by Bill C. for webBikeWorld.com
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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
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, 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, from
the history of racing 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, from Les Graham, the first 500cc Champion, to Geoff Duke, John
Surtees (who also went on to become a Formula 1 Champion),
Giacomo Agostini 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, then covering 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"; "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 and is said 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.
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