The era of Mike Hailwood, Geoff Duke, Jim Redman and Giacomo Agostini is often seen as the greatest period in motorcycle racing, but you’ll also find plenty of people (particularly in the UK and U.S) looking to the days of Sheene, and Roberts. Then again, the 1980s saw the battles between Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Wayne Gardner and Kevin Schwantz, before the decade dominance of Mick Doohan was followed by the Rossi era. And now we have Lorenzo, Pedrosa and particularly Marquez battling at every race.
So which period of motorcycle racing is the best?
The best motorcycle racing era – The definitive answer:
The answer is actually extremely simple, if you’re willing to admit it. The golden age of motorcycle racing is the time when you first started going to watch races and enjoyed it the most.
Like your first true love, whether on two wheels or two legs, there was the thrill of getting to the circuit and hearing the noise of bikes circulating during practice. The joy of turning up somewhere where the car park saw the motorcycles outnumber cars. And the knowledge you could spend a day talking about bikes without someone feeling the need to quote accident statistics at you – generally not even on the Bikesafe stand where the police are more interested in talking about improving your riding and seeing if they can watch some of the racing if they stand in the right spot.
Brands Hatch will always be the best UK circuit in my opinion. Regardless of the natural amphitheatre around the Indy circuit, or the dramatic crowd noise as bikes reappear under the bridge, or the space you can always find by tracking out to the back of the track, none of those reasons are why I’ll pick it above Donington, Silverstone, Cadwell etc.
It’s because it’s completely linked with watching BSB and WSB with my dad and mates, having usually survived a hungover pillion ride, and an underage hair of the dog – still young enough to imagine that I could have a go at racing one day, enjoying tracking the performances of as many riders in as many classes as possible, and the bikes I hoped to own in the future.
And because years later I was able to mix working in the paddock, and the pleasures of an air-conditioned press office, with nipping out to catch up with my mates and a pint. There’s a definite difference between dodging scooters piled with tyres when you have a purpose for being there and mooching through with the rest of the crowds. I still remember being at Oulton Park long after even the race transporters had left, drinking a beer found in a fridge and then having to climb over a gate to leave with a colleague.
Racing changes, people don’t:
Of course, racing has evolved over the years. Pudding basin helmets and hay bales have been replaced by air fences and media-trained riders who ensure they are wearing the right baseball caps and watches for their sponsors as soon as they are in parc ferme. But try explaining that racing was better in the old days to a 15-year-old screaming themselves hoarse to support Scott Redding at Silverstone last weekend. Or better yet, let them build their own golden age of racing to bore their kids with in 20+ years.