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GP Week : Issue 74
THE number of riders who have won the most senior motorbike racing title at the first attempt can be counted on the fingers of one hand. More than once, and without using your thumb. The achievement is so rare that only two riders have managed it. The first was 1949 champion Les Graham ... and the honour would have fallen to whoever won that inaugural World Championship. In fact the 500cc AJS rider was already a seasoned campaigner from the Continental Circus before the war (and a decorated bomber pilot during the hostilities), and one of the older riders on the grid. The second and so far the only other was Kenny Roberts. His maverick campaign of 1978 gave birth to a legend, as he ousted Barry Sheene and upset the European establishment with a bull-headed campaign. He underlined it by winning the next two years straight. There have been some who won at the second attempt -- Casey Stoner being the most recent. With the true mind-set of a champion, his opinion is clear ... he could have done it at the first attempt. The other second timers include some of racing's greatest names -- going backwards chronologically they are: Valentino Rossi -- and we all know what happened to him. Eddie Lawson. He won four times in all, one of only two to do it back-to-back on different machines (Rossi is the other). Giacomo Agostini: the most decorated rider of all time, with 15 championships and still more race wins than Rossi (122:103). John Surtees. Dominated on bikes, moved to Ferrari, won the F1 • • • • FIRST-TIME HEROES Kenny Roberts, the only GP rookie to win a debut premier championship, looks at Ben Spies' chances Kenny Roberts (left and far left) is one of only two riders to win the premiiere bike championship on debut -- can Ben Spies make it three? 33 Moto GP FEATURE >>