MU MUCH MISTAKEN…
genius was tragically terminated with a fatal crash during a land-speed record attempt.
So what about the post-war years? Well, a few have tried but only three men have truly made it to the top. Foremost among those who never quite got there for one reason or another were Duke, who failed to hit it off with Aston Martin; Giacomo Agostini; Mike Hailwood, whose promising F1 career was terminated by a leg injury; Barry Sheene; and Valentino Rossi, who has impressively tested several times for Ferrari but, preferring bikes, decided not to switch.
The three ex-bikers who reached the pinnacle of motorsport by becoming F1 world champion? Alberto Ascari, for Ferrari in 1952 and ’53; John Surtees, multiple motorcycle champion for MV and the only one also to become an F1 champion (for Ferrari in 1964); and our own Damon Hill, who became a Formula 1 world champion for Williams in 1996, having started out on bikes.
Now for the difficult bit. Why haven’t more bike racers tried to switch to four wheels and, of those who did, why haven’t more succeeded? After all, there’s more money to be made from cars. I suspect that there is a variety of reasons. One is that there are major differences between racing cars and bikes, and being good at one doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be good at the other. Another is that, generally speaking, by the time you’ve clawed your way to the top of the ultra-competitive motorcycle world you’ll be too old to make a successful transition to cars. And a third reason is undoubtedly that, in today’s world of pay drivers, it is just too expensive an investment for an unpredictable return, even if you can afford to try.
Is that it then? No more car-stars who were once bikers? I hope not. For starters how about today’s wunderkind, Spain’s Marc Marquez who, at 22, is already a quadruple world champion with money, talent and youth on his side? John Surtees left bikes for cars when Count Agusta, the boss of MV, refused to let him ride his own Norton bikes in races where MV weren’t competing. John being John, he upped and left to become even greater, in touring cars, in sportscars, in single-seaters and as a constructor. Maybe Marquez will get bored with winning for Honda and want to try something new. Pie in the sky? Maybe, but it’s an intriguing thought.