Spanish riders have dominated MotoGP in recent years. This route to global dominance was carved out by Alex Criville- who, in 1992 became the first Spaniard to win a 500cc grand prix. Then, in 1999 Criville cemented his place in Spanish history as he became the first Spanish rider being crowned world champion in the premier class. Just as significantly, this broke up the dominance of American and Australian riders and paved a way for Criville’s aspiring compatriots. Fast forward two decades and ten of the last twelve MotoGP champions have been Spanish. Some question how a country already captivated by popular sports such as basketball and football can at the same time produce such a plethora of talented MotoGP riders.
The simple answer lies in the smart investment made by the Spanish government and some big companies like Repsol and Telefonica Movistar. However, it is important to emphasise how big a role owners and commercial/TV rights holders, Dorna have played in the rise of MotoGP in Spain. Dorna have owned these rights since 1991 and have since then made it their mission to reinvest in the sport. Seeing as they are a Spanish company, this has benefitted Spain the most. Backed by the aforementioned Repsol and Telefonica Movistar, Dorna have helped set up various programmes to help discover and nurture talented young riders in Spain.
This investment has helped to increase access to motorcycle racing, and in turn made it more popular in the country. The dominance we see today was bound to happen as this investment at the root of the sport was unparalleled with the rest of the world. MotoGP’s rise in popularity, and in turn the success of its riders, in Spain can be attributed to how money was spent, not necessarily how much of it was invested.
Still competing in MotoGP, and being just 26, Alex Rins will be hoping to add to his already impressive stats. He has 3 wins and 15 podiums from 90 races. The Team Suzuki driver joined the team in 2017 after making a good name for himself in the Moto2 and Moto3 world championships. Rins’ time in the premier class has been respectable so far, finishing in 3rd in the 2020 championship however one cannot help but think he could go on to put together a good MotoGP career.
9- Joan Mir
Joan Mir, at the end of 24, is the youngest racer on this list and whilst his 1 Grand Prix win is lower than other Spanish riders on the list, there is a factor that illuminates the Majorcan- his championship title. Mir battled with Fabio Quartararo and fellow Spaniard Maverick Vinales to win the 2020 MotoGP title. In doing becoming one of only 4 Spanish riders to win the championship and also the first Suzuki rider to win the championship since 2000. Whilst Mir is not yet a seasoned rider, his success at such a young age leaves fans excited to see how his career in MotoGP pans out.
Born in Barcelona, Carlos Checa competed in the MotoGP for over a decade, and he holds 2 grand prix wins whilst also finishing on the podium an impressive 24 times. Checa enjoyed his most successful season in 1998 racing for Movistar Honda Pons, narrowly missing out on a top 3 finish as he ended the year in 4th place. This feat is made more impressive when you consider the fact Checa was involved in a near fatal collision at Donnington Park grand prix in that season. After a long career in MotoGP, Checa made a successful switch to the Superbike World Championship in 2008.
Aleix Espargaro is currently competing in his 13th season in the MotoGP and is only getting better with age. He is enjoying a late peak in his career and having raced on some less powerful bikes in his early years in MotoGP he now has a chance with Aprilla Racing to climb the rankings. He has enjoyed a solid career, holding 1 grand prix win, and finishing on the podium 7 times. However, the Catalan’s story is not finished and with him currently sitting in 2nd place in the overall standings for the 2022 championship he will be hoping he can overcome Quartararo and become only the 5th Spaniard to lift the MotoGP title.
Born in Girona, Viñales grew up competing in motorcycle competitions in Catalonia. He began his MotoGP career in 2014, racing for Suzuki, and in 2015 he won the ‘rookie of the year’ award following a 12th place finish. He carried this good form into the following season, and he finished 4th overall. Despite not having won a championship, Viñales is enjoying a successful MotoGP career and he has recorded 9 wins and 29 podium finishes from 131 races. Following a turbulent end to his time racing for Yamaha, Viñales is currently a rider for the Aprilla Racing team.
Despite an unsuccessful return to MotoGP in 2009, Sete Gibernau enjoyed a good MotoGP career. He is best remembered for pushing his Yamaha team mate Valentino Rossi to the limit in 2003 and 2004, with the pair battling for the championship title. Gibernau fell short, finishing 2nd in the overall rankings for both of those seasons. However, his valiant attempt to end the Italian’s dominance was applauded and Gibernau performed very well in many of his duels with Rossi- winning 8 Grand Prix’s during this period.
Pedrosa is remembered by many as ‘the greatest to never win a championship,’ and this is clear once you take a look at some his career statistics. His 31 wins put him joint 8th in the all-time list for career wins- for context, he is tied with Eddie Lawson, a 4 time champion. Nonetheless, Pedrosa is adored by racing fans, and following his retirement in 2018 he was inducted into the MotoGP Hall of Fame. He joined an illustrious list of only 28 riders and in turn underlined the fact that despite having not won a championship, he is a legend of the sport.
Alex Criville was the trailblazer for Spanish riders in MotoGP, as he was the first from the country to win a MotoGP race in 1992 and the first to win a championship in 1999. His unfortunate retirement in 2002 due to a health issue has left some to wonder whether he could have potentially achieved more had he of been able to continue racing. However, his championship win in 1999 will forever be an important event in MotoGP history- it marked the beginning of the new wave of Spanish talent. Despite his career being cut short, Criville enjoyed a successful career in MotoGP. He raced 131 times, winning 15 races, and he finished on the podium 51 times.
A 3-time motoGP championship winner, Lorenzo burst onto the scene finishing in 4th place in his debut year racing for Yamaha. In the season after that he pushed Yamaha team mate, and MotoGP legend, Valentino Rossi to the limit as he finished 2nd to the Italian. Finally, Lorenzo won his first championship in 2010 and in doing so became only the 2nd Spaniard to do so, after Alex Criville. Going on to win 2 more championships in 2012 and 2013 respectively, Lorenzo has earned his place in MotoGP and certainly Spanish MotoGP history. His 3 championships are complimented by 47 wins and 114 podiums from 203 races- underlining Jorge Lorenzo’s legendary status.
To no surprise, the 6 time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez tops this list. Nicknamed ‘the ant,’ he has cemented his place as one of the greatest MotoGP riders of all time and the most successful from a plethora of Spanish talent. His 6 championships are accompanied by 59 wins and 99 podium finishes from 148 races.
Marquez was destined for stardom after a successful time in Moto2 and in 2013 he was picked up by Repsol Honda. He became the youngest ever MotoGP champion in his debut season, and his promise did not stop there as he matched this feat in the following season- winning another championship. After a blip in 2015 he returned to winning ways as he won the next 4 MotoGP titles. Marquez’ dominance has seen him become a true legend of the sport, with only Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi holding more premier class championships than him.