From the Rossis to the Gardners, the most successful father-son combos in GP motorcycle racing

12/2/2021

 Like father, like son. Remy Gardner is Moto2 world champion, like his dad Wayne, 500 world champion in 1987. Do you know all the most successful dynasties in GP motorcycle racing?

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Can you inherit talent? If your father or mother is among the best in the world in a sports discipline, does it mean you’ve got a chance of being among the best, too? If motor racing is anything to go by, the answer is yes. 


From the Andretti family (Mario, Michael) to the Unser (Al and Al Jr), Hill (Graham and Damon) and Villeneuve (Gilles and Jacques) families, the theory seems to hold up. In motorcycle track racing too, there are plenty of examples. 


This year, one more example comes courtesy of the Moto2 World Championship win by Remy Gardner, son of Wayne, 500-class champion in 1987 with Honda. Gardner got the better of Raul Fernandez, with 311 points, more than 17 for each race on the calendar. ​

 

But in the past too, the World Championship has given us some winning father–son combos. Instead of telling you about all of them at once, we tried to work out as objective a ranking as possible. The main factor is the number of World Championship titles won by each family, but with a preference – mind you – for cases where both have been world champions. 


So if a rider has won 9 (or 13) World Championships but their father or son hasn’t won a single one, that family will be lower down our list than a combo made up of two world champions. In cases where only one has been a champion, on the other hand, we’ve favored the dynasties with the most World Championship titles and, to break a tie, those with the most GP wins. ​


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1st place Roberts: 4 World Championships and 32 GPs won​

 

Kenny Roberts paved the way for the US, as the first to win a World Championship but also as an innovator in terms of style, because of the knee that he lowered to the ground. Three 500 world championship titles, in 1978, 1979 and 1980 with Yamaha. His son Kenny Roberts Jr. followed his example in 2000 with Suzuki, the first bike in the premier class to adopt the innovative Brembo radial caliper. He won 4 times in that championship and, except for one time when he pulled out, never came lower than 7th place. The father won 24 GPs in total (22 in 500 and 2 in 250), the heir 8 (all in 500).​


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2nd place Gardner: 2 World Championships and 24 GPs won​

 








Wayne Gardner was the first Australian to win the premier class, in 1987 with Honda after a triumphant season: as well as racking up more points than the competition, he secured more wins (7), pole positions (10), fast laps (8) and podium placings (12, like Randy Mamola). Remy made his World Championship debut in 2014, but only came into his own in 2019. That year, he hit his stride with the Kalex of the KTM Ajo team equipped with Brembo calipers, master cylinders and pads, winning Moto2 with 5 victories and 12 podium finishes. The father took 18 wins in 500, from 1986 to 1992, and the son 6, all in Moto2.​


 
3rd place Nieto: 13 World Championships and 91 GPs won​

 

Despite Ángel’s 13 World Championship wins (though superstition meant he preferred to say 12 + 1), the Spanish Nietos don’t head up the ranking since Pablo has never approached the results of his father. Specializing in small displacements, Ángel won 7 world championship titles in 125, 5 in 50 and 1 in 80, starting in 1969 and ending in 1984. Even after competing in 158 GPs, his son never made it to the top 5 in a championship. He did come 6th in 2002 and in 2004, with Aprilia and equipped with a Brembo braking system. The father won 90 GPs, the son just one (2003 Portuguese GP).


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4th place Rossi: 9 World Championships and 118 GPs won​

 

Despite nearly 10 world championship titles to show for their efforts, the Rossis are penalized because Graziano didn’t get one. He came close in 1979, the year Valentino was born, with Morbidelli: after a slow start, he won 3 GPs in a row but only picked up 12 points in the last 4 races. He ended in 3rd place and, despite competing in 500 until 1982, never made it to the top of the podium again. ​​

 
















Valentino has instead been world champion in 4 different classes (125 and 250 with Aprilia, 500 with Honda, MotoGP with Honda and Yamaha) and won 115 GPs, always using Brembo brakes.​


 
5th place Bradl: 1 World Championship and 12 GPs won​

 

In contrast to Formula 1, there aren’t many German riders to be found among the biggest winners in motorcycling, above all in the modern era. The Bradls are an exception, even if Helmut didn’t manage to achieve his dream of winning the World Championship: he came close in 250 with Honda in 1991, but was second, 17 points behind Luca Cadalora. Stefan was instead the 2011 Moto2 world champion with Brembo brakes, beating Marc Marquez with 4 wins, 11 podium placings and just two “zeroes”, one with the title already determined. The father won 5 GPs, all in 1991 in 250, the son 2 in 125 and 5 in Moto2, from 2008 to 2011.​

 

 
6th place Graham: 1 World Championship and 10 GPs won​

The ranking wouldn’t be complete without a British dynasty. In 1949, Leslie Graham was the first 500 world champion with AJS and nearly repeated the performance in 1952, coming second with MV Agusta. ​



 

​PeHe also earned final third places in 1950, in 350 and 500, and in 1952 in 250. Stuart wasn’t at the same level as his father, who died in the 1953 TT, but despite only competing in about 20 GPs, he made the podium in two thirds of them, coming 3rd in 1967 in both 50 and 125. Leslie won 8 GPs (1 in 125, 2 in 350 and 5 in 500), his son 2 (in 50 and 125).​


 
7th place Pagani: 1 World Championship and 7 GPs won​

 

Italy’s second appearance, with Nello leading the way for the Paganis as world champion in the opening edition of the 125 with Mondial, thanks to 2 wins in the 3 GPs raced. Not wanting to stop there, he won 2 GPs in 500 with Gilera the same year, missing out on the world championship title by one point in Graham’s favor after riders discounted their worst scores. Otherwise he would have been champion, since he had 9 more points overall. Alberto too was runner-up in 500 in 1972, but well behind Giacomo Agostini. 4 GPs won for the father, 3 for the son, all in 500 with Italian bikes Linto and MV Agusta.​

 

 



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