Historical perspective is often missing from the racing world. In the excitement of today's race, fans are sometimes quick to declare the dominant rider of the moment to be one of the all-time greats, or even the GOAT (the greatest of all time), even if their memory of "all time" barely stretches back 10 years.
With Marc Márquez approaching the record for consecutive wins in the top class of grand prix racing, it's time for some MotoGPerspective. The chart below shows every win streak of more than five races in the top class (500cc or MotoGP) of grand prix motorcycle racing since the modern era began in 1949, based on official MotoGP records.
Entire books can be written about which riders had the toughest competition or the greatest advantage in equipment. Giacomo Agostini's legendary dominance was no doubt aided by racing a four-cylinder MV Agusta against lesser machines, such as British singles. But setting that aside and just looking at the numbers, it's easy to see there have been periods of dominance that Márquez has yet to equal. Agostini, with his record 122 grand prix wins in all classes, is the most obvious. Because of Márquez' youth, he has the best shot at breaking Agostini's old record. Valentino Rossi had a chance until he wasted two years on an uncompetitive Ducati.
After winning all 10 races in 1968, Agostini won the first 10 races of 1969, then sat out two races. In 1970, he came back to win the first 10 races, so he won 30 consecutive grands prix in which he competed. Mike Hailwood was similarly dominant at his peak and nearly put together a 20-race win streak. The only rider other than Agostini to accomplish a perfect season is John Surtees, who officially won all seven races in 1959 (one race was cut short by weather and removed from the official results). All told, in 1958-60, Surtees won 18 of 21 races.
Like just about all professional athletes, Márquez says he doesn't think about records and just wants to win championships. But if he ever feels unmotivated by the competition on the track with him today, there are some mighty figures from the past whose accomplishments can serve as a standard for measuring his own.
Winning streaks in the 500cc/MotoGP class: