MotoGP has a long history of crashes, driver injuries, and unfortunate deaths. Compared to motorsports with four wheels – NASCAR has 29 fatalities – the risk of serious injury multiplies when you are on a racing motorcycle. How many MotoGP drivers have died since its inception?
Since the inception of the FIM World Championship on June 13, 1949, a total of 107 MotoGP drivers have died. From 1949 to 1989, a total of 99 MotoGP drivers died on the track. From 1990 to date, there have been 9 MotoGP drivers who have sadly lost their lives, one as young as 14 years old.
Even with all the added rider safety equipment, and increased measures to make the racing circuits safer, when a motorcycle racer falls from their bike, it’s up to fate to decide if they will ride again. It’s one thing falling from your bike, and momentum takes you into a safety barrier. It’s another thing when you fall in the middle of a racing pack, being hit by steel machines at a tremendous pace.
How Many MotoGP Drivers Have Died?
Too many MotoGP drivers have lost their lives since the beginning of the FIM World Championship on June 13, 1949. A total of 107 motorcycle racers have lost their lives while competing under the MotoGP mantle.
Safety measures have helped to minimize the death of the riders in recent decades, and long may it continue. As exciting as motorcycle racing is for both the driver and the spectator, it remains one of the most dangerous motorsports in the world.
When a driver is flung from his bike, it’s him against concrete, gravel, and worst of all, fellow competitor bikes. A racing suit and helmet can only offer so much protection. Sadly, when a fellow rider drives over you, it will feel like you aren’t wearing any protection.
MotoGP Drivers Who Have Died In 1949
The first official MotoGP death was recorded on June 13, 1949, on the Isle of Man, involving Ben Drinkwater from the UK. The accident occurred in the very first race of the brand-new FIM World Championship – the Isle of Man TT – when Drinkwater fatally collided with a barrier close to the 11th milestone marker post.
Today, an S-bend corner, close to the accident location on the famous Mountain Course, is known as “Drinkwater’s Bend” in honor of the first man to lose his life in MotoGP. A total of 3 MotoGP drivers died in 1949. The year MotoGP was born.
|Ben Drinkwater (UK – 1)||Norton||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1949 Isle of Man TT||Race||350cc||June 13, 1949|
|Edouard Bruylant (BEL – 2)||Norton||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||1949 Belgium Grand Prix||Race||Sidecar||July 17, 1949|
|“Hurst” (GBR – 3)||Norton||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||1949 Belgium Grand Prix||Race||Sidecar||July 17, 1949|
MotoGP Drivers Who Have Died 1950-1959
Racing motorcycles in the 1950s was a dangerous profession that could result in death. A total of 28 riders lost their lives from 1950-1959, a bloody decade for motorcycle racing. The Isle of Man TT claimed 11 of those lives. Today, the Isle of Man TT is the most dangerous motorcycle race in the world.
David Whitworth was the first casualty of the 50s when he and Charlie Salt managed to crash into each other during the 1950 Belgian Grand Prix held at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Whitworth fractured his skull, died the next day, and was buried in the local cemetery in Spa as he “wished to be buried close to the scene of any fatal accident.”
|David Whitworth (GBR – 4)||Velocette||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||1950 Belgium Grand Prix||Race||350cc||July 2, 1950|
|John O’Driscoll (GBR – 5)||Rudge||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1951 Isle of Man TT||Practice||350cc||May 31, 1951|
|Chris Horn (GBR – 6)||Norton||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1951 Isle of Man TT||Race||500cc||June 8, 1951|
|Dario Ambrosini (ITA – 7)||Benelli||Circuit d’Albi||1951 French Grand Prix||Practice||250cc||July 14, 1951|
|Sante Geminiani (ITA – 8)||Moto Guzzi||Clady Circuit||1951 Ulster Grand Prix||Practice||250cc||August 15, 1951|
|Gianni Leoni (ITA – 9)||Norton||Clady Circuit||1951 Ulster Grand Prix||Practice||250cc||August 15, 1951|
|Dave Bennett (UK – 10)||Norton||Circuit Bremgarten||1952 Swiss Grand Prix||Race||500cc||May 18, 1952|
|Ercole Frigerio (ITA – 11)||Gilera||Circuit Bremgarten||1952 Swiss Grand Prix||Race||Sidecar||May 18, 1952|
|Frank Fry (UK – 12)||Norton||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1952 Isle of Man TT||Practice||500cc||June 4, 1952|
|Norman Stewart (UK – 13)||Norton||Clady Circuit||1952 Ulster Grand Prix||Race||350cc||August 16, 1952|
|Harry Stephen (UK – 14)||Norton||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1953 Isle of Man TT||Race||350cc||June 8, 1953|
|Thomas Swarbrick (UK – 15)||AJS||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1953 Isle of Man TT||Race||350cc||June 8, 1953|
|Leslie Graham (UK – 16)||MV Augusta||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1953 Isle of Man TT||Race||500cc||June 12, 1953|
|Geoffrey Walker (AUS – 17)||Norton||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1953 Isle of Man TT||Race||500cc||June 12, 1953|
|Ernie Ring (AUS – 18)||AJS||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||1953 Belgian Grand Prix||Race||500cc||July 5, 1953|
|Simon Sandy-Winsch (UK – 19)||Velocette||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1954 Isle of Man TT||Race||500cc||June 18, 1954|
|Gordon Laing (UK – 20)||Norton||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||1954 Belgian Grand Prix||Race||350cc||July 4, 1954|
|Dennis Lashmar (UK – 21)||BSA||Solituderin||1954 German Grand Prix||Race||500cc||July 25, 1954|
|Rupert Hollaus (AUT – 22)||NSU||Autodromo Nazionale Monza||1954 Nations Grand Prix||Practice||125cc||September 11, 1954|
|Ricardo Galvagni (ARG – 23)||Norton||Nurburgring||1955 German Grand Prix||Practice||500cc||June 25, 1955|
|Julian Crossley (UK – 24)||Norton||Dundrod Circuit||1955 Ulster Grand Prix||Race||350cc||August 11, 1955|
|Derek Ennett (IOM – 25)||Moto Guzzi||Dundrod Circuit||1956 Ulster Grand Prix||Race||350cc||August 9, 1956|
|Charlie Salt (UK – 26)||BSA||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1957 Isle of Man TT||Race||500cc||June 7, 1957|
|Josef Knebel (GER – 27)||BMW||TT Circuit Assen||1957 Dutch TT||Practice||Sidecar||June 28, 1957|
|Roberto Colombo (ITA – 28)||MV Agusta||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||1957 Belgian Grand Prix||Practice||350cc||July 6, 1957|
|John Antram (NZ – 29)||AJS||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1958 Isle of Man TT||Practice||350cc||May 26, 1958|
|Des Wolff (RHO – 30)||Norton||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1958 Isle of Man TT||Race||500cc||June 6, 1958|
|Adolfo Covi (ITA – 31)||Norton||Autodromo Nazionale Monza||1959 Nations Grand Prix||Race||500cc||September 6, 1959|
MotoGP Drivers Who Have Died 1960-1969
MotoGP racing deaths in the 60s were on par with the 50s, claiming 27 lives. Again, the track responsible for the most deaths was the now notorious Isle of Man TT. This decade of motorcycle racing notably claimed the life of female driver Marie-Laure Lambert.
Sidecar driver Claude Lambert and his passenger, wife Marie-Laure Lambert, entered the 1961 Isle of Man TT in their BMW sidecar. Unfortunately, the pair crashed at the 35th-mile marker Gob-ny-Geay, and Marie-Laure died from her injuries.
|Peter Ferbrache (UK – 32)||AJS||TT Circuit Assen||1960 Dutch TT||Race||350cc||June 25, 1960|
|Bob Brown (UK – 33)||Honda||Solituderin||1960 German Grand Prix||Practice||250cc||July 24, 1960|
|Mike Brookes (UK – 34)||Norton||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1961 Isle of Man TT||Practice||500cc||June 10, 1961|
|Marie-Laure Lambert (CH – 35)||BMW||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1961 Isle of Man TT||Race||Sidecar||June 12, 1961|
|Ralph Rensen (UK – 36)||Norton||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1961 Isle of Man TT||Race||500cc||June 16, 1961|
|Ron Miles (AUS – 37)||Norton||Dundrod Circuit||1961 Ulster Grand Prix||Practice||350cc||August 9, 1961|
|Tom Phillis (AUS – 38)||Honda||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1962 Isle of Man TT||Race||350cc||June 6, 1962|
|Colin Meehan (NZ – 39)||AJS||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1962 Isle of Man TT||Race||350cc||June 6, 1962|
|Hans Schuld (NED – 40)||NSU||TT Circuit Assen||1962 Dutch TT||Practice||250cc||June 29, 1962|
|Marcelin Herranz (FRA – 41)||Moto Morini||Charade Circuit||1963 French Grand Prix||Practice||250cc||June 1, 1963|
|Brian Cockrell (UK – 42)||Norton||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1964 Isle of Man TT||Practice||Sidecar||June 2, 1964|
|Peter Essery (UK – 43)||Matchless||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1964 Isle of Man TT||Race||Sidecar||June 8, 1964|
|Roland Foll (GER – 44)||Honda||TT Circuit Assen||1964 Dutch TT||Practice||125cc||June 26, 1964|
|Karl Recktenwald (GBR – 45)||Norton||Solitudering||1964 German Grand Prix||Race||500cc||July 19, 1964|
|Vernon Cottle (UK – 46)||AJS||Imatra Circuit||1964 Finnish Grand Prix||Race||350cc||August 29, 1964|
|Norman Huntingford (UK – 47)||Matchless||TT Circuit Assen||1966 Dutch TT||Race||Sidecar||June 25, 1966|
|Toshio Fujii (JPN – 48)||Kawasaki||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1966 Isle of Man TT||Practice||125cc||August 26, 1966|
|Brian Duffy (UK – 49)||Yamaha||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1966 Isle of Man TT||Race||250cc||August 28, 1966|
|Alfred Shaw (UK – 50)||Norton||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1967 Isle of Man TT||Practice||500cc||June 10, 1967|
|Werner Daubitz (DDR – 51)||MZ||Sachsenring||1967 East Germany Grand Prix||Practice||July 16, 1967|
|Ian Veitch (NZ – 52)||Kawasaki||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1968 Isle of Man TT||Race||250cc||June 10, 1968|
|Johann Attenberger (GER – 53)||BMW||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||1968 Belgian Grand Prix||Race||Sidecar||July 7, 1968|
|Josef Schillinger (GER – 54)||BMW||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||1968 Belgian Grand Prix||Race||Sidecar||July 7, 1968|
|Rolf Schmid (GER – 55)||BMW||Hockenheimring||1968 Hockenheim Grand Prix||Race||Sidecar||October 13, 1968|
|Arthur Lavington (UK – 56)||Velocette||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1969 Isle of Man TT||Practice||350cc||June 6, 1969|
|Bill Ivy (UK – 57)||Jawa||Sachsenring||1969 East German Grand Prix||Practice||350cc||July 12, 1969|
|Frantisek Bocek (CSK – 58)||Jawa||Brno Circuit||1969 Czechoslovakian Grand Prix||Race||350cc||July 20, 1969|
MotoGP Drivers Who Died 1970-1979
Another decade of motorcycle racing meant another 24 motorcyclists dead. The Isle of Man TT claiming 11 riders was expected when looking back at previous decades of racing at this extremely dangerous race.
After the death of one of the most talented riders of his era, Finnish rider Jarno Saarinen, at the 1973 Nations Grand Prix (Italy), increased demands for better safety conditions for all motorcycle racers who competed in world championships intensified.
Saarinen became an inductee of the FIM MotoGP Hall of Fame in 2009, and to this day, he is the only Finn to have won a motorcycle road racing championship (250cc class in 1972.) He finished second to 15-time Championship winner and biking legend Giacomo Agostini during the year before his untimely death.
|Robin Fitton (UK – 59)||Norton||Nurburgring||1970 German Grand Prix||Practice||350cc||May 2, 1970|
|Les Iles (UK – 60)||Bultaco||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1970 Isle of Man TT||Practice||125cc||June 1, 1970|
|Michael Collins (UK – 61)||Seeley||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1970 Isle of Man TT||Practice||500cc||June 3, 1970|
|Dennis Blower (UK – 62)||BSA||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1970 Isle of Man TT||Practice||Sidecar||June 3, 1970|
|Santiago Herrero (ESP – 63)||Ossa||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1970 Isle of Man TT||Race||250cc||June 8, 1970|
|John Wetherall (MLT – 64)||Norton||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1970 Isle of Man TT||Race||500cc||June 12, 1970|
|Brian Steenson (UK – 65)||Seeley||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1970 Isle of Man TT||Race||500cc||June 12, 1970|
|Maurice Jeffery (UK – 67)||Norton||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1971 Isle of Man TT||Race||500cc||June 12, 1971|
|Christian Ravel (FRA – 68)||Kawasaki||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||1971 Belgian Grand Prix||Race||500cc||July 4, 1971|
|Gunter Bartusch (DDR – 69)||MZ||Sachsenring||1971 East Germany Grand Prix||Practice||350cc||July 8, 1971|
|Gilberto Parlotti (ITA – 70)||Morbidelli||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1972 Isle of Man TT||Race||125cc||June 9, 1972|
|Hans-Jurgen Cusnik (GER – 71)||BMW||Brno Circuit||1972 Czechoslovakian Grand Prix||Race||Sidecar||July 16, 1972|
|Renzo Pasolini (ITA – 72)||Harley-Davidson||Autodromo Nazionale Monza||1973 Nations Grand Prix||Race||250cc||May 20, 1973|
|Jarno Saarinen (FIN – 73)||Yamaha||Autodromo Nazionale Monza||1973 Nations Grand Prix||Race||250cc||May 20, 1973|
|Billie Nelson (UK – 74)||Yamaha||Opatija Circuit||1974 Yugoslavian Grand Prix||Race||250cc||September 8, 1974|
|Phil Gurner (UK – 75)||Yamaha||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1975 Isle of Man TT||Race||500cc||June 4, 1975|
|Rolf Thiele (GER – 76)||Yamaha||TT Circuit Assen||1975 Dutch TT||Race||250cc||June 28, 1975|
|Paolo Tordi (ITA – 77)||Yamaha||Mugello Circuit||1976 Nations Grand Prix||Race||350cc||May 16, 1976|
|Otello Buscherini (ITA – 78)||Yamaha||Mugello Circuit||1976 Nations Grand Prix||Race||250cc||May 16, 1976|
|Walter Worner (GER – 79)||Yamaha||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1976 Isle of Man TT||Race||Sidecar||June 7, 1976|
|Les Kenny (AUS – 80)||Yamaha||Isle of Man TT – Mountain Course||1976 Isle of Man TT||Race||250cc||June 12, 1976|
|Hans Stadelmann (CH – 81)||Yamaha||Salzburgring||1977 Austrian Grand Prix||Race||350cc||May 1, 1977|
|Giovanni Ziggiotto (ITA – 82)||Yamaha||Opatija Circuit||1977 Yugoslavian Grand Prix||Race||250cc||June 18, 1977|
|Ulrich Graf (CH – 83)||Kreidler||Opatija Circuit||1977 Yugoslavian Grand Prix||Race||50cc||June 19, 1977|
MotoGP Drivers Who Died 1980-1989
During the 80s, the motorcycle racing community experienced fewer deaths than in the preceding decades, which could be because the Isle of Man TT was removed from the IFM roster in 1976, being handed to the United Kingdom after safety concerns (took them long enough!). The British Grand Prix replaced the Isle of Man TT.
MotoGP legend Giacomo Agostini started to protest in favor of the removal of the Isle of Man TT in 1972 and stated “he would never race again at the Isle of Man” before declaring it too dangerous a track for international competition. Agostini believed it was outrageous that professional riders were forced into competing there.
Modern-day MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi, who did a lap on the famous course, stated: “I did a lap of the Isle of Man, and I understand why people love this because it’s f**king awesome. It’s unbelievable, great. But, unfortunately, it’s too dangerous. Sometimes, riders are crazy.” And we all know Rossi was not the type to scare easily.
|Patrick Pons (FRA – 84)||Yamaha||Silverstone Circuit||1980 British Grand Prix||Race||500cc||August 10, 1980|
|Malcolm White (UK – 86)||Yamaha||Silverstone Circuit||1980 British Grand Prix||Race||Sidecar||August 10, 1980|
|Michel Rougerie (FRA – 87)||Chevallier||Automotodrom Grobnik||1981 Yugoslavian Grand Prix||Race||350cc||May 31, 1981|
|Sauro Pazzaglia (ITA – 88)||MBA||Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari||1981 San Marino Grand Prix||Practice||250cc||July 11, 1981|
|Alain Beraud (FRA – 89)||Yamaha||Brno Circuit||1981 Czechoslovakian Grand Prix||Race||250cc||August 30, 1981|
|Jock Taylor (UK – 90)||Windle||Imatra Circuit||1982 Finnish Grand Prix||Race||Sidecar||August 15, 1982|
|Iwao Ishikawa (JPN – 91)||Suzuki||Bugatti Circuit||1983 French Grand Prix||Practice||500cc||March 29, 1983|
|Michel Frautschi (CH – 92)||Honda||Bugatti Circuit||1983 French Grand Prix||Race||500cc||April 3, 1983|
|Rolf Ruttimann (CH – 93)||MBA||Automotodrom Grobnik||1983 Yugoslavia Grand Prix||Race||125cc||June 12, 1983|
|Norman Brown (UK – 94)||Suzuki||Silverstone Circuit||1983 British Grand Prix||Race||500cc||July 31, 1983|
|Peter Huber (CH – 95)||Suzuki||Silverstone Circuit||1983 British Grand Prix||Race||500cc||July 31, 1983|
|Kevin Wrettom (UK – 96)||Suzuki||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||1984 Belgian Grand Prix||Practice||500cc||July 7, 1984|
|Alfred Heck (GER – 97)||LCR||Circuit Paul Ricard||1988 French Grand Prix||Practice||Sidecar||July 21, 1988|
|Ivan Pallazzese (VEN – 98)||Aprilia||Hockenheimring||1989 German Grand Prix||Race||250cc||May 28, 1989|
MotoGP Drivers Who Died 1990-2022
As you may have noticed, the number of deaths in MotoGP has drastically decreased compared to previous decades. The lower mortality rate is due to many factors, such as protective riding gear and upgrading safety at most circuits.
On October 23, 2011, a collision occurred between Colin Edwards and close friends Valentino Rossi and Marco Simoncelli in the Malaysian Grand Prix. Simoncelli lost control of his bike, sliding in the direction of the gravel. What happened next will haunt many a MotoGP rider and fan for many years.
Simoncelli’s tires suddenly regained traction, making the bike change direction into the path of oncoming traffic. While Simoncelli was hanging onto the right side of the bike, he was hit by Edwards before Rossi hit him in the head area. No rider had any chance of missing Simoncelli, who died half an hour later in the circuit’s medical center.
Alarmingly, there have been three recent deaths that rocked the motorcycle world to its core, involving very young drivers:
The circumstances and age of the drivers have led to safety concerns going forward. The FIM responded by introducing safety reforms:
- Riders participating in any of MotoGP’s 3 classifications must be 18 years old beginning in 2023.
- The age limit in Moto2 and Moto3, the two classes on the ladder directly below MotoGP, is presently fixed at 16 and will now move up to a minimum age of 18.
- The grid sizes sanctioned by the FIM for the junior series were lowered from the beginning of 2022, and a year added to the minimum ages.
|Nobuyuki Wakai (JPN – 99)||Suzuki||Circuito de Jerez||1993 Spanish Grand Prix||Practice||250cc||May 1, 1993|
|Simon Prior (UK – 100)||LCR||Hockenheimring||1994 German Grand Prix||Race||Sidecar||June 12, 1994|
|Dajiro Kato (JPN – 101)||Honda||Suzuka Circuit||2003 Japanese Grand Prix||Race||MotoGP||April 6, 2003|
|Shoya Tomizawa (JPN – 102)||Suter||Misano Circuit||2010 San Marino and Rimini Grand Prix||Race||Moto2||September 5, 2010|
|Marco Simoncelli (ITA – 103)||Honda||Sepang International Circuit||2011 Malaysian Grand Prix||Race||MotoGP||October 23, 2011|
|Luis Salom (ESP – 104)||Kalex||Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya||2016 Catalan Grand Prix||Practice||Moto2||June 3, 2016|
|Jason Dupasquier (SUI – 105)||KTM||Mugello Circuit||2021 Italian Grand Prix||Qualifying||Moto3||May 29, 2021|
|Hugo Millan (ESP – 106)||KTM||Motorland Oregon Circuit||European Talent Cup Race||Race||Moto3||July 25, 2021|
|Dean Vinales (ESP – 107)||Yamaha||Circuit de Jerez-Angel Nieto||Supersport 300 World Championship Race||Race||Supersport 300||September 25, 2021|
All racing has an element of risk, and the drivers get paid to consider that risk. The risk of being a motorcycle racer is that your chance of dying on the track is higher when compared to most other racing sports. This element of danger is what makes motorcycle racing so intriguing.