Year of the GOAT Cast Your Vote | Events
Some say it’s obvious, others say that it’s impossible to answer. Either way, it’s a question worth discussing… Who is the Greatest Of All Time?
It’s the oldest argument among fans of any sport: who is the greatest ever? Is Pelé the greatest footballer of all time? Is Muhammad Ali the greatest boxer of all time? Is Michael Schumacher the greatest car racer of all time?
Some would also argue that it is the most futile of arguments. After all, how can you compare Schumacher with Juan Manuel Fangio, Ali with Mike Tyson, or Pelé with Cristiano Ronaldo?
But we can’t help doing it, can we? Which brings us to motorcycle racing and the big question: is Valentino Rossi the greatest motorcycle racer ever?
Fans have been hailing him as the greatest of all time (a tribute now abbreviated to the ugly acronym GOAT) for many years, specifically since he won five consecutive premier-class titles, a feat matched only by Giacomo Agostini and Mick Doohan.
Before that run of 500cc two-stroke and MotoGP four-stroke titles, which stretched from 2001 to 2005, he had already triumphed in the 125 and 250 classes, and since then he has won two further MotoGP titles. Now, after his doldrum years at Ducati he is winning again and challenging for a 10th world title.
If there were any doubters, most have surely been swayed by this stunning return to form.
At the age of 36 he is racing and beating riders who were schoolkids or even toddlers when he was winning his first world championships. When Rossi made his Grand Prix debut on 31 March 1996, Marc Márquez had just celebrated his third birthday.
Rossi has now been winning GPs for 18 years and premier-class GPs for 15 years, comfortably eclipsing the sport’s most evergreen heroes. The other longest-lasting careers belong to Agostini, Phil Read and Alex Barros, whose first and final premier-class victories only spanned 11 seasons (12 in the case of Barros).
Of course Rossi is too modest to claim that he is the GOAT. All he will say is that he’s somewhere in motorcycle racing’s all-time top three, along with 60s and 70s aces Agostini and Mike Hailwood…
Read the full feature in AMCN Vol 65 No 02
And so we put it to you…
Top 10 GOAT Contenders
01 Geoff Duke
The Duke was the first to score a world title double, the first to defend a crown, the first to win the 500cc title on different bikes and the first to score a title hat-trick.
02 John Surtees
The man who turned MV Agusta into the dominant force in Grand Prix racing was a master at technical development and of smooth, calculated riding.
03 Mike Hailwood
Probably the only serious rival to Rossi’s GOAT title, Hailwood had a wondrous ability to ride anything and everything to the absolute limit.
04 Giacomo Agostini
Still the GOAT if you only take numbers into account. The black mark against him is the huge tech advantage he enjoyed during most of his career.
05 Angel Nieto
People who worked with Nieto say he was as good as any of the best 500 riders, but staying away from the class of kings ruins his claims.
06 Mick Doohan
Doohan won five titles and might have made it six or seven if he hadn’t been horribly hurt in 1992. His comeback from injury is the stuff of legend.
07 Wayne Rainey
Rainey mastered 500 two-strokes when they were at their nastiest, winning a title hat-trick against Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan and Kevin Schwantz.
08 Casey Stoner
A sublime natural talent to ride a motorcycle at the ragged edge, but he didn’t stick around long enough to be seriously considered the GOAT.
09 Jorge Lorenzo
Lorenzo is up there in the numbers game. He recently surpassed Doohan in the all-time winners’ league so he’s certainly worthy of serious consideration.
10 Eddie Lawson
Along with Duke and Rossi, the only man to win the premier class with two different manufacturers. He was the Lorenzo of his day: inch-perfect, every lap.