Four-time World Champion Kork Ballington will become a MotoGP Legend this season, set to be inducted into the MotoGP Legends Hall of Fame at the Australian GP at Phillip Island.
Ballington won double titles in 1978 and 1979, taking the crown in the 250 and 350 World Championships.
The South African took his first podium in 1976, in the 250 World Championship, when he came second in the West German Grand Prix. And at the next event, Ballington took his first win – this time in the 350 World Championship – in the Spanish Grand Prix. 1977 saw more podiums and wins – his first 250 victory coming at Silverstone – before the South African made his charge for the crowns.
Ballington began 1978 off the podium in both Championships, but then won the 350 Austrian GP at the Salzburgring as his first visit to the rostrum that year. Also on the podium next time out, the eventual Champion in both classes then took both the 250 and 350 wins at the Nations GP at Mugello, and that was something he repeated in Finland and at Brno. Overall Ballington took four 250 wins and six 350 wins on the way to winning both titles in 1978.
1979 was a similar story, as the South African on the Kawasaki dominated. Seven 250 wins – achieved three-in-a-row and then four-in-a-row – saw him defend that crown, and five wins in the 350 World Championship wrapped that up for the second year running, too.
For 1980 Ballington targeted the 250 and 500 Championships and was runner up in the lower category after another five wins; also taking some solid top ten results on the 500. His first podiums in the premier class came the year after with rostrum finishes in the Netherlands and Finalnd, before a final year of competition in 1980 prefaced the four-time World Champion’s retirement. Now, Ballington joins the ranks of MotoGP Legends.
“I am overwhelmed and spent the day reflecting on my journey since as a young boy I was gripped by the desire to become intimate with motorcycles and embarked on the incredible journey which still affects all aspects of my life to this day in such a positive way,” says Ballington. “To join the elite group already on the list is such an honour. I am deeply humbled that I am to become one of them. Throughout my career I never expected or made it a goal to become recognised. My focus was just on giving the best account of myself while honouring the true values of sportsmanship and respect for fellow competitors and those members of the GP fraternity who followed the values. Recognition became a by-product of success and this recognition of my achievements has followed me to this day.
“This induction as a MotoGP Legend is a new high for me. It will be a pleasure to attend the Australian GP. I will bring my wife, Bronwyn who was an integral part of the whole journey. We have been together for 50 years and married for 40. It’s a long time! Thank you very much. I am deeply touched.”
Ballington will join a long list of greats that have been made MotoGP Legends that includes Giacomo Agostini, Mick Doohan, Geoff Duke, Wayne Gardner, Mike Hailwood, Daijiro Kato, Eddie Lawson, Anton Mang, Angel Nieto, Wayne Rainey, Phil Read, Jim Redman, Kenny Roberts, Jarno Saarinen, Kevin Schwantz, Barry Sheene, Marco Simoncelli, Freddie Spencer, Casey Stoner, John Surtees, Carlo Ubbiali, Alex Crivillé, Franco Uncini, Marco Lucchinelli, Randy Mamola and the late Nicky Hayden.