The 10 best (non-GP) bike races ever

We've asked top racing pundits to name their best non-Grand Prix races. And here they are...

10

10. 2000 BRANDS HATCH, WORLD SUPERSPORT, JORG TEUCHERT & OTHERS

In a complicated and close season, the strong favourite Jšrg Teuchert (Alpha Technik Yamaha) was taken out at the penultimate race by his own team-mate Christian Kellner (Alpha Technik Yamaha) while in the lead. The arithmetic of who would be World Champion changed not just lap by lap but corner by corner, and even on the last lap, a pass or two by the riders behind eventual winner Karl Muggeridge would have seen virtually any one of the possible four champions go from winner to fourth.

As it turned out, James Whitham was instrumental in the final analysis. Had Whit overhauled Jšrg for second the German would not have been World Champion after all. With the top four riders - Muggeridge, Teuchert, Whitham and Kellner covered by only three quarters of a second, it was the most astonishingly tense finish, and surely a flag-to-flag multiple rider championship decider which will remain unmatched in the history of the supersport 600 series.

The 10 best: 9

9

9. 2000 DONINGTON PARK, WORLD SUPERBIKES NEIL HODGSON AND CHRIS WALKER

We miss the wild wildcards in modern day WSB racing, but the best of the wildcard races ever held in this country was in 2000. In that year Noriyuki Haga (West Yamaha) was in contention for the championship win, making the R7 fairly sing. A legendarily tough competitor all round, Haga was to be feared by all - except nobody told the rejuvenated Neil Hodgson (INS Ducati) and perennially pugilistic Chris Walker (Crescent Suzuki) that they should show some respect. They simply battered Haga out of their way as they continued their on-track BSB battles into the World Superbike paddock, and Haga found himself suffering collateral damage to his bodywork and championship score.

Hodgson won the race, Walker went second, Chili third. It was stunning to watch and paved the way for Walker to go into WSB with Suzuki, which he then botched up with a daft decision to go to GPs.

The 10 best: 8

8

8. 2005 OSCHERSLEBEN 24 HOUR, WORLD ENDURANCE

The ultra-professional French Suzuki Castrol team were firm favourites for the 2005 championship when they arrived at the penultimate round, Oschersleben. However, within a few laps of the start the Suzuki Castrol crashed on oil. It rejoined the race but the first pitstop revealed that hot-shot rider Vincent Philippe had a broken wrist. They held first place but the next 23 hours would have to be shared by remaining riders Mattheu Lagrive and Keiichi Kitagawa.

Rivals Yamaha Austria and Phase One piled on the pressure but Phase One's engine blew and the Austrians crashed out just after dawn, leaving deteriorating weather as the main challenge to the exhausted French riders. Suzuki Castrol crossed the line after nine more hours (an entire MotoGP season) of heavy rain to take the win and the World championship.

The 10 best: 7


7

7. 2006 CROFT, BRITISH SUPERBIKES, LEON HASLAM'S IMPOSSIBLE RAIN RIDE

Normally a special race is about one rider and one result. This one was different as Leon Haslam and Karl Harris gave us one of the most fascinating BSB races to date. Initially it appeared that Karl Harris was on for his maiden Superbike win with the HRC HM Plant Honda Team.

The torrential rain gave one of the most naturally talented riders on the grid the perfect opportunity to push aside the regular winners and put his Michelin shod Honda on the top step of the podium. Up until 3/4 race distance it looked like his job was done, but Leon Haslam was on fire and doing things in the wet that normal people simply cannot do as he used his traction control to best effect and took huge chunks out of Karl's lead. Karl was unable to do anything about it and when Leon got in front. Emotions were well and truly split between Haslam's elation and Harris's dismay. In the post-race interview's Karl simply didn't know what to say. An extraordinary race.

The 10 best: 6


6

6. 2003 DUTCH MOTOCROSS GP, MIKAEL PICHON AND STEFAN EVERTS

Mikael Pichon came into 2003 as the reigning 250cc world champion. He rode for the best team, on the best bike - a very special RM250. Rival Stefan Everts was hardly the underdog but he'd recently lost two valuable years to injury. He was riding a new-wave 450cc four-stroke - a Yamaha YZF that in 2003 joined the 250cc two-strokes in the merged 'MXGP' class.

Pichon had won the season opener. At Valkenswaard, the Dutch round, it was Everts who took the early lead. But Pichon came back. Pichon was easily faster, but Everts, the fighter, blocked Pichon's passes. After a lap and a half of capers Pichon's patience wore thin and his passing attempts became tougher. Everts' tactics too became dangerous and Pichon had to be at his best to finally surge past. After having been blocked and ridden off-track too many times his footpeg met with the Yamaha's front wheel spokes.

Everts was forced to pit for a new wheel. It was one of the most brutal motorcross races ever seen, but proved to be Pichon's last super-victory. Everts came back stronger and would take the title. Pichon meanwhile, always the fractious brittle type, slowly imploded in a turmoil of self-doubt. And for the two-stroke too, it marked the end of the road.    

The 10 best: 5

5

5. 2000 OULTON PARK, BRITISH SUPERBIKES NEIL HODGSON'S LAST-TO-FIRST WIN

Niall Mackenzie was Neil Hodgson's team mate that year on the INS GSE Ducatis. "He had been much stronger than me all season so when his bike stopped before the warm up lap and he had to start from the back of the grid I was grateful of the rare opportunity to finish ahead of him.

I shouldn't have tempted fate as he was super angry and super fast that day, not only beating me but everyone else on the grid as well. He was half way through the pack on the first lap and comfortably picked the rest off before getting to the chequered flag first. He won the championship that year from Chris Walker but had he not found that special something that day Suzuki and Walker would have taken the title."          

The 10 best: 4


4

4. 1992 SENIOR TT, ISLE OF MAN STEVE HISLOP AND CARL FOGARTY

Steve Hislop and Carl Fogarty had ridden exotic factory Hondas in the 1991 TT but for the '92 Senior they had much less glamorous mounts. Hizzy rode the Norton rotary he had previously thought a "bit of a joke", while Fogarty rode an ageing Yamaha OW01. The scrap that ensued is now legendary: in what was the fastest-ever TT race at that point, the pair were never separated by more than six seconds, and Foggy set an outright lap record (123.61mph) that would stand for seven years.

Hislop struggled to control the vicious Norton throughout the 226-mile race. "I was hitting bumps and getting lifted up out of my seat," he said afterwards. Fogarty, in response, rode his Yamaha to near destruction. "None of the clocks were working, the front fork seal had gone, the rear brake bent, the rear shock broke," he admitted. "To make matters worse, the exhaust blew coming over the Mountain as I made that final push." His final push resulted in that stunning lap record but it wasn't enough to beat Hislop who took victory by just 4.4 secs.

It was the first time a British bike had won the Senior TT since Mike Hailwood won on a Norton in 1961.    

The 10 best: 3

3

3. 2002 IMOLA WORLD SUPERBIKES, EDWARDS AND BAYLISS

The 2002 championship went down to the last round at Imola. After Troy Bayliss had led early season Colin Edwards mounted the all-time greatest fight backs imaginable winning almost all the races in the second half of the year.

At the final round, at one of the most challenging and beautifully appointed racetracks ever, Edwards' determination and pace had teed up a denouement laden with drama and uncertainty. With so much to play for it was obvious that there would be an element of cat and mouse. Not really, more like two wildcats clawing and spitting their way round one of the more dangerous and high velocity tarmac roller coasters. It was an awesome spectacle from start to heart-stopping finish, and the championship went right down to the final corner, with Edwards claiming a championship win in a champion's fashion. It was bloody spectacular.      

The 10 best: 2


2

2. 1999 DAYTONA 200, MIGUEL DUHAMEL AND MAT MLADIN

To understand the magnitude of Miguel Duhamel's win in the 1999 Daytona 200 you have to go back to June 1998 when Duhamel suffered a compound fracture of his right leg when he crashed into an unprotected wall at New Hampshire Raceway. His femur came through his leathers.

When he arrived in Florida in '99, on crutches, he told his crew he was "just there to do laps and and get some points". The first surprise came on Saturday when he got off his crutches long enough to beat Kurtis Roberts by 0.066 secs in the Supersport. In Sunday's Superbike race Duhamel did it again. Daytona is often decided in the run from the last chicane, along the banking to the chequered flag. Duhamel led Mladin. "I weaved a few times and he got close, but not close enough. (The margin of victory was 0.014 secs.) I didn't even want to celebrate after that. If I could have rode my bike straight to the Hampton Inn and gone straight to sleep, I would've done it."  

The 10 best: 1

1

1. 1987 BRANDS HATCH, TRANSATLANTIC RACE, KEVIN SCHWANTZ AND WAYNE RAINEY

The Transatlantic Races were an incredible phenomenon, for two decades (running through the '70s and '80s) this UK vs USA team event introduced to British and European fans incredible talents that may not otherwise have been seen outside of the States, including the likes of Cal Rayborn, Kenny Roberts and Freddie Spencer. By the late 1980s though, the races were on their last legs.

Their last hurrah came in 1987 when virtual unknowns Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey arrived, tooled up on a Yoshimura GSX-R750 and an American Honda VFR750. Not only did the pair totally shred the competition and the Brands Indy lap record, they did it side-by-side, in a fairing bashing, kickin', punchin' display of furious rivalry that we'd never seen before, nor since. Whether you were stood at Paddock or Clearways, you thought the same thing: 'that's just not possible'. But clearly it was. Jaws hit the floor all around the Kent circuit.

The guys were inspired, for the first race at least, by an offer of £100,000 to a rider if he won all the six Transatlantic races. As Schwantz said later, "We agreed as a team, 'let's see who wins the first one, you guys just go scrap, and then before the second race we'll talk about it'. Well, Wayne wouldn't have nothing to do with it, because I won the first one!"

Kevin and Wayne would fight on like this for another seven years, but if you were there in 1987 you'd argue that no subsequent race was as tough, or as pure since then. A worthy winner.

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