MotoGP is one of the fastest motorsports on the planet, and it’s also one where the riders are very exposed. Riders are on two wheels and reaching speeds of more than 200 mph, all while braving the elements. You may therefore wonder how many MotoGP riders have died.
104 MotoGP riders have died since the first races in 1949, and this number is the total across all divisions of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, from sidecars to 500cc bikes. In the modern MotoGP class, there have only been 2 deaths, and the 500cc class was the deadliest, with 28 deaths in total.
Below, we discuss the deaths that have occurred in MotoGP, looking at the data over the decades since the first race. We compare the number of deaths by decade, by circuit, and by class, to evaluate how much safer MotoGP is nowadays, and when compared to other motorsports too.
When Was The Last MotoGP Death?
The last MotoGP death occurred in May of 2021 at the Italian Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit, when Moto3 rider Jason Dupasquier lost his life. However, the last death to occur in the top tier of MotoGP racing was in 2011, when Marco Simoncelli died at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
At the Mugello race in 2021, Jason Dupasquier was killed in a crash during qualifying, when he fell between Turn 9 and Turn 10. He was hit by his own bike, and then again by the bike of Ayumu Sasaki. He sadly died from his injuries while in hospital.
In the premier MotoGP class, the last death to occur was in 2011, when 2008 250cc World Champion Marco Simoncelli crashed into Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
A Note On This Article
When looking back at the history of rider deaths in MotoGP, it quickly becomes clear that there are a lot of variables at play. The main thing you’ll notice is that there have been many different classes over the years that all fall under the broad category of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
For the purpose of this article, we’ve included all rider deaths across all categories. We’ve separated things out so you can understand the deaths in the sport by decade, by class, and by track. However, we’ve also included a table with all rider deaths in the history of the sport.
NOTE: Some other sources suggest there have been 107 or more deaths in MotoGP. However, these figures include several deaths that occurred outside of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, such as in the Supersport 300 series and European Talent Cup racing.
MotoGP Deaths By Decade
KEY FACT: Between 1950 and 1990, an average of more than 2 riders died each year
For comparison, between the same years, F1 saw 43 driver deaths. This equates to an average of just over 1 Formula 1 driver death per year in that timespan, making MotoGP twice as deadly during these years. The most striking information you can gather from the table above is the drop in deaths since the 1980s.
This is largely due to the ever increasing safety within the sport. This trend is similar across all motorsports, with the late 1980s and early 1990s serving as the turning point for many safety aspects in motorsport. Fast forward into the 2000s, and you (thankfully) rarely find cases of driver fatalities across all motorsports, which is amazing considering the speeds at which they race.
One Track In Particular
However, another contributing factor to the massive decrease in rider deaths since the 1970s is the fact that the Isle of Man TT course was removed from the calendar for the 1977 season. As you’ll see later in this article, that track alone has seen almost 35% of all MotoGP deaths. Across all disciplines, the Isle of Man TT track has seen 265 riders lose their lives.
Since 1990, only 7 MotoGP riders have lost their lives at racing events
Motorsports are always trying to improve safety, and MotoGP is no different. From new helmet rules in 2019, to making airbags within the suits mandatory in 2018, and even back protectors that were introduced in 1979, MotoGP is constantly evolving to make rider deaths increasingly unlikely.
MotoGP Deaths By Class
NOTE: One motorcycle death is missing from the above count, as there is no record available of the bike Werner Daubitz was riding when he lost his life at the 1967 East German Grand Prix
Discounting sidecar racing, you can instantly see the trend of deaths as you move up the engine capacity classes. The 500cc class, which became MotoGP in 2002, saw the most deaths with 28 in total. But the 350cc class, which was active between 1949 and 1982, also saw many deaths.
KEY FACT: Of the 83 deaths that occurred between 1949 and 1979, 24 of them were on 350cc bikes
The Deadly Years
But 80% of all MotoGP deaths occurred during the time in which the 350cc class was active. In other words, as a rider you were far more likely to have a fatal accident during the time 350cc bikes were used simply because the sport was more dangerous during these years, and almost a third of deaths in the 350cc class occurred at the Isle of Man TT course (the deadliest track overall).
The 250cc class is next highest on the list, but that can largely be put down to the fact that it was active for the longest time, running from 1949 until 2010. The low number of deaths in the MotoGP class is simply a result of it being formally introduced in 2002, and this number belies the fact that the premier classes of Grand Prix motorcycle racing have always seen the most deaths.
MotoGP World Champions That Died Racing
|Dario Ambrosini||250cc (1950)||1951|
|Leslie Graham||500cc (1949)||1953|
|Rupert Hollaus||125cc (1954)||1954|
|Tom Phillis||125cc (1961)||1962|
|Bill Ivy||125cc (1967)||1969|
|Jarno Saarinen||250cc (1972)||1973|
|Daijiro Kato||250cc (2001)||2003|
|Marco Simoncelli||250cc (2008)||2011|
A total of 8 Grand Prix motorcycle world champions have died while racing. Of these 8, four were champions in the 250cc class. Rupert Hollaus is the only MotoGP racer to have been credited posthumously with a world championship, although he had mathematically won it before his death.
KEY POINTS• 104 Grand Prix motorcycle racers have lost their lives at racing events
• Most of these deaths occurred between 1949 and 1980
• The 500cc class was the deadliest division of GP motorcycle racing
List Of MotoGP Rider Deaths
|Ben Drinkwater (UK)||June 13, 1949||1949 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Edouard Bruylant (BEL)||July 17, 1949||1949 Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|“Hurst” (GBR)||July 17, 1949||1949 Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|David Whitworth (GBR)||July 2, 1950||1950 Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|John O’Driscoll (GBR)||May 31, 1951||1951 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|John Wenman (GBR)||June 4, 1951||1951 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Chris Horn (GBR)||June 8, 1951||1951 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Dario Ambrosini (ITA)||July 14, 1951||1951 French Grand Prix||Circuit d’Albi|
|Sante Geminiani (ITA)||August 15, 1951||1951 Ulster Grand Prix||Clady Circuit|
|Gianni Leoni (ITA)||August 15, 1951||1951 Ulster Grand Prix||Clady Circuit|
|Dave Bennett (UK)||May 18, 1952||1952 Swiss Grand Prix||Circuit Bremgarten|
|Ercole Frigerio (ITA)||May 18, 1952||1952 Swiss Grand Prix||Circuit Bremgarten|
|Frank Fry (UK)||June 4, 1952||1952 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Norman Stewart (UK)||August 16, 1952||1952 Ulster Grand Prix||Clady Circuit|
|Harry Stephen (UK)||June 8, 1953||1953 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Thomas Swarbrick (UK)||June 8, 1953||1953 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Leslie Graham (UK)||June 12, 1953||1953 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Geoffrey Walker (AUS)||June 12, 1953||1953 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Ernie Ring (AUS)||July 5, 1953||1953 Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|Simon Sandys-Winsch (UK)||June 18, 1954||1954 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Gordon Laing (UK)||July 4, 1954||1954 Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|Dennis Lashmar (UK)||July 25, 1954||1954 German Grand Prix||Solitudering|
|Rupert Hollaus (AUT)||September 11, 1954||1954 Nations Grand Prix||Autodromo Nazionale Monza|
|Ricardo Galvagni (ARG)||June 25, 1955||1955 German Grand Prix||Nürburgring|
|Julian Crossley (UK)||August 11, 1955||1955 Ulster Grand Prix||Dundrod Circuit|
|Derek Ennett (IOM)||August 9, 1956||1956 Ulster Grand Prix||Dundrod Circuit|
|Charlie Salt (UK)||June 7, 1957||1957 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Josef Knebel (GER)||June 28, 1957||1957 Dutch TT||TT Circuit Assen|
|Roberto Colombo (ITA)||July 6, 1957||1957 Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|John Antram (NZ)||May 26, 1958||1958 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Des Wolff (RHO)||June 6, 1958||1958 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Adolfo Covi (ITA)||September 6, 1959||1959 Nations Grand Prix||Autodromo Nazionale Monza|
|Peter Ferbrache (UK)||June 25, 1960||1960 Dutch TT||TT Circuit Assen|
|Bob Brown (AUS)||July 24, 1960||1960 German Grand Prix||Solitudering|
|Mike Brookes (UK)||June 10, 1961||1961 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Marie Lambert (CH)||June 12, 1961||1961 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Ralph Rensen (UK)||June 16, 1961||1961 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Ron Miles (AUS)||August 9, 1961||1961 Ulster Grand Prix||Dundrod Circuit|
|Tom Phillis (AUS)||June 6, 1962||1962 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Colin Meehan (NZ)||June 6, 1962||1962 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Hans Schuld (NED)||June 29, 1962||1962 Dutch TT||TT Circuit Assen|
|Marcelin Herranz (FRA)||June 1, 1963||1963 French Grand Prix||Charade Circuit|
|Brian Cockrell (UK)||June 2, 1964||1964 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Peter Essery (UK)||June 8, 1964||1964 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Roland Föll (GER)||June 26, 1964||1964 Dutch TT||TT Circuit Assen|
|Karl Recktenwald (GER)||July 19, 1964||1964 German Grand Prix||Solitudering|
|Vernon Cottle (UK)||August 29, 1964||1964 Finnish Grand Prix||Imatra Circuit|
|Norman Huntingford (UK)||June 25, 1966||1966 Dutch TT||TT Circuit Assen|
|Toshio Fujii (JPN)||August 26, 1966||1966 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Brian Duffy (UK)||August 28, 1966||1966 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Alfred Shaw (UK)||June 10, 1967||1967 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Werner Daubitz (DDR)||July 16, 1967||1967 East German Grand Prix||Sachsenring|
|Ian Veitch (NZ)||June 10, 1968||1968 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Johann Attenberger (GER)||July 7, 1968||1968 Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|Josef Schillinger (GER)||July 7, 1968||1968 Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|Rolf Schmid (GER)||October 13, 1968||1968 Hockenheim Grand Prix [N 1]||Hockenheimring|
|Arthur Lavington (UK)||June 6, 1969||1969 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Bill Ivy (UK)||July 12, 1969||1969 East German Grand Prix||Sachsenring|
|František Boček (CSK)||July 20, 1969||1969 Czechoslovakian Grand Prix||Brno Circuit|
|Robin Fitton (UK)||May 2, 1970||1970 German Grand Prix||Nürburgring|
|Les Iles (UK)||June 1, 1970||1970 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Michael Collins (UK)||June 3, 1970||1970 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Dennis Blower (UK)||June 3, 1970||1970 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Santiago Herrero (ESP)||June 8, 1970||1970 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|John Wetherall (MLT)||June 12, 1970||1970 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Brian Steenson (UK)||June 12, 1970||1970 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Maurice Jeffery (UK)||June 12, 1971||1971 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Christian Ravel (FRA)||July 4, 1971||1971 Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|Günter Bartusch (DDR)||July 8, 1971||1971 East German Grand Prix||Sachsenring|
|Gilberto Parlotti (ITA)||June 9, 1972||1972 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Hans-Jürgen Cusnik (GER)||July 16, 1972||1972 Czechoslovakian Grand Prix||Brno Circuit|
|Renzo Pasolini (ITA)||May 20, 1973||1973 Nations Grand Prix||Autodromo Nazionale Monza|
|Jarno Saarinen (FIN)||May 20, 1973||1973 Nations Grand Prix||Autodromo Nazionale Monza|
|Billie Nelson (UK)||September 8, 1974||1974 Yugoslavian Grand Prix||Opatija Circuit|
|Phil Gurner (UK)||June 4, 1975||1975 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Rolf Thiele (GER)||June 28, 1975||1975 Dutch TT||TT Circuit Assen|
|Paolo Tordi (ITA)||May 16, 1976||1976 Nations Grand Prix||Mugello Circuit|
|Otello Buscherini (ITA)||May 16, 1976||1976 Nations Grand Prix||Mugello Circuit|
|Walter Wörner (GER)||June 7, 1976||1976 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Les Kenny (AUS)||June 12, 1976||1976 Isle of Man TT||Isle of Man TT Mountain Course|
|Hans Stadelmann (CH)||May 1, 1977||1977 Austrian Grand Prix||Salzburgring|
|Giovanni Ziggiotto (ITA)||June 18, 1977||1977 Yugoslavian Grand Prix||Opatija Circuit|
|Ulrich Graf (CH)||June 19, 1977||1977 Yugoslavian Grand Prix||Opatija Circuit|
|Patrick Pons (FRA)||August 10, 1980||1980 British Grand Prix||Silverstone Circuit|
|Malcolm White (UK)||August 10, 1980||1980 British Grand Prix||Silverstone Circuit|
|Michel Rougerie (FRA)||May 31, 1981||1981 Yugoslavian Grand Prix||Automotodrom Grobnik|
|Sauro Pazzaglia (ITA)||July 11, 1981||1981 San Marino Grand Prix||Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari|
|Alain Béraud (FRA)||August 30, 1981||1981 Czechoslovakian Grand Prix||Brno Circuit|
|Jock Taylor (UK)||August 15, 1982||1982 Finnish Grand Prix||Imatra Circuit|
|Iwao Ishikawa (JPN)||March 29, 1983||1983 French Grand Prix||Bugatti Circuit|
|Michel Frutschi (CH)||April 3, 1983||1983 French Grand Prix||Bugatti Circuit|
|Rolf Rüttimann (CH)||June 12, 1983||1983 Yugoslavian Grand Prix||Automotodrom Grobnik|
|Norman Brown (UK)||July 31, 1983||1983 British Grand Prix||Silverstone Circuit|
|Peter Huber (CH)||July 31, 1983||1983 British Grand Prix||Silverstone Circuit|
|Kevin Wrettom (UK)||July 7, 1984||1984 Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|Alfred Heck (GER)||July 21, 1988||1988 French Grand Prix||Circuit Paul Ricard|
|Iván Palazzese (VEN)||May 28, 1989||1989 German Grand Prix||Hockenheimring|
|Nobuyuki Wakai (JPN)||May 1, 1993||1993 Spanish Grand Prix||Circuito de Jerez|
|Simon Prior (UK)||June 12, 1994||1994 German Grand Prix||Hockenheimring|
|Daijiro Kato (JPN)||April 6, 2003||2003 Japanese Grand Prix||Suzuka Circuit|
|Shoya Tomizawa (JPN)||September 5, 2010||2010 San Marino and Rimini Grand Prix||Misano Circuit|
|Marco Simoncelli (ITA)||October 23, 2011||2011 Malaysian Grand Prix||Sepang International Circuit|
|Luis Salom (ESP)||June 3, 2016||2016 Catalan Grand Prix||Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya|
|Jason Dupasquier (SUI)||May 29, 2021||2021 Italian Grand Prix||Mugello Circuit|
MotoGP Rider Deaths By Session
KEY FACT: Most deaths in MotoGP have occurred during races
The table above illustrates that most MotoGP riders that have lost their lives lost them during races. But a perhaps surprising figure is that about 50% of all MotoGP rider deaths occurred during practice sessions.
MotoGP Deaths By Track
|Isle of Man TT Mountain Course||36|
|Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps||10|
|TT Circuit Assen||6|
|Autodromo Nazionale Monza||4|
|Sepang International Circuit||1|
|Circuito de Jerez||1|
|Circuit Paul Ricard||1|
|Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya||1|
|Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari||1|
The table above makes clear that the most dangerous course ever raced on was the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course. This track is no longer used in Grand Prix motorcycle racing, but it is now host to the annual Isle of Man TT. World championship races were held on the TT course until 1977.
The next most dangerous circuit in terms of deaths is Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. This is a very long and complex track, currently still used in series like Formula 1.
MotoGP riders have died at a total of 28 different circuits, almost all of which are in Europe
Is MotoGP Safer Than Other Motorsports?
MotoGP is not safer than other motorsports, but it’s not necessarily more dangerous either. Looking at total deaths that have occurred in each series is not the most effective measure of safety, and it’s clear that MotoGP is becoming safer every year, even if riders do still crash.
One way to compare how safe a motorsport is involves comparing the total number of deaths, and for the sake of illustration, let’s do that with some other major motorsport series from across the world.
|Series||Deaths||Inaugural Season||Deaths Per Year|
When we compare the above four motorsports, we can see that MotoGP does have the highest fatality rate per season. However, since 2000, there are much smaller differences between these different series.
|Series||Deaths (2000-2021)||Deaths Per Year|
While there is still some variance between the series, and MotoGP is still at the top, their fatality rates are all far lower than 1 per year in the modern era. Across the motorsport world, safety improvements in terms of the vehicles and the equipment and safety gear the drivers use have made deaths far less likely, regardless of the series.
There’s No Easy Answer
However, given that MotoGP riders travel close to the same speeds as these other series but without a cockpit enclosing them, it makes sense that many people would think it is a more dangerous motorsport. However, there are far too many variables involved to give a true answer of which is most dangerous.
104 MotoGP riders have died at racing events since the first death occurred in 1949. This total takes into account all Grand Prix motorcycle deaths across all of the series within the broad category of GP motorcycle racing, from 50cc and sidecars to 500cc bikes and today’s Moto2, Moto3, and MotoGP.
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