Top 10 Closest Racing Finishes of all time…
If there’s one thing that makes motorcycle racing stand out from its engine-driven counterparts, its close racing. For as long as the sport’s been going, races have been decided by fractions, some closer than that, and whether it’s the high speed roads of Northern Ireland or the ups and downs of Mugello or Phillip Island, we’ve all witnessed some unbelievably close finishes. Here’s a look at some of the finest.…
1975 Dutch 500cc Grand Prix
The 1975 Dutch 500cc Grand Prix remains the only dead heat in the history of the premier GP category as Barry Sheene and Giacomo Agostini were awarded the same time although it’s arguably, not the closest ever finish as, at that time, the timing system only had an accuracy of 0.01s.
Having claimed pole position, Sheene shadowed his rival for much of the race, constantly showing his front wheel to the right hand side of Agostini’s bike as the pair swept through the final chicane. The Italian, mindful of an overtaking attempt by the young Brit, started to take a tighter, more protective line but it was merely a ruse as Sheene waited until the final lap to make his move on the left hand side, catching Agostini off guard.
Sheene’s faster exit speed eventually saw him get the verdict and his win on the RG500 Suzuki gave the Japanese manufacturer their first win in the class. It was also his first major win since his well-publicised 175mph crash at Daytona earlier in the year. He would win again at Anderstorp, Sweden before going on to clinch the title in both 1976 and 1977 with five and six wins respectively.
1977 350cc North West 200
The 1977 350cc race at the North West 200 is still talked about as arguably the greatest seen around the Triangle circuit as Tony Rutter and Ray McCullough raced shoulder to shoulder for more than sixty-six miles and at an average of over 114mph.
The duo had both featured as first lap leaders with Alan Stewart briefly splitting them on the second lap before dropping back into the clutches of the chasing Ian Richards, Graham Waring and Neil Tuxworth as the leading two set a pace no-one else could live with.
They started the fifth lap side by side and even though Rutter set a new lap record of 116.44mph he still couldn’t shake off the close attentions of McCullough, one of Northern Ireland’s greatest ever road racers. The Ulsterman regained the lead at Coleraine, much to the delight of the partisan 80,000 crowd but by the Metropole they were side by side once more.
That was how it remained along the final run along the coast road and as they swept around Quarry Hill and made the dash towards the line. Rutter nipped out of McCullough’s slipstream, pulling to the left hand side of the road, and they crossed the line in perfect tandem with the judges unable to separate them. It remains the only dead heat in the history of the event.
1995 BSB Snetterton
The 1995 BSB season saw Steve Hislop and James Whitham mounted on identical 916cc Ducati’s, Hislop in the pink and blue colours of Devimead and Whitham on the Rob McElnea-managed Moto Cinelli machine, and they soon established a stranglehold on the series.
After Whitham took the double at Mallory, the duo shared the race wins at Oulton but if the latter had produced close racing then the second race at Snetterton was something else. After Whitham won the first race, it was Hislop who set the pace in the second encounter only for the Yorkshire rider to reel him in.
Such was their pace, they opened up a 14s gap over third placed Matt Llewellyn but just as it looked like Hislop had opened up enough of a margin to win, he missed a gear on the last lap coming out of the final chicane. It allowed Whitham to draw level as they crossed the line and for the first – and only – time in BSB, neither timing equipment nor video evidence could determine who the winner was and it was officially declared a dead heat.
1961 350cc race Southern 100
The 1961 Southern 100 meeting was certainly memorable, not just for Phil Read becoming only the second rider to do the double or for John Hartle’s only appearance at Billown, comfortably winning the 250cc race on the Honda-4, but mainly for the dead heat between Read and Alan Shepherd in the 350cc race.
The pair were in close company throughout as Shepherd broke the long standing class lap record on his sixth circuit only for Read to respond and set a quicker time on the final lap. The officials had made an error with no-one positioned on the start/finish and as the pair flashed across the line side by side, it went to a judge’s decision. A dead heat was declared with opinion split amongst the spectators at the grandstand as to who had actually won
There was also a dead heat between Alan Dugdale and Alan Smith in the 1988 Classic race whilst the 2014 meeting almost produced a third when Dean Harrison defeated James Cowton in the second Lightweight race by just 0.001s. Indeed, there have been no less than 15 more races decided by a margin of 0.1s or less around the 4.25-mile circuit!
2011 125cc GP, Sachsenring
It’s no surprise to see numerous 125cc Grand Prix races amongst the closest ever finishes in racing and they didn’t come any closer than the 2011 German Grand Prix when Spain’s Hector Faubel and Johann Zarco of France finished in a dead heat after almost 40 minutes of racing.
The race saw as many as seven riders in contention for the win with Faubel, Zarco, Efren Vazquez, Maverick Vinales, Nicolas Terol, Luis Salom and Sergio Gadea all taking their turns at the front but coming into the last corner it looked like Faubel had done enough. However, Zarco had a smoother entry and faster exit and pulled alongside as they took the chequered flag.
With neither the photo finish nor electronics able to decide, Faubel was eventually declared the winner due to the rules stating that dead heats are broken by awarding the victory to the rider with the fastest race lap.
2012 Australian Superbike Championship – Phillip Island
This 2012 Australian Superbike Championship race, held alongside the MotoGP races at Phillip Island, was as close to a dead heat you’ll get as Jamie Stauffer defeated Honda team-mate Wayne Maxwell by just 0.001 seconds
It was a breath-taking finish, as Maxwell edged up alongside Stauffer along Gardner Straight for the final time, but fell agonisingly short of pinching what would have been a stirring victory. But the rejuvenated Stauffer – he had been the dominant force in the Aussie Superbike outings prior to Phillip Island – just got the verdict.
Having worked tirelessly on the set-up of the CBR1000RR, Stauffer was delighted to get one over Maxwell, regarded by many as the man to beat at Phillip Island. 2012 Australian Superbike champion, and former BSB rider, Josh Waters (Suzuki) finished in third place, but had been held back by a third row starting position. Although he pulled to within a second of the Maxwell-Stauffer dice, he had asked too much of his rear tyre in the chase and decided to err on the side of caution and settle for the final rostrum spot.
2006 125cc GP, Mugello
The 2006 125cc GP at Mugello was another classic as a seven-man freight train fought tooth and nail around the undulating hills of the Tuscany circuit.
It was the Derbi of Lucas Pesek that set pole from Mattia Pasini and Hector Faubel and as the race unfolded they were joined at the head of the field by Alvaro Bautista, Sergio Gadea, Mika Kallio and Julian Simon. The leaders changed places frequently although it was primarily Bautista who led each time they crossed the line.
However, it was Pesek who was in front as they entered the final bend and seemingly favourite for the win but the Czech Republic rider made a tactical error as he looked over his shoulder subsequently running wide. Pasini and Bautista both cut inside for a three-way run to the line and it was the Italian Pasini who was given the win by just one thousandth of a second.
2014 Ulster GP Superstock race
Dan Kneen claimed his first ever International road race victory as he got the better of Dean Harrison in the 2014 Ulster Grand Prix Superstock race by just 0.001s, the closest ever finish in the history of the event. The lead changed hands three to four times every lap with Bruce Anstey also in the mix and just 0.107s covered the trio at the chequered flag.
It was Harrison who grabbed the lead initially but it was close and only one and a half seconds split Harrison, Kneen and Anstey at the end of the opening lap. Second time around and Harrison’s lead over Kneen was just 0.04s with Anstey only half a second further back as the front three exchanged positions for the remainder of the race.
Going into the final lap, the leading trio came along the Flying Kilo three abreast and Kneen hit the front at Rock Bends only for Harrison to fight back at Deer’s Leap. Kneen re-took the lead at Cochranstown before Harrison went ahead at Ireland’s and then Kneen was back ahead approaching the hairpin.
Harrison dived up the inside and looked like he might have done enough but Kneen closed in through Quarry Bends and went round the outside of Harrison as they flashed across the line with Anstey opting for the inside line. Everyone waited for the timing screens and it was Kneen who got the verdict from Harrison and Anstey.
2006 Moto GP race, Estoril
The Portuguese GP of 2006 is remembered for two main reasons – Dani Pedrosa wiping out Repsol Honda team-mate Nicky Hayden (almost wrecking his title chances) and the thrilling finish that saw Toni Elias grab his only Moto GP win.
Valentino Rossi was in command in the early stages but he was unable to make the breakaway he wanted and he came under increasing pressure from firstly Colin Edwards and then Elias and Kenny Roberts jnr.
The Spaniard, sliding spectacularly, closed a two-second gap to Rossi in the space of five laps, taking the lead for the first time on the 22nd lap. Rossi retaliated immediately as Edwards and Roberts jnr caught up and it was the latter who hit the front on the penultimate lap.
However, the American had gone a lap early, thinking it was the last lap, and both Rossi and Elias swept by. Rossi made a block pass move on Elias at the chicane but the Fortuna Honda rider fought back and with a better run out of the last corner, pulled alongside and moved inches ahead for his maiden win. Just 0.864s covered the quartet at the chequered flag.
2010 World Superbike Championship, Phillip Island
It took a look at the photo finish image to split Leon Haslam from his race long rival Michel Fabrizio, but by only 0.004 seconds the Alstare Suzuki rider was given the win for the closest ever finish in the history of WSB.
Haslam added his first career win to his first ever pole position start, to take an early championship lead but a last corner charge from the Ducati of Fabrizio almost paid off. The finish was so close that the Italian was originally given the win but closer examination showed that Haslam had a tyre width advantage after almost 100 kilometres of racing, giving the English rider his first ever win in WSB.
Although Andrea Migno’s winning margin was a somewhat ‘gigantic ‘ 0.037s, special mention should also go to the 2017 Italian Moto3 GP race at Mugello where, after 19 laps of frantic action, the top 20 were covered by two seconds!!!