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The British Grand Prix - a trip down memory lane

Author: MOTO GP Press Release
Posted on: Saturday, Jan 17 2009

MotoGP racing is to return to Silverstone next season and the track has previously hosted two-wheeled Grands Prix on ten occasions, in a decade-long period which commenced in 1977.

Indeed, Britain is one of only three countries, along with Italy and The Netherlands, that has hosted a Grand Prix event in each of the 58 years since the world championship series was originated back in 1949.

Initially the British round of the championship series comprised the Isle of Man TT races, from 1949 to 1976, before the switch to Silverstone. Since 1987 Donington Park has hosted the British Grand Prix and 2009 will see the 23rd consecutive World Championship event at the Midlands circuit, before GP racing returns to Northamptonshire in 2010.

The first ever 500cc British Grand Prix race in 1949 saw home rider Harold Daniell take victory on Norton machinery at the Isle of Man TT, whilst another Briton, Freddie Frith, took victory in the now defunct 350cc class and 250cc glory went to Irishman Manliefe Barrington.

During the 1950s and 1960s home riders enjoyed great 500cc success at the TT, with some famous British names such as Geoff Duke, John Surtees and Mike `The Bike´ Hailwood carrying off numerous premier class wins on the island. Four time 500cc World title winner Hailwood in particular was a big fan of the TT and en route to his additional three 250cc crowns and two 350cc championships he secured 14 wins in an 18 year period at the event across all categories.

The death of Italian rider Gilberto Parlotti at the 1972 Grand Prix - when he had been leading the 125cc World Championship - and the subsequent boycott of the event by several elite riders, including the legendary Giacomo Agostini (who had taken five consecutive 500cc wins on the island from 1968 to 1972) eventually resulted in a move to mainland England.

Ireland´s Tom Herron went down in history as the winner of the last 500cc Grand Prix race held on the island in 1976, before the Silverstone became the new home of the British Grand Prix the following year.

The World Championship´s decade-long stint at Silverstone commencing in 1977 coincided with the start of a golden era for American riders in Grand Prix racing with the likes of U.S. stars Kenny Roberts (three 500cc Silverstone wins), Randy Mamola (two 500cc victories at Silverstone) Pat Hennen and Freddie Spencer (one Silverstone win each) enjoying great form at the southern English track.

Roberts´ last gasp victory over home favourite Barry Sheene at Silverstone in 1979 is remembered as one of the greatest races of all-time, whilst the likes of Roberts´ and Sheene´s fellow MotoGP Legend Wayne Gardner (at the last ever GP visit to Silverstone in 1986) and 1982 500cc World Champion Franco Uncini also tasted victory at the circuit.

Since 1987 Donington too has seen many historically significant races, with the inaugural premier class victory at the track going to American Eddie Lawson, before 1988´s start to finish win by Wayne Rainey and three consecutive 1989-91 triumphs for yet another great U.S. competitor Kevin Schwantz.

Schwantz later secured a fourth and final Donington win in 1994, the last of his 25 GP successes, before Aussie MotoGP Mick Doohan took three consecutive victories from 1995. The 2000 British GP gave Valentino Rossi his first ever premier-class race win and he has subsequently enjoyed four more victories on British soil.

When Silverstone welcomes MotoGP back next year The Doctor is likely to be in the hunt for another historic win, whilst the likes of 2006 British GP winner Dani Pedrosa and the 2007 & 2008 Donington Park victor Casey Stoner will surely be doing their very best to halt the Italian´s progress.

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