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How Many MotoGP Riders Have Died Racing?

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.

Jason Dupasquier

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. 

Marco Simoncelli

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

DecadeDeaths
1940s3
1950s29
1960s27
1970s24
1980s14
1990s2
2000s1
2010s3
2020s1
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

ClassDeaths
Sidecar18
50cc1
125cc6
250cc20
350cc25
500cc28
Moto22
Moto31
MotoGP2
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

RiderChampionshipsDied
Dario Ambrosini250cc (1950)1951
Leslie Graham500cc (1949)1953
Rupert Hollaus125cc (1954)1954
Tom Phillis125cc (1961)1962
Bill Ivy125cc (1967)1969
Jarno Saarinen250cc (1972)1973
Daijiro Kato250cc (2001)2003
Marco Simoncelli250cc (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

Rider (Country)DateRaceTrack
Ben Drinkwater (UK)June 13, 19491949 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Edouard Bruylant (BEL)July 17, 19491949 Belgian Grand PrixCircuit de Spa-Francorchamps
“Hurst” (GBR)July 17, 19491949 Belgian Grand PrixCircuit de Spa-Francorchamps
David Whitworth (GBR)July 2, 19501950 Belgian Grand PrixCircuit de Spa-Francorchamps
John O’Driscoll (GBR)May 31, 19511951 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
John Wenman (GBR)June 4, 19511951 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Chris Horn (GBR)June 8, 19511951 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Dario Ambrosini (ITA)July 14, 19511951 French Grand PrixCircuit d’Albi
Sante Geminiani (ITA)August 15, 19511951 Ulster Grand PrixClady Circuit
Gianni Leoni (ITA)August 15, 19511951 Ulster Grand PrixClady Circuit
Dave Bennett (UK)May 18, 19521952 Swiss Grand PrixCircuit Bremgarten
Ercole Frigerio (ITA)May 18, 19521952 Swiss Grand PrixCircuit Bremgarten
Frank Fry (UK)June 4, 19521952 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Norman Stewart (UK)August 16, 19521952 Ulster Grand PrixClady Circuit
Harry Stephen (UK)June 8, 19531953 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Thomas Swarbrick (UK)June 8, 19531953 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Leslie Graham (UK)June 12, 19531953 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Geoffrey Walker (AUS)June 12, 19531953 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Ernie Ring (AUS)July 5, 19531953 Belgian Grand PrixCircuit de Spa-Francorchamps
Simon Sandys-Winsch (UK)June 18, 19541954 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Gordon Laing (UK)July 4, 19541954 Belgian Grand PrixCircuit de Spa-Francorchamps
Dennis Lashmar (UK)July 25, 19541954 German Grand PrixSolitudering
Rupert Hollaus (AUT)September 11, 19541954 Nations Grand PrixAutodromo Nazionale Monza
Ricardo Galvagni (ARG)June 25, 19551955 German Grand PrixNürburgring
Julian Crossley (UK)August 11, 19551955 Ulster Grand PrixDundrod Circuit
Derek Ennett (IOM)August 9, 19561956 Ulster Grand PrixDundrod Circuit
Charlie Salt (UK)June 7, 19571957 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Josef Knebel (GER)June 28, 19571957 Dutch TTTT Circuit Assen
Roberto Colombo (ITA)July 6, 19571957 Belgian Grand PrixCircuit de Spa-Francorchamps
John Antram (NZ)May 26, 19581958 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Des Wolff (RHO)June 6, 19581958 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Adolfo Covi (ITA)September 6, 19591959 Nations Grand PrixAutodromo Nazionale Monza
Peter Ferbrache (UK)June 25, 19601960 Dutch TTTT Circuit Assen
Bob Brown (AUS)July 24, 19601960 German Grand PrixSolitudering
Mike Brookes (UK)June 10, 19611961 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Marie Lambert (CH)June 12, 19611961 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Ralph Rensen (UK)June 16, 19611961 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Ron Miles (AUS)August 9, 19611961 Ulster Grand PrixDundrod Circuit
Tom Phillis (AUS)June 6, 19621962 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Colin Meehan (NZ)June 6, 19621962 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Hans Schuld (NED)June 29, 19621962 Dutch TTTT Circuit Assen
Marcelin Herranz (FRA)June 1, 19631963 French Grand PrixCharade Circuit
Brian Cockrell (UK)June 2, 19641964 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Peter Essery (UK)June 8, 19641964 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Roland Föll (GER)June 26, 19641964 Dutch TTTT Circuit Assen
Karl Recktenwald (GER)July 19, 19641964 German Grand PrixSolitudering
Vernon Cottle (UK)August 29, 19641964 Finnish Grand PrixImatra Circuit
Norman Huntingford (UK)June 25, 19661966 Dutch TTTT Circuit Assen
Toshio Fujii (JPN)August 26, 19661966 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Brian Duffy (UK)August 28, 19661966 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Alfred Shaw (UK)June 10, 19671967 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Werner Daubitz (DDR)July 16, 19671967 East German Grand PrixSachsenring
Ian Veitch (NZ)June 10, 19681968 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Johann Attenberger (GER)July 7, 19681968 Belgian Grand PrixCircuit de Spa-Francorchamps
Josef Schillinger (GER)July 7, 19681968 Belgian Grand PrixCircuit de Spa-Francorchamps
Rolf Schmid (GER)October 13, 19681968 Hockenheim Grand Prix [N 1]Hockenheimring
Arthur Lavington (UK)June 6, 19691969 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Bill Ivy (UK)July 12, 19691969 East German Grand PrixSachsenring
František Boček (CSK)July 20, 19691969 Czechoslovakian Grand PrixBrno Circuit
Robin Fitton (UK)May 2, 19701970 German Grand PrixNürburgring
Les Iles (UK)June 1, 19701970 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Michael Collins (UK)June 3, 19701970 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Dennis Blower (UK)June 3, 19701970 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Santiago Herrero (ESP)June 8, 19701970 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
John Wetherall (MLT)June 12, 19701970 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Brian Steenson (UK)June 12, 19701970 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Maurice Jeffery (UK)June 12, 19711971 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Christian Ravel (FRA)July 4, 19711971 Belgian Grand PrixCircuit de Spa-Francorchamps
Günter Bartusch (DDR)July 8, 19711971 East German Grand PrixSachsenring
Gilberto Parlotti (ITA)June 9, 19721972 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Hans-Jürgen Cusnik (GER)July 16, 19721972 Czechoslovakian Grand PrixBrno Circuit
Renzo Pasolini (ITA)May 20, 19731973 Nations Grand PrixAutodromo Nazionale Monza
Jarno Saarinen (FIN)May 20, 19731973 Nations Grand PrixAutodromo Nazionale Monza
Billie Nelson (UK)September 8, 19741974 Yugoslavian Grand PrixOpatija Circuit
Phil Gurner (UK)June 4, 19751975 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Rolf Thiele (GER)June 28, 19751975 Dutch TTTT Circuit Assen
Paolo Tordi (ITA)May 16, 19761976 Nations Grand PrixMugello Circuit
Otello Buscherini (ITA)May 16, 19761976 Nations Grand PrixMugello Circuit
Walter Wörner (GER)June 7, 19761976 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Les Kenny (AUS)June 12, 19761976 Isle of Man TTIsle of Man TT Mountain Course
Hans Stadelmann (CH)May 1, 19771977 Austrian Grand PrixSalzburgring
Giovanni Ziggiotto (ITA)June 18, 19771977 Yugoslavian Grand PrixOpatija Circuit
Ulrich Graf (CH)June 19, 19771977 Yugoslavian Grand PrixOpatija Circuit
Patrick Pons (FRA)August 10, 19801980 British Grand PrixSilverstone Circuit
Malcolm White (UK)August 10, 19801980 British Grand PrixSilverstone Circuit
Michel Rougerie (FRA)May 31, 19811981 Yugoslavian Grand PrixAutomotodrom Grobnik
Sauro Pazzaglia (ITA)July 11, 19811981 San Marino Grand PrixAutodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari
Alain Béraud (FRA)August 30, 19811981 Czechoslovakian Grand PrixBrno Circuit
Jock Taylor (UK)August 15, 19821982 Finnish Grand PrixImatra Circuit
Iwao Ishikawa (JPN)March 29, 19831983 French Grand PrixBugatti Circuit
Michel Frutschi (CH)April 3, 19831983 French Grand PrixBugatti Circuit
Rolf Rüttimann (CH)June 12, 19831983 Yugoslavian Grand PrixAutomotodrom Grobnik
Norman Brown (UK)July 31, 19831983 British Grand PrixSilverstone Circuit
Peter Huber (CH)July 31, 19831983 British Grand PrixSilverstone Circuit
Kevin Wrettom (UK)July 7, 19841984 Belgian Grand PrixCircuit de Spa-Francorchamps
Alfred Heck (GER)July 21, 19881988 French Grand PrixCircuit Paul Ricard
Iván Palazzese (VEN)May 28, 19891989 German Grand PrixHockenheimring
Nobuyuki Wakai (JPN)May 1, 19931993 Spanish Grand PrixCircuito de Jerez
Simon Prior (UK)June 12, 19941994 German Grand PrixHockenheimring
Daijiro Kato (JPN)April 6, 20032003 Japanese Grand PrixSuzuka Circuit
Shoya Tomizawa (JPN)September 5, 20102010 San Marino and Rimini Grand PrixMisano Circuit
Marco Simoncelli (ITA)October 23, 20112011 Malaysian Grand PrixSepang International Circuit
Luis Salom (ESP)June 3, 20162016 Catalan Grand PrixCircuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Jason Dupasquier (SUI)May 29, 20212021 Italian Grand PrixMugello Circuit

MotoGP Rider Deaths By Session

SessionDeaths
Race69
Practice34
Qualifying1
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

TrackDeaths
Isle of Man TT Mountain Course36
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps10
TT Circuit Assen6
Silverstone Circuit4
Autodromo Nazionale Monza4
Solitudering3
Sachsenring3
Opatija Circuit3
Mugello Circuit3
Hockenheimring3
Dundrod Circuit3
Clady Circuit3
Brno Circuit3
Nürburgring2
Imatra Circuit2
Circuit Bremgarten2
Bugatti Circuit2
Automotodrom Grobnik2
Suzuka Circuit1
Sepang International Circuit1
Salzburgring1
Misano Circuit1
Circuito de Jerez1
Circuit Paul Ricard1
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya1
Circuit d’Albi1
Charade Circuit1
Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari1

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.

SeriesDeathsInaugural SeasonDeaths Per Year
MotoGP10419491.4
IndyCar9519160.9
Formula 14619500.6
NASCAR2919490.4

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.

SeriesDeaths (2000-2021)Deaths Per Year
MotoGP50.24
IndyCar40.19
NASCAR20.10
Formula 110.05

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. 

Final Thoughts

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.