by Bill C. for webBikeWorld.com
Coffee table books should, at the very least, be filled with wonderful images. Text usually takes a back seat.
I've seen a few coffee table books that aren't lately; big massive books that must be sold by the pound (or kilo). Mass alone is apparently supposed to be enough to impress visitors.
These are books filled with lame photos that look like they came from Aunt Jane's Kodak, with print looking like it came off of a fax machine.
I'd almost given up on ever finding a decent motorcycle-related coffee table book, but here's one that can be proudly displayed and that's also highly readable. And enjoyable. And educational.
And it's even a bargain.
The full title is actually 60 Years of MotoGP & the World Motorcycle Championship, but it probably should have been "60 Years of the World Motorcycle Championship and MotoGP.
That's because the term "MotoGP" didn't come into common usage until 2001 when the motorcycle Grand Prix championship series made the switcheroo back to four strokes from two.
Thus, it's interesting to note that this book -- which is obviously focused on the history of Grand Prix Championship (aka MotoGP) motorcycle racing -- mentions nothing about the re-naming of the championship series to MotoGP.
I distinctly remember reading more than one article in the early 2000's questioning the use of the new "MotoGP" name for the racing series.
But apparently that controversy has been lost to history and the MotoGP term has become the vernacular for both present and past motorcycle racing at the world championship level.
I say "apparently" because I can find no references to the exact date and circumstances of the name change in this book.
Nor have I been able to find reference to the name change in any other research.
It's like the history books have been wiped clean and motorcycle Grand Prix championship racing has always been known as MotoGP. It has not.
But other than this minor mystery (along with a slightly lackadaisical attitude by the author on providing exact dates, which is rather strange for what is indeed a book about history), 60 Years of MotoGP is an excellent overview of motorcycle racing at its highest form.
It covers the history of racing from way back in the early 1900's through the start of the modern championship series in 1949 until 2007, the last year of racing history included in this 2008 publication.
This history is both interesting and important.
Motorcycling is absolutely a product of its past, and I'll bet many young MotoGP fans are not aware of our sport's glorious history and the riders who have given their sweat, blood and, yes, their lives to get us to the ultra-exciting racing series that we have today.
The modern incarnation of motorcycle racing (and some say its savior) is Valentino Rossi, who is certainly the most well-known motorcycle racing icon of modern times.
Rossi has certainly brought many new fans to the sport, but there were so many other great riders.
Those include racers like Les Graham, the first 500cc Champion to Geoff Duke, John Surtees (who also went on to become a Formula 1 Champion), Bill Lomas (Book Review), Giacomo Agostini (Book Review) and so many more.
This book is the place to learn about every one of them, their machines and their exploits.
60 Years of MotoGP is filled to the brim with wonderful photos in both black-and-white and color, along with sidebars carrying interviews with famous racers.
An overwhelming topic like this that includes bikes, designers, riders and even famous race circuits could have ended up as a simple chronological telling of the facts.
But the author cleverly divided the book into chronological sections, starting with a brief historical background going back to the beginning of motorcycle time.
He then covers the beginning of championship level racing with Chapter 1 "1949-1958: Birth of the Series"; "1959-1968: Japan and the First Golden Age"; "The Two-Stroke Takeover".
Next comes "1979-1988: The Rooster-Tail Americans Hit Town" and "1989-1998: Beyond the Golden Age" featuring interviews with Kevin Schwantz and Mick Doohan.
And finally, "1999-2008: Catharsis and Computers" (incorrectly spelled as "Carthartis" in the Contents).
The author has also included a "Records" summary at the end of the book, listing the podiums for all of the grand prix championship series races from 1949 to 2007 in the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc or MotoGP classes.
In addition to the interviews mentioned above, other interviewees include Geoff Duke, John Surtees, Giacomo Agostini, Jim Redman, Phil Read, Kenny Roberts, Wayne Gardner, Wayne Rainey and, of course, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner.
By the way, the author, Michael Scott, has been a motorcycle journalist for nearly 40 years.
He claims to have attended "almost every motorcycle GP race since 1984". He was the editor for SuperBike magazine and other books, including "Wayne Rainey - His Own Story".
Excellent, exciting full-page photos make this a good coffee table book, but the sharp writing and witty analysis of racers and the championships provides a super background on one of the world's most exciting sports.
Publication Date: November 2008