10 Best British GP Moments

Phil West
By Phil West
PhilWestNew Former Editor of Bike, ex-Road Test Editor of MCN, ridden more bikes than he can remember. Likes: GTS, Paso, Mantra. Dislikes: own rust bucket LC and 900 T-Bird daily driver.

Can Cal win again? Can Scott get the full set of British GP wins? Here’s our pick (in chronological order) of the previous 10 best Brit GP performances at the British GP.

Barry Sheene, ‘That’ race, 1979

Although twice world champion and the most famous motorcycle racer of all Sheene never won his home GP. He came closest, however, in 1979 in what is now generally regarded as one of the greatest races ever. A two-rider duel with archrival American Kenny Roberts, the pair exchanged the lead throughout the 500cc race. Roberts eventually winning by just 0.03 seconds in one of the closest finishes of all-time. 

Keith Huewen, 2nd, 350GP, 1981

Current MotoGP TV co-commentator Keith Huewen is certain of his place among the great and the good at Silverstone this weekend, but less well known is that he’s among Britain’s most successful GP racers at the Northamptonshire circuit as well. Back in the early days of his racing career, then privateer Huewen, riding a customer Yamaha TZ350, snatched a memorable second in the 350 class between the all-dominant works Kawasaki’s of Mang and Balde.

Andy Watts, 2nd, 250GP, 1984

Heuwen’s impressive 1981 performance was virtually repeated three years later by privateer Andy Watts who, riding for EMC, managed to snatch second to give the small British team its best-ever international result in the 250 class. The race, incidentally, was won by Frenchman Christian Sarron aboard the Sonauto Yamaha on his way to that year’s 250cc world championship.

Alan Carter, leader, 250cc GP, 1985

Famously, Carter, at 18 years and 227 days, became the youngest winner of a 250 GP when he won, astonishingly, the 1981 French GP. Just as famously, he never fulfilled his potential or won another GP. In 1985, however, in horrendously wet conditions at Silverstone, he came close when he led the race until mid distance, crashing and re-starting to finish seventh. The following year, in 2nd with three laps to go, he binned it again and ended up punching a marshal.

Ian McConnachie, winner, 80cc GP, 1986

The Derbyshire rider spent his early career devoted to lightweights and was among Britain’s most credible title hopes when he came fifth overall in 1987 and sixth in both 1985 and 1986 aboard a Krauser. The latter also saw his best race result when he famously won the 80cc British GP. He later returned to national racing and was a regular winner in the 125cc, 250cc and Supersport 400cc classes.

Niall Mackenzie, 500GP leader, 1989

Plucky Scot was arguably Britain’s best premier class GP rider since Sheene yet never quite got the win his performances deserved. That nearly changed in 1989 at Donington when, riding for Marlboro Yamaha, Mackenzie briefly got ahead of 500 gods Lawson, Rainey and Schwantz to lead, sending the home crowd delirious. Unfortunately, with his front tyre going off, he eventually slipped to fourth, but still got to share the podium.

Carl Fogarty, 2nd (briefly), 500GP, 1993

The Blackburn rider may be mostly known for his world superbike performances, where he was four-time world champion, but he still made a handful of appearances in the 500cc GP class before focusing on supers. In 1990 he claimed a creditable sixth aboard a Honda NSR500 deputising for the injured Frankie Chili. Then, in 1993, he made a one-off return with Cagiva where he qualified fifth and rose as high as second in the race, before being slowed by brake and fuel problems to finish fourth.

Jeremy McWilliams, 3rd, 500cc 2000

The veteran Ulsterman may have spent most of his career in the smaller classes but at Donington in slimy conditions in 2000 aboard the factory Aprilia he was less than a second away from a first British premier class win. A missed gear on the final lap during an intense three-way battle left the Ulsterman third and Kenny Roberts second. And the winner? Valentino Rossi – his first 500 class victory.

Scott Redding, winner 125 2008 & Moto2 2013

Which to choose? In 2008, at Donington Park, the golden boy of British GP racing won the 125cc British GP to become the youngest ever winner of a GP race, a title he still holds. Then, in 2013, he went one better by winning the Moto2 race at the event, by then at Silverstone. Now riding for the Pramac Ducati team could he complete the full set this weekend?

Danny Kent, winner, Moto3, 2015

Kent’s Moto3 world championship last year deservedly is the larger accomplishment, in the process ending Britain’s 38-year wait for a Grand Prix world champion, but his victory along the way at the British round at Silverstone is still a highlight. His home victory aboard the Honda was actually just one of six victories in his race to the crown.

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