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British Motorcycle Champions

Ahead of BSB and TT day at Motorcycle Live Online 2020, we took a look back on some of Britain’s greatest TT racers.

We boast an embarrassment of riches when it comes to truly great British motorcycle champions, men and women who have ridden their machines that little bit harder, that little bit faster, to shave seconds from lap records and win more races than the rest of the field. 

The team at Bikesure have checked the records of countless famous motorcycle riders and here we identify a dozen who have reached the status of motorcycle legends because of their skill and stamina, their prowess, panache and their courage and commitment on two wheels. 

In no particular order, the dynamic dozen are a diverse bunch coming from each decade of the past 50 years. But they are united by their will to win and their all-conquering need for speed on two wheels. They are truly great British motorcycle champions. 

Grand Prix Champions

Barry Sheene

Barry Sheene MBE, (September 11, 1950 – March, 10, 2003) the poster boy of 70s British MotoGP riders, was a two-time world champion, winning consecutive 500cc titles in 1976 and 1977. Sheene began competitive racing in 1968, winning his first races at Brands Hatch on his father Frank’s 125cc and 250cc Bultacos. Sheene’s battle with American Kenny Roberts at the 1979 Silverstone GP was one of the greatest motorcycle races of the 70s. He was one of the best know British motorcycle champions and throughout his career he was outspoken in his criticism of what he considered to be dangerous tracks, most notably the Isle of Man TT course, which he considered too dangerous for world championship competition.

Ron Haslam

In a career spanning more than 30 years, Ron Haslam (born 22 June, 1954) won three world titles and four British motorcycle championships. One of 10 children, he raced from the age of 15 despite the loss of two of his brothers in motorcycle accidents, and he continued until he was 50.

Haslam was runner-up in the 750 British championship in 1975, 76 and 77 and second in the British F1 series in 1978. As well as his British and world titles, he won the 1979 British TT F1, the 1981 MCN British Streetbike – when he won seven out of eight rounds – the 1982 British TT F1 and the 1984 ITV World of Sport Superbike series. He also won the Macau GP a record six times. Nowadays he spends much of his time helping his son, Leon, and other biking stars of the future at his race school at Donington Park, Leicestershire. 

TT Champions

British Motorcycle Champions

John McGuinness

John McGuinness (born April 16, 1972) is bestowed with legendary biking status after clocking up no less than 23 Isle of Man TT wins. He has a long association with Honda and had some success taking part in the Irish North West 200, the Macau Grand Prix and on the short tracks in the British Superstock and Supersport series. In May 2017 he suffered serious injuries during practice in Northern Ireland, putting him out for the rest of the season.

Complications with his injury meant he could only complete a Parade lap of the TT circuit on a Norton SG4 in June 2018, but he returned in August to win the 2018 Classic TT on the 500cc Paton. In 2013 his legendary motorcycling status was confirmed when a left-hand bend on the Snaefell Mountain Course used for TT races was named McGuinness’s in recognition of his wins.

Steve Hislop

‘Hizzy’ Hislop (January 11, 1962 – July 30, 2003) won at the Isle of Man TT 11 times, the British 250cc Championship in 1990 and the British Superbike championship in 1995 and 2002.

Devastated but undeterred by his brother’s death in a motorcycle racing accident in 1982, Hislop tackled the Isle of Manfor the first time a year later finishing second in the newcomers’ race at the Manx Grand Prix. On short circuits, his first success came in the 250cc British Championship in 1990. The British Superbike Championship followed in 1995. 

His last championship success came in 2002 when he won the British Superbike series on a Ducati. Hislop died when piloting his Robinson R44 helicopter in July 2003. He was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in March 2010.

Maria Costllo

Costello (born June 9, 1973), the first woman to make the list of great British motorcycle champions is a former Guinness World Record holder for being the fastest woman to lap the Isle of Man TT course, at an average speed of 114.73 mph, finishing 8th in the senior race to collect a silver replica award. She has gone on to win a further seven silver replicas and one bronze replica award in the island races.

Costello was the first woman in the history of the TTs to stand on the podium when she took third place in the Ultra Lightweight category of the 2005 Manx Grand Prix. In her debut at the North West 200 Irish road race she came third in the 400cc class on a Honda RVF400, placing her 7th overall, in the joint 125 cc/400cc race. She also raced in both 60 cc classes on her Honda CBR600RR.

Joey Dunlop

In 2016 Joey Dunlop OBE (February 25, 1952 – July 2, 2000) from Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, was voted the 5th greatest motorcycling icon ever by Motorcycle News. He enjoyed three hat-tricks at the Isle of Man (1985, 1988 and 2000), where he won a record 26 races. He was awarded the MBE in 1986 for his services to the sport, and in 1996 he was awarded the OBE for his humanitarian work for children in Romanian orphanages, to which he had delivered clothing and food. Dunlop has also featured in a number of TV documentaries about his career. Revered by motorcycle racing fans Dunlop’s shy and unassuming persona, made him a real working class hero across the biking world.

Superbike Champions

Carl Fogarty

Carl Fogarty

Fans’ favourite Foggy (born July 1, 1965) won four World Superbike Championships (1994, 1995, 1998 and 1999) in the process clocking up 59 wins. He was made an MBE in 1998 and, in some people’s eyes, topped everything by being named King of the Jungle in the 2014 series of “I’m a Celebrity… Get me Out of Here”.

This British motorcycling champion retired from racing through injury in 2000, but was renowned for his high corner speed and aggressive competitiveness. Most of his success on the track had come while riding for Ducati. During his retirement from racing he founded the Foggy Petronas team competing in the World Superbike Championships. Foggy is currently an ambassador for the Bikesure insurance brand.

Shane Byrne

Often known as Shakey, Byrne (born December 10, 1976), is a record six-time winner of the British Superbike Championship with successes in 2003, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017. He has also been a race winner in the Superbike World Championship and has competed in MotoGP. Byrne was talent spotted while working as a road tester for Fast Bikes magazine.  

He emerged in the British Superbike Championship in 1999, initially on a private Kawasaki. In 2001 he finished eighth in the championship on a Suzuki, scoring five top-five finishes, and winning the Privateers’ Cup with 22 race wins out of 26. In 2014 he was presented with the Torrens Trophy in recognition of his multiple Superbike Championship wins. In May 2018 Byrne suffered multiple fractures and serious injuries to his upper body after crashing at Snetterton. He has since returned to the sport as an occasional TV motorcycle race commentator.

Niall Mackenzie

Mackenzie (born July 19, 1961) won the British Superbike Championship three times from 1996 to 1998 with the Rob McElnea-run Yamaha team, and the British 250cc and 350cc titles twice earlier in his career. He made his Grand Prix motorcycle racing debut in 1984 in the 250cc class. He moved up to the 500cc class in 1986 on a Suzuki before spells on Honda and Yamaha motorcycles. He was 4th in the championship in 1990, and finished in the top 10 on five other occasions. His final racing season was the 2000 British Superbike series, although he did a farewell one-off at Knockhill in 2001 and stood in for the injured Yukio Kagayama at Donington Park in 2003.

Supersport Champions

Jenny Tinmouth

Tinmouth (born March 8, 1978), the second female British motorcycle champions in our list is the current female Isle of Man TT lap record holder, breaking the record during her first TT in 2009 and gaining a Guinness World Record in the process. She broke her own record during her second TT in 2010, with an average lap speed of 119.945mph.

Tinmouth has achieved countless firsts for women. She was the first to qualify for the British 125GP championship and a host of other male dominated competitions. She was the first to lead and score points in a British Championship Race, the first to stand on the podium and the first to win a British Championship Race with a win in the Supersport Cup in 2010. Tinmouth was also the first British woman to race in World Supersport and the first to race a superbike with Rizla Suzuki in 2007. Tinmouth also won the first UK Electric Bike Championship in 2010.

Speedway Champions

British Motorcycle Champions

Scott Nichols

Nicholls (born May 16, 1978) has won the British Speedway Championship seven times, and was a full participant in the Speedway Grand Prix series between 2002 and 2008. Ipswich born Nichols began his speedway career in grasstrack racing, becoming National Schoolboy champion in 1993. His first international appearance came in 1996 when he was selected to ride for Great Britain in the Speedway World Cup final. He then became British Under-21 Champion in 1998 and again in 1999. His first experience of the Speedway Grand Prix series came with a wild card ride in Britain. He qualified as a full-time Grand Prix rider in 2002 and capped that season with a second place in the season ending event in Australia. That year he also won the first of his six British Championships, with his sixth occurring in 2011.

Trials Champions

Dougie Lampkin

The seven-times motorcycle trials world champion Dougie Lampkin (born March 23, 1976) is the second most successful trials rider of all time. Born into a motorcycling dynasty with a father and uncle very successful before him, he won five consecutive World Indoor Championships between 1997 and 2001 and seven consecutive World Outdoor Championships between 1997 and 2003. He has also won four World Team Championships (1997, 1999, 2002 and 2003), six British Adult Championships, two Spanish Adult Championships and the Scott Trial on five occasions. Lampkin was made an MBE for services to his sport in 2001. 

Do you agree?

Did the team at Bikesure include your favourite British Motorcycle legend from the past 50 years or did they not make the cut? Share your views, memories or photographs on Facebook or Twitter, or by leaving a comment on the blog. 

Champion motorcycle insurance

If you want to follow in the tyre tracks of any of Bikesure’s British motorcycle champions you will need suitable insurance. And we have an exclusive discount scheme for members of Motorsport UK. Bikesure can even offer track day cover from as little as £67.20. The best deals are only available over the phone: 0333 259 6347.

‘Born again biker’ Carl Fogarty MBE — an ordinary guy from Blackburn

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