The Greatest MotoGP Rivalries in History

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MotoGP has enthralled fans worldwide with its high-speed drama, adrenaline-pumping races, and iconic rivalries that have left an indelible mark on the sport. Throughout the years, riders with distinct styles, competitive spirits, and maybe some inflated egos have engaged in fierce battles on and off the track, creating legendary rivalries that are etched into the annals of MotoGP history. So, who tops our list of the greatest MotoGP rivalries of all time?

  • Valentino Rossi vs. Jorge Lorenzo: The Yamaha Duel (2008-2010):

One of the most iconic rivalries in recent MotoGP history unfolded between two Yamaha teammates, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. This battle for supremacy reached its zenith during the 2009 season when Rossi and Lorenzo consistently fought for victories. The intense competition between the “Doctor” and the rising star brought Yamaha to the forefront of the championship battle, captivating fans with unforgettable duels and strategic masterstrokes. It’s not unusual for teammates to be at the center of rivalry drama as they fight not only to win races but also to be the ‘top’ driver on the team. This past season, Aleix Espargarò and Maverick Viñales finished the season with Aprilia Racing with only 2 points between them in the final standings and were key features on many American betting sites as they started their own rivalry.

  • Wayne Rainey vs. Kevin Schwantz: American Showdown (1987-1993):

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the American duo of Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz engaged in an epic rivalry that showcased their daring riding styles and determination to claim the championship crown. The battles between Rainey’s calculated precision and Schwantz’s aggressive riding became the stuff of MotoGP legend, sadly ending in the 1993 season, where Rainey was leading Shwartz by 11 points on his way to a fourth consecutive championship when he suffered a career-ending injury and was paralyzed. Schwartz went on to win the championship that year.  

  • Mick Doohan vs. Kevin Schwantz: 500cc Glory (1990’s):

In the 1990s, another rivalry took center stage with American Kevin Schwantz, this time featuring Australian rider Mick Doohan. Riding in the 500cc class, the two champions displayed contrasting styles – Doohan’s clinical precision versus Schwantz’s flamboyant and aggressive approach.

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Their on-track clashes added an extra layer of excitement to the championship, with Doohan ultimately asserting dominance during this period even after a near career-ending injury to his leg. While this may not have been a championship fight between the riders each year, they still battled for points in many races.

  • Casey Stoner vs. Jorge Lorenzo: The Clash of Titans (2007-2012):

The late 2000s witnessed a clash of titans as Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo battled for supremacy on the MotoGP grid. Stoner’s incredible talent and Lorenzo’s fearless riding style led to some unforgettable moments, with both riders securing multiple championships during this era. Their fierce rivalry was characterized by on-track duels that showcased the true essence of MotoGP competition.

  • Valentino Rossi vs. Max Biaggi: Punches on the Podium (1998-2001):

Arguably the most famous rivalry because of the off-track antics, the late 1990s saw the emergence of a bitter rivalry between two Italian giants, Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi, in the 500cc class. Rossi, a rising star at the time, clashed with the established Biaggi, creating a fiery atmosphere both on and off the track. The tension between the two riders added a compelling narrative to the races, and their intense battles became defining moments in the history of MotoGP but are definitely remembered most when the two came to actual blows on the podium at Barcelona-Catalunya on June 17, 2001, after finished first and second in a heated race. Biaggi was famously quoted as saying the mark on his face was a ‘mosquito bite’ in reference to the punch Rossi landed before they were separated by engineers. But the back and forth of who started the altercation is still talked about today and is probably the fieriest MotoGP rivalry in history.

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MotoGP, with its thrilling races and fierce competition, has witnessed numerous rivalries that have elevated the sport to new heights. From the iconic clashes between Rossi and Biaggi to the historic duels between Rainey and Schwantz, these rivalries have not only shaped the championship battles but have also left an enduring legacy in the hearts of fans. While the intensity of rivalries in motorsports has died down in recent years as certain riders have dominated and teams prefer to have a more PR-focused relationship with their riders, there is no doubt that new dramas will unfold in the world of MotoGP.