Motorcycle Racing

How grand prix racing has evolved over the last 999 races

Grand prix racing began in 1949 at the TT. From the off, it produced heroes, like Umberto Masetti - pictured here on a Gilera in 1950

To instantly clarify confusion that will undoubtedly crop up over this week’s celebrations: no, this is not the 1000th MotoGP – or premier class – race.

The 2023 French GP is the 1000th grand prix event – an important distinction, with 48 of those events not featuring the premier class, the most recent being the COVID-affected 2020 Qatar GP when only Moto2 and Moto3 took part.

Should calendar lengths stay the same as they are now, with 20 event scheduled for 2023, the 1000th premier class grand prix is due to take place at the second round of the 2025 season. For now, Le Mans will mark 952 premier class events.

Pedantry dispensed with, this milestone in grand prix motorcycle racing history offers us a chance to look at how much things have evolved over the last 73 years.

In 1948, a meeting of the motorcycle federation – what we know now as the FIM, but was back then known as Federation Internationale des Clubs Motocyclistes – decided that a grand prix world championship should be formed.

Comprising of the 500cc class – now MotoGP – 350cc, 250cc, 125cc and Sidecar class, points would be awarded depending on finishing position and for fastest lap.

For 1949, points were awarded down to fifth place, with 10 going to the winner, eight for second, seventh for third, six for fourth and five for fifth. This was the only year of that scoring method, with eight, six, four, three, two and one for sixth used from 1950 to 1968, while fastest lap point was abandoned.

Grand prix racing began in 1949 at the TT. From the off, it produced heroes, like Umberto Masetti – pictured here on a Gilera in 1950

The first round of this new world championship took place in June of 1949 at the Isle of Man TT, which held world championship status until 1977.

The famous – and deadly – 37.35-mile TT course saw 59 riders take to the start of the very first 500cc event in world championship history. Of the 59, 35 made it to the chequered flag, with Harold Daniell on a Norton becoming the very first MotoGP race winner after seven laps and three hours, two minutes and 18 seconds of competition – doing so at an average speed of 86.922mph, his top speed 139.887mph.

Fellow Briton Les Graham was leading that Senior TT event when his AJS Porcupine developed a mechanical issue on the final lap. He pushed his stricken bike across the finish line in 10th, but took home a point for putting in the fastest lap.

Completing the podium behind Daniell was Briton Johnny…

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