships between 1991 and 1997 with his best year coming in 1994 when he dominated the British Superbike Championship on the Duckhams Norton.

He was also a superb road racer, winning three Isle of Man TT races – becoming the third fastest rider at the time in 1998 – and five at the North West 200 and would surely have won more had it not been for serious leg injuries in 1999 and 2000 which led him to retire at the age of just 30.

Ian Simpson at Kirk Michael credit Phil Wain’s Family Archive

54. John Reynolds 

Having initially enjoyed success in motocross, Reynolds switched to the tarmac in 1987 and just five years later won the first of his three British Superbike Championships. Indeed, he dominated the domestic scene in 1992 and it led to four years of racing on the continent, firstly in 500cc GPs and then World Superbikes, where he scored a number of podiums.

He returned to the UK in 1997 and had five years with Ducati, winning his second British title in 2001 before moving to Suzuki where he won a third title in 2004. A number of injuries during 2005 led to him announcing his retirement.

John Reynolds at Donington Park, 1988. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

53. Derek Minter 

Another of Britain’s leading short circuit racers in the 1950s and 1960s, Minter rode a variety of machinery during his career but his remembered most for being the undisputed ‘King of Brands’ such was his dominance at the Kent venue.

Although he didn’t venture abroad to the World Championship too often, Minter became the first rider to lap the Isle of Man TT course at more than 100 mph on a single cylinder machine and won the 1962 250cc Lightweight TT race on a privately entered Honda.

Derek Minter
Derek Minter at Mallory Park, 1962. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

52. Rob McElnea 

McElnea first found fame for Heron Suzuki winning three Isle of Man TT races in 1983 and 1984 and he then competed in GP’s until 1989. His best year came in 1986 when he finished fifth overall for Marlboro Yamaha whilst he also rode factory bikes for Pepsi Suzuki and Cabin Honda.

In 1990, he switched to the Superbike class finishing fifth in the World Championship for Loctite Yamaha. He then concentrated on the British Championships, winning the Superbike title in 1991 and although his career was ended by injury in 1993, he successfully ran Yamaha’s British Superbike team until 2011.

Rob McElnea
Rob McElnea at Mosport, 1990. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

51. Darren Dixon 

Dixon finished second to Steve Webster in the 1982 Marlboro Clubman’s Championship before switching to solos, beating Carl Fogarty to the 1985 250cc Marlboro Clubman’s Championship, and then taking third in the British Championship a year later.

He then won the 1988 Formula One British Championship before reverting back to sidecars where he went on to win the 1995 and 1996 World Championships. One of the most versatile racers ever, he was still riding in the 125cc and 250cc British Championships at this time and ended his career in the British Superbike Championship.

Darren Dixon at Cadwell Park, 1988. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

50. Rod Gould 

Oxfordshire’s Gould began racing in 1961 and after establishing himself in the British Championships, moved onto the World stage in 1967. He went on to ride for the factory Yamaha team, winning the 1970 250cc World Championship and also finishing second in 1971 and third in 1972. At the end of 1972, he retired from racing and became Yamaha’s European racing manager.

Rob Gould
Rob Gould at TT, 2007. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

49. Terry Rymer

Rymer burst onto the National scene in 1987 when he won races in the MCN Superstock Championship and a year later he switched to the World Superbike Championship ending the year in tenth overall. For the next two seasons, he was Britain’s best rider in the series becoming the first British rider to win a race in the Championship.

He was a regular in the series until 1994 whilst he was also British Superbike Champion in 1990 and twice World Endurance Champion, in 1992 and 1999. He won the prestigious Bol d’Or on five occasions as well as the Le Mans 24-Hour once.

Terry Rymer
Terry Rymer at Knockhill, 1987. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

48. Danny Kent

Kent did little racing in the British Championship, moving early to the Spanish 125cc Championship and Red Bull Rookies Cup, where he finished runner-up in 2010. He moved into the Grand Prix series a year later and after finishing 11th, improved to fourth overall in 2012 taking his first Grand Prix wins.

After a disappointing year in Moto2, he returned to Moto 3 in 2014 finishing eighth overall but his best moment came in 2015 when six wins helped him clinch the Moto 3 World Championship thus ending Great Britain’s 38-year wait for a Grand Prix world champion.

Danny Kent. Credit: Official Danny Kent Facebook Page

47. Fergus Anderson 

Scottish rider Anderson was one of the first British riders to make his living racing motorcycles on the European continent, riding primarily for the Moto Guzzi factory. Having finished second in the 1952 250cc World Championship he took both the 1953 and 1954 350cc World Championships, the first in the class by a non-British bike. He retired from racing at the end of 1954 but returned with BMW in 1956 only to be killed at Floreffe, Belgium.

46. Wal Handley 

Wal Handley was born in 1902 with his debut at the Isle of Man TT coming in 1922 when he famously set off for his first practice lap in the wrong direction! In 1925, he became the first rider to win two TT races in a week, the Junior and Ultra-Lightweight, and set three fastest laps.

The following year he finished second in his first Senior TT coming through the pack from 22nd after being delayed by over seven minutes with plug trouble. In 1927, he won his third TT, taking the Lightweight TT with his fourth coming in the Senior TT of 1930 and, in total, he stood on a TT rostrum on nine occasions.

45. James Whitham 

Whitham won numerous British Championships in the Superbike, Production and 80cc categories, taking victories in the former in 1991 and 1993. He soon moved into the World Superbike Championship where, riding Yamaha, Ducati and Suzuki machinery, he recorded a solitary win and eight podiums, taking a best finish of seventh overall in 1994.

Switching to the World Supersport Championship in 2000, he enjoyed three strong years in the series with numerous wins and podiums but, having successfully overcome Hodgkins Disease in the mid-90’s, glaucoma forced him to retire at the end of 2002 and he’s since forged a successful media career.

James Whitham
James Whitham at Brands Hatch, 1988. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

44. Leon Haslam 

Son of British legend Ron, Leon Haslam started road racing in 1997 in the British Scooter Championship but he soon moved into the British and then World 125cc Championship. GP success was hard to come by and he returned to Britain in 2005, contesting the British Superbike Championship for the official Ducati and Honda teams, finishing second overall in both 2006 and 2008.

Since 2009, he’s been a regular in the World Superbike Championship, narrowly missing out on the title in 2010 and having ridden Suzuki, Honda, BMW and Aprilia machines, he now has 5 wins and 38 podiums in the series.

2018 British Superbike Championship, BSB BSB R10 Oulton Park, Cheshire, 14th September 2018.
Leon Haslam, Smalley, JG Speedfit Kawasaki

43. Scott Redding 

Despite being one of Britain’s best riders currently competing in the World Championship, Redding never competed in a single British Championship race and came to prominence in the Spanish Championship instead. In 2008, he won the 125cc British Grand Prix to become the youngest ever winner of a GP race, a title he still holds.

He’s since gone on to finish second in the 2013 Moto2 World Championship and has now taken podiums in the 125cc, Moto2 and Moto3 categories. With 4 wins and 17 podiums, he’s also the youngest rider to have contested both 50 and 100 Grand’s Prix.

42. Eugene Laverty 

One of three racing brothers, Laverty achieved reasonable success in the British 125cc and Supersport Championships as part of the Red Bull Rookies programme before moving into the World Supersport Championship.

Having finished second overall in both 2009 and 2010, with a total of 12 wins and 19 podiums, he moved into the World Superbike Championship riding firstly for Yamaha, then Aprilia and finally Suzuki. Riding for Aprilia, he finished second overall in 2014 and recorded 13 wins and 32 podiums during his WSB career. He now rides for the AsparGP team in the premier MotoGP World Championship.

Michael Laverty image credit by Tyco BMW
Michael Laverty image credit by Tyco BMW

41. Harold Daniell 

Daniell was famously turned down as a dispatch rider for the army due to his poor eyesight but it didn’t stop him being a formidable motorbike racer and he was one of the few riders to win at the Isle of Man TT both before and after the Second World War, winning the 1938 and 1949 Senior races.

His 1938 victory saw him lap at exactly 91mph, a lap record that stood for 12 years whilst his 1949 victory made him the first ever 500cc Grand Prix winner. He won three TT races in total with his career spanning twenty years. It was also Daniell that came up with the phrase the Featherbed Norton.

40. Bradley Smith 

Like Scott Redding and Danny Kent, Bradley Smith chose the Spanish Championships to carve out his career and by 2006 he was a full time rider in the 125cc World Championship. Riding for firstly Honda and then Aprilia, his first podium came in 2007 and in 2009 he took two wins and nine podiums to claim second overall in the Championship.

More of the same followed in 2010, when he ended the year in fourth, and two solid years followed in the Moto2 category. Since 2013, he’s competed in the MotoGP category, finishing sixth overall in 2015, and now has a career total of 25 podiums.

39. Freddie Frith OBE

Grimsby’s Frith was a former stonemason and later motor cycle retailer but was better known for his racing exploits, winning the Isle of Man TT of five occasions, also having the distinction of being one of a select few to win TT races before and after the Second World War. He was the first rider to lap the Mountain Course at more than 90mph, in 1937, and won the inaugural 350cc World Championship in 1949 winning all five races of the campaign.

38. Ralph Bryans

Bryans entered his first race in 1959 and just four years later was part of the official works Honda team. Concentrating primarily on the smaller classes, Bryans enjoyed his greatest results on 50cc and 125cc machinery, winning the world championship in the former in 1965 and finishing second in 1964 and 1966. He also had a strong year in the 1967 350cc and 250cc Championships finishing third and fourth respectively and, in total, won 10 GP races and finished on the podium on 40 occasions. He was Northern Ireland’s first World Champion.

Ralph Bryans
Ralph Bryans at Donington Park, 1981. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

37. Tom Herron 

Having established himself as a formidable racer on the roads, winning amongst other things, the 1970 350cc North West 200, Herron moved to the 250cc and 350cc World Championships. Competing as a privateer, Herron enjoyed excellent seasons between 1976 and 1978, finishing second in the 1977 350cc series and fourth in both the 250cc and 350cc classes in 1976. In 1978, he strengthened his position as one of the world’s best privateers with fifth and sixth places in the 250cc and 350cc world championships respectively.

36. David Jefferies 

Son of Tony Jefferies, a former Isle of Man TT winner, Jefferies competed in both 500cc Grand Prix races and the World Superbike Championship whilst he was also a front runner in the British Championships, taking wins and podiums in the Superbike class and the Superstock title on three occasions.

David Jefferies
David Jefferies at TT, 2002. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

35. Cal Crutchlow

Having won the 2001 Superteen Championship, Crutchlow progressed through the Juniorstock and Virgin Mobile R6 Cup categories before winning the 2006 British Supersport Championship. Two successful years in the British Superbike Championship followed before he joined the factory Yamaha team, winning the World Supersport title in 2009 and finishing fifth in the 2010 World Superbike series.

From 2011 onwards, he’s competed in the MotoGP World Championship, taking a best position of fifth overall in 2013. Riding Yamaha, Ducati and Honda machinery, he now has eight GP podiums.

Cal Crutchlow
Cal Crutchlow, 2010. Credit: Official Team Postcard

34. Mick Grant 

Grant was a works-supported rider for Norton, Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki, and a seven-time winner at the Isle of Man TT. The Yorkshireman enjoyed a healthy rivalry with Barry Sheene in the late 1970s whilst he enjoyed great success on Kawasaki machines, winning 250cc GP’s and also breaking Mike Hailwood’s eight-year old outright lap record at the TT in 1975. The first man to lap the North West 200 circuit at more than 120mph, Grant, who always rode under number 10, was also a multiple British Champion and double winner at the Macau Grand Prix.

Mick Grant
Mick Grant at TT 1980. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

33. Niall MacKenzie 

Having come to prominence in the legendary Pro-Am Series of the 1980s, Mackenzie went on to become 250cc and 350cc British Champion before moving into the 500cc World Championship on a full-time basis in 1987. His best season came in 1990 when he finished fourth overall and, riding factory bikes for Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha, he recorded seven podiums. When his GP career ended, he forged a new career for himself in the British Superbike Championship, winning the title for three successive years between 1996 and 1998.

Niall Mackenzie
Niall Mackenzie at Anderstorp, 1987. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

32. Les Graham

Born in 1911, Graham’s greatest success came after the end of the Second World War where he served as a pilot flying Lancaster bombers over Germany. He resumed his racing career as part of the AJS factory team and created history by winning the inaugural 500cc World Championship in 1949. He finished third the following year and was then signed by MV Agusta to develop their ill-handling 500cc machine.

31. Tony Rutter 

Rutter was one of the finest riders in the 1970s and 1980s and was renowned for being equally competitive on both the short circuits and public road courses. He won seven Isle of Man TT races and nine at the North West 200 with his International road racing record reading 18 wins and 59 podiums, the latter the sixth highest total of all time. He won the Formula Two World Championship for four consecutive years, 1981-1984, and was 350cc British Champion in 1971 and 250cc British Champion in 1973.

Tony Rutter
Tony Rutter at Donington Park,1980. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

30. Chas Mortimer 

Mortimer was one of the UK’s finest Grand Prix riders during the 1970s, enjoying his best year in 1973 when finished second in the 125cc World Championship having finished second the year before. 1972 also saw him win the 500cc Spanish Grand Prix, giving Yamaha their first victory in the class, whilst he also finished third overall in the 1976 350cc World Championship.

29. Ryan Farquhar 

A pure road racer, Farquhar’s career started in 1995 and he’s now the most successful Northern Ireland road racer ever with over 200 road race wins in his native country. He surpassed the great Joey Dunlop’s total of 118 in 2009 and although he retired in 2012, he returned in 2014 to add more success to his total.

With three Isle of Man TT wins, five at the North West 200, nine at the Ulster Grand Prix and over 100 at Oliver’s Mount, Scarborough, the Dungannon rider has won over 300 races in his illustrious career and is without doubt one of the greatest road racers ever.

PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 2/9/2011: Ryan Farquhar (Winfield Suzuki) exits Governor’s Dip on his way to winning the Classic Superbike race at the Manx Grand Prix in the Isle of Man today. It was Ryan’s third win of the week and his ninth MGP win.

28. Shane Byrne 

Byrne first made an impression in 2001 when he won the British Superbike Privateers Cup and just two years he not only won the main BSB Championship but also took a double victory as a wildcard at the British round of the World Superbikes. Since then, Byrne has had forays into both MotoGP and WSB, but has found greater success at home becoming the most successful rider ever in the British Superbike Championship. Riding for Honda, Ducati and Kawasaki, he’s now taken four titles, 68 wins and 157 podiums.

#67 Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne Be Wiser Ducati Racing Team (PBM) MCE British Superbike Championship
#67 Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne Be Wiser Ducati Racing Team (PBM) MCE British Superbike Championship

27. Ian Lougher 

Statistics suggest Lougher is the second most successful road racer of all-time with the Welshman having won 36 International road races and finished on the podium staggering 98 times, the latter second only to the legendary Joey Dunlop.

In a career spanning, unbelievably, more than three decades, Lougher has won 18 Ulster Grand Prix races, 10 at the Isle of Man TT and 8 at the North West 200 also being the most successful rider ever at Scarborough, with more than 130 wins, and the Southern 100. Despite announcing his official retirement in 2013, he continues to race in selected events, winning the 500cc and Formula Two Classic TT races in 2014.

Ian Lougher
Ian Lougher at Aberdare, 1991. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

26. Neil Hodgson 

Hodgson started road racing in 1990 and just two years later was double 125cc British Champion. Two seasons in the 125cc World Championship followed before he moved into the 500cc class in 1995, finishing an excellent 11th overall.

He then rode for the factory Ducati and Kawasaki World Superbike teams but had to return to Britain in 1999 to revitalise his career, doing exactly that as he won the British Superbike Championship in 2000. That allowed him to return to the World Superbike series, going on to win the world title in 2003. Then last five years of his career were spent racing in the American Superbike Championship before he retired at the beginning of 2010.

Neil Hodgson. Credit: Flickr Jerseygal2009
Neil Hodgson. Credit: Flickr Jerseygal2009

25. Tom Sykes 

After three strong years in the British Supersport Championship, finishing second overall in 2006, Sykes spent two strong years in the British Superbike series in 2007 and 2008 and fourth overall in the second year, along with a World Superbike wildcard podium, allowed him to move onto the World stage on a full-time basis with Yamaha in 2009.

For 2010 he moved to the factory Kawasaki team, where he’s remained ever since, and after finishing second to Max Biaggi in 2012, missing out on the title by half a point, he won his first World Championship in 2013. Second overall was again the outcome in 2014, finishing just six points behind Sylvain Guintoli, with third taken in 2015.

Tom Sykes
Tom Sykes at Cadwell Park, 2004. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

24. Jonathan Rea 

Son of a former TT winner, Rea started out in motocross before joining Red Bull Honda for whom he contested the British 125cc, Supersport and Superbike Championships, finishing second in the latter in 2007. For 2008, he moved into the World Supersport Championship, again finishing second overall, and from 2009 onwards he’s been ever-present in the World Superbike Championship.

The Northern Irishman remained loyal to Honda taking third in 2014 and fourth in 2010 but with the Fireblade’s competitiveness waning, he switched to Kawasaki for 2015 and dominated the series becoming Northern Ireland’s fourth World motorcycle champion. He now has a career total of 29 WSB wins and 65 podiums.

Jonathon Rea finishes in 2nd place at WSBK Qatar
Jonathon Rea finishes in 2nd place at WSBK Qatar

23. Cecil Sandford 

Like Bill Lomas, Sandford had a reasonably short career but was also a two-time world champion and two-time Isle of Man TT winner. Having started racing in scrambles and grass track, the Gloucestershire rider rode for the factory AJS team before joining MV Agusta in 1952, immediately winning the 125cc World Championship, the first for the Italian giant. Second followed a year later before switching to Moto Guzzi and his final year of competition came in 1957 when he won the 250cc World Championship and then retired from the sport.

22. James Toseland 

Toseland had his career fast-tracked by Honda and after just one season of British Championship racing in 1997, he found himself riding in the World Supersport Championship in 1998 and 1999. Glimpses of his talent could be seen but he moved to the British Superbike Championship in 2000 before joining GSE Ducati and the World Superbike Championship in 2001.

His results gradually improved, taking his first win in 2003 on his way to third place overall and that saw him signed by the factory Ducati for the next two seasons, winning his first World title in 2004. In 2006, he moved to the Ten Kate Honda team, finishing second that year before winning his second World title in 2007. Two years were then spent in the MotoGP World Championship before he moved back into WSB in 2010, retiring from racing a year later due to a wrist injury.

James Toseland
James Toseland ,1999. Credit: Official Team Postcard

21. Robert Dunlop

Younger brother of Joey, Robert Dunlop made his road race debut in 1979 and, after winning the 1983 350cc Newcomers Manx Grand Prix, took his first International in the 1986 350cc North West 200. Like Joey, he was equally as good on 125s as he was on Superbikes and his first TT win came on the former in 1989. A year later, he was part of the JPS Norton Superbike team winning at the North West 200 and finishing on the podium at the TT.

Robert Dunlop
Robert Dunlop at Aberdare Park, 1991, Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

20. Phillip McCallen 

A double Manx Grand Prix winner at his first attempt in 1988, McCallen went on to be the dominant force at the Isle of Man TT in the 1990s, winning 11 races including four in a week in 1996, a record that stood until 2010. The Northern Irishman was also a multiple winner at the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix, being the only man to win five races in a day at both meetings.

He was also victorious at the Macau Grand prix and was considered to be one of the finest road racers of his generation. He retired at the completion of the 1999 TT Races.

Phillip McCallen
Phillip McCallen at Munster,1990. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

19. Ron Haslam 

Haslam started racing as a teenager in the early 1970s but it was when he joined Halifax car dealer Mal Carter that his career really took off and, having finished second in the 750cc British championship in 1975, ’76 and ’77, he was signed by Honda Britain and rewarded them with the 1979 World F1 Championship following it up a year later with the World F3 crown. Between 1979 and ’84 he won four British titles for Honda, also winning the 1982 Isle of Man TT F1 race.

Ron Haslam
Ron Haslam at Donington Park, 1980. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

18. Bill Lomas

Lomas had a relatively short career in the 1950s but during that time he was a member of the factory Moto Guzzi team and won the 1955 and 1956 350cc World Championships. He also won the 250cc Lightweight and 350cc Junior TT races in 1955 and rode the famous V8 Moto Guzzi in the 500cc class.

A racing accident at the early season Imola International in 1957 led to him retiring from racing and in 27 Grand Prix starts, he took a total of 9 wins and 16 podiums. He died at the age of 79 in 2007 from complications following a heart attack.

17. Ian Hutchinson 

A former Senior Newcomers Manx Grand Prix winner, Hutchinson took his first Isle of Man TT win at the Centennial meeting of 2007 and, having taking a double victory in 2009, he created history a year later when he won all five solo races, the only rider ever to have achieved the feat.

Terrible leg injuries sustained in a short circuit accident at Silverstone cost him the next three years of his career but he bounced back at the end of 2013 with victory at the Macau Grand Prix and then took a treble at the 2015 TT Races to make it 11 wins and 20 podiums on the island in total. He’s also been victorious at the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix as well as being strong in the British Championship.

Ian Hutchinson at full speed image by Jon Jessop Photography

16. John Hartle 

Hartle began racing in 1952 and by 1955 he had become a member of the works Norton team, riding for them again in 1956. This led to him being signed by the MV Agusta team for three seasons, finishing second in both the 1958 350cc and 500cc World Championships behind team-mate John Surtees. In 1960, he claimed his first TT win with victory in the 350cc Junior TT and took second in the 500cc World Championship again in 1963, this time riding for Geoff Duke’s Gilera team.

John Hartle
John Hartle at Oulton Park, 1963. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

15. Jimmy Simpson 

Simpson spent many years as a works rider, primarily with AJS and Norton, and was one of the most successful riders before the Second World War. He is best remembered for becoming the first rider to lap the Isle of Man TT course at more than 60,70 and 80mph although it took him 12 years to win his one and only TT race, the 1934 Lightweight 250cc. He took nine podiums at the TT though and won over 20 Grand Prix races on the continent being a multiple European Champion.

14. Michael Dunlop

Son of Robert, younger brother of William and nephew of Joey, Michael Dunlop made his racing debut as a teenager with his first outing on the Mountain Course seeing him win the 2006 Ultra-Lightweight Newcomers Manx Grand Prix. He immediately moved up to the TT and only had to wait two years before recording his first victory, the 2009 Supersport 600cc race, at the age of 20.

Renowned for his aggressive riding, he’s since become one of the greatest TT racers of his generation and currently has 11 wins and 20 podiums riding Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda and BMW machinery.

Michael Dunlop
Michael Dunlop ar TT, 2013. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

13. Bill Ivy 

Standing at just 5’3, Ivy was diminutive stature but big in heart and established a formidable reputation on the UK circuits across the classes. At the end of 1965, he was chosen by Yamaha to ride in the World Championships and finished second overall in the following year’s 125cc World Championship. With eight wins from 12 races, he dominated the 1967 series to claim the world title whilst he also finished third overall in the 250cc Championship.

Bill Ivy
Bill Ivy, 1967. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

12. Jimmie Guthrie 

Guthrie was born in Hawick, Scotland in 1897 and had a phenomenal racing career which included 19 Grand Prix wins, 6 wins at the Isle of Man TT and 3 victories at the North West 200. His debut at the TT came in 1923 but he didn’t return until 1927 when he took second in the Senior although the following year saw him crash in practice at Greeba Bridge. His first victory came in 1930 when he won the Lightweight race on an AJS.

11. Steve Hislop

As a youngster, Hislop worshipped fellow Hawick-resident Jimmy Guthrie with his own racing debut coming in 1979. Despite the loss of his brother in a racing accident, Hislop went on to become an Isle of Man TT legend, claiming 11 victories and a further eight podiums between 1985 and 1994. This included victory over arch-rival Carl Fogarty in the 1992 Senior TT – regarded by many as the greatest TT race in history.

Steve Hislop
Steve Hislop at Donington Park, 1997. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

10. Bob McIntyre 

A tough Glaswegian, McIntyre won the 1952 Manx Grand Prix and a year later claimed his first International win, the 350cc North West 200 race. After further success riding for Joe Potts, his big break came in 1957 when he deputised for the injured works Gilera rider Geoff Duke, finishing second in both the 350cc and 500cc World Championships.

He ensured his name would go in the history books forever when he became the first man to lap the Isle of Man TT course at more than 100mph on his way to winning the Senior race.

Bob McIntyre
Bob McIntyre, 1961. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

9. Stanley Woods 

Dubliner Woods started racing in 1921, making his Isle of Man TT debut a year later when he finished a superb fifth in the Junior race, despite being aged only 17. Continuing on a Cotton, he won the race the following year to become the then youngest race winner of a TT race and then moved to the Norton factory where he enjoyed some of his finest moments.

Five TT wins were taken for the British manufacturer before switching to Moto Guzzi in 1935 for whom he promptly won the Senior race, only the second time a non-English motorbike had won.

8. John McGuinness 

McGuinness established himself on the short circuits in the 1990s, becoming one of the UK’s finest 250cc riders and winning the British Championship in 1999. He went on to be a race winner in both the British Supersport and Superstock Championships but he’s best known for his exploits on the road with his current tally of 23 Isle of Man TT race wins being the second highest of all time with the Morecambe man rightly recognised as being one of the greatest of all time. His first win came in the 250cc race of 1999 and he’s now taken more podiums, 44, than any other rider.

John McGuinness TT Zero 2015
John McGuinness securing his 22nd TT win 2015. Credit: Pacemaker Press International

7. Geoff Duke OBE 

Duke came to prominence at the 1949 Manx Grand Prix, finishing second in the Junior race, after remounting due to a spill, and winning the Senior race with a record lap and race-average speeds. He also won the Clubman’s TT that year and it prompted the factory Norton team to sign him up for the 1950 season where he won the Senior TT, breaking lap and race records, and finishing second in the Junior.

He went on to win the 350cc and 500cc World Championships for Norton in 1951 retaining the former in 1952 and that success led to him joining Gilera for 1953.

Geoff Duke
Geoff Duke, 1962. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

6. John Surtees OBE, MBE

Son of a London motorcycle dealer, Surtees started out in grass track but soon switched to the tarmac and made his first headlines in 1951 when, aged just 17, he gave factory Norton rider Geoff Duke a strong challenge at Thruxton. He got his first taste of a factory machine in 1955 when he rode for Norton, defeating reigning World Champion Duke at Brands Hatch, and he subsequently accepted an offer from MV Agusta for the 1956 season.

john Surtees and MV Goodwood Revival 2010 image credit PSParrot
john Surtees and MV Goodwood Revival 2010 image credit PSParrot

5. Phil Read MBE 

Nicknamed “The Prince of Speed”, Read may have been controversial but is without doubt one of the greatest motorcycle racers ever to come from Great Britain and his tally of 52 wins and 121 podiums are still, respectively, the seventh and sixth highest of all time despite his last GP coming back in 1976.

His first major win was the 1960 Junior Manx Grand Prix which he followed a year later with victory in the same race at the TT. Deputising for the injured Derek Minter, a solid year with Gilera in 1963 saw him signed by the factory Yamaha team for the following season.

Phil Read
Phil Read, 1964. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

4. Carl Fogarty MBE

Having won the 1985 Lightweight Newcomers Manx Grand Prix, Fogarty immediately moved to the British Championships only for two broken legs to halt his progress on the 250s. He switched to 750cc machines in 1988 going on to win three successive World Formula One Championships as well as three Isle of Man TT races.

Moderate success was taken in the World Superbike Championship before he took his first race win in 1992 on a privately-entered Ducati, a year that also saw him finish a close second to Steve Hislop in the Senior TT, considered by many to be the greatest TT race of all time.

Carl Fogarty
Carl Fogarty at Darley Moor, 1989. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

3. Barry Sheene MBE 

Sheene first started to race in 1968, becoming the British 125cc champion, aged 20 in 1970, and immediately moved into the 125cc World Championship finishing second overall in 1971 after taking three GP wins. By 1973, he’d been signed by the factory Suzuki team finishing sixth overall in the 1974 500cc World Championships but at the beginning of 1975, he had a spectacular, 175mph crash at Daytona when the tyre blew resulting in a broken, thigh, collarbone and ribs. Just seven weeks later he was back racing and took his first 500cc GP win later that year.

Barry Sheene
Barry Sheene at Scarborough, 1980. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

2. Joey Dunlop MBE, OBE

Without doubt, the greatest real road racer ever, William Joseph Dunlop’s career was steady to begin with and although he won his first Isle of Man TT race in 1977, it wasn’t until 1980 when his career really took off. That year saw him win the Classic TT, defeating the works Hondas of Mick Grant and Ron Haslam and a year later he was signed by the Japanese manufacturer, starting a relationship that was to last 20 years.

The Northern Irishman went on to win five successive World Formula One Championships (1982-1986) for Honda and it’s his success on the roads that saw him become famous all around the world.

Joey Dunlop
Joey Dunlop at TT 1984. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

1.Mike Hailwood MBE, GM

As well as being recognised as Britain’s greatest ever motorcycle racer, Mike Hailwood is considered by many to the greatest of all time such were his achievements. The oxford-born rider was immediately successful as a teenager and his talent was obvious for all to see as he rode 125cc, 250cc, 350cc and 500cc bikes to victory right from the very beginning.

He could jump from one to the other with consummate ease and after winning numerous British Championships, he soon moved on to the world stage, winning his first world title, the 250cc, in 1961 at the age of just 21.

Mike Hailwood
Mike Hailwood, 1961. Credit: Phil Wain’s Family Archive

Do you agree with our Top 80 British Riders of all time? Share your comments below! 

Big thanks to Phil Wain’s Family Archive for the images! 

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11 comments on “80 Best British Riders”

avatarLucy Gardnersays:

Every time I search for my grandfather RJD “Bob” Burnie your list of top riders comes up, but I can’t find any mention of him. He used to race Nortons in the 1940s mainly at Pendine Sands.

avatarSteve Jordansays:

I went to Mallorh Park around 1964 and watched the incredible Mike Hailwood, what a competitor who slways had time for the fans But the 1966 250cc was the clincher when Mike started 1 minute 20 seconds after the first pair. Mike ran and jumped on the iconic Honda 6 wow, people jumped for joy at the sound, it made the hairs stand up on the back of the neck. He got Astrid the bike and did’nt rush of but simply stretched his legs and then his arms to stretch and get comfortable in his leathers, then just let rip, what a soud, it was second to none including the fabulous V10 F1 cars of 10 to 15 years ago.
I saw Mike and Agostini race many times but never seen Ago beat Mike though I know he did.
However, I was devastated a couple of years ago when the world’s top riders ‘voted who was the greatest rider ever, and all ten riders voted Agostini, those voting included Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi who prompted Marc to fote for Ago. I was shocked that Agostini did’nt give Hailwood even a mention
My view after seeing them many times Mike Hailwood a d Marc Marquez, both superb riders and great characters

avatarm dentonsays:

i was at hillberry 1967 tt.when hailwood came past i never seen anything like. on the limit and beyond .the big honda handled like a camel. and to return 11 years later and win again.


Not a mention of John Mooneyes Cooper- he built the bikes -unlike most of the above, rode them and won more races than most. The most overlooked rider- still riding a 750cc at 84 today

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