Throughout history, Great Britain has had some ‘great’ British bike racers. Barry Sheene, Ron Haslam, Carl Fogarty, to name but a few. And although the popularity of motorcycle racing here in Blighty is minuscule compared to the likes of Italy, Spain, and other such nations, we have still managed to churn out some seriously quick racers. Racers that can stick it to the best of them on the world stage. So with that in mind, we’ve compiled a list, it’s not a very big list, but it’s a list none the less. This is the top five British bike racers in the world today. Let us know if you think we’ve missed someone out, or just got it completely wrong…
No. 1 Cal Crutchlow
He might have a bit of an attitude problem, and he might have ‘officially’ retired from racing, but that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten how to do it. And there’s no denying that the 35 year-old former British and World Supersport Champion from Coventry is one of the best motorcycle racers we’ve seen in recent years. These days, when he isn’t doing TV interviews in a funny, foreign sounding, accent, he’s testing Yamaha’s MotoGP bike. All after years racing his LCR Honda RC213V at the very pinnacle of motorcycle sport.
Crutchlow isn’t the only Brit to have raced in the current ‘MotoGP’ (post 500cc GP) era of grand prix. He is the only Brit to stand on the top of a MotoGP podium though. A feat he’s accomplished no less than three times; twice in 2016 and once again in 2018. And with current MotoGP grids as competitive as they are, that’s rather impressive stuff. He’s the only (former) World Champion us Brits have got that could conceivably go and win a MotoGP race; that’s why we have him down as the best British motorcycle racer, today. Even though he isn’t actually one any more.
No. 2 Johnny Rea
Number two in our list of best British bike racers needs no introduction; it is of course six-time, and current World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea. Some will have him down as very the best in the world, which he most certainly is on a Superbike. But since WSBK can’t really be classed as the number one motorcycle sport in the world, we’ve ranked him second. But make no mistake, the Ulsterman can’t half pedal a bike round. For the last six years, he’s been as dominant as anyone has ever been in WSBK on his Kawasaki ZX-10RR.
Plenty have come to try and beat him, and whilst some have been able to cross the finish line in front of him on occasion, none have been able to tear the World Superbike title from his vice-like grip. And although the Superbike stalwart refuses to jump ship to MotoGP, I don’t doubt for a second that he’d have what it takes to impress, should he ever find himself on a grid amongst Rossi, Marquez and co. He proved he’s got the minerals back in 2012 when he stood in for an injured Casey Stoner at Aragon. He rode the Repsol Honda and only went and finished in 7th. Fair play.
No. 3 Sam Lowes
Sam’s inclusion in this list will no doubt upset his twin brother Alex. Alex is also a very handy rider indeed; one of the only lads in the world capable of winning a WSBK race ahead of his team mate JR. But current World Moto2 Championship leader Sam Lowes, we think, is capable of something a little bit more impressive. Not only did Sam win his fair share of Moto2 races onboard his Kalex last year, he was nearly crowned Moto2 Champion. He still needs to learn to stop crashing though.
Like Crutchlow, Sam’s won both British Supersport (2010) and World Supersport (2013) Championships. And we hope that a Moto2 Championship win will secure the Lincolnshire lad a decent ride in the premier class. Lowes isn’t a stranger to MotoGP competition, having raced an arguably below par Aprilia in 2017 so we’d love to see what he could do with a competitive package between his legs.
No. 4 Peter Hickman
With all due respect, Pete Hickman isn’t about to go and win a MotoGP or even World Superbike race. In fact, the stars would have to align for him to even win a BSB race these days. But, when it comes to real road racing, there’s no one in the world better. He’s a lap record holder at, without a doubt, the biggest and most demanding motorcycle road race on the planet, the Isle of Man TT (135.425mph). As well as a lap record holder at the World’s fastest road race, the Ulster Grand Prix (136.415mph).
He’s been the most dominant at the Macau GP over the last few years (despite getting beaten by Michael Rutter in 2019 thanks to the result being declared after a one-lap dash) and should he enter any other road races, anywhere in the world, he’d automatically be firm favourite to take the win.
No. 5 The rest
After the first wave of world class riders, the best of the rest is just too difficult to call. When you’ve got the likes of Alex Lowes (2013 BSB champ), Scott Redding (2019 BSB Champ) and Chaz Davies (2011 World Supersport champ) all able to keep Johnny Rea honest on any given weekend, only a fool would consider overlooking them. And in Moto2, Jake Dixon doesn’t tend to be far off the pace of Sam Lowes. Talent-wise, you’d have to say Jake’s at least up there with that second tier of World Superbike riders.
And then of course there’s John McPhee. McPhee might only be racing a kid’s bike, but he has still won three GPs. And he’ll probably win a few more if he can concentrate on his riding rather than his street fighting. Still, that’s three more than anyone else vying for that coveted No. 5 spot in our Best of British line-up.
Well there you have it, the Best British Bike racers in the world right now, according to me. Have I missed anyone?