Rewriting history: will an Independent Team win the title?

Martin and Bezzecchi currently act as Bagnaia’s main threat for glory in 2023 as they go in search of making MotoGP™ history

Winning the MotoGP™ World Championship in an Independent Team isn’t something that has happened very often. A few years ago, it wasn’t even something many would have considered possible as the gulf between the factory and Independent bikes was too big. Now though, it’s a different ball game in MotoGP™.

With Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) and Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) acting as two riders who look like they can mount a serious title challenge in 2023, we thought we’d take a look at previous Independent Team title winners – and riders who have come close to achieving the feat.


Rossi: the last to achieve such a feat

Valentino Rossi was the last rider to win a premier class title on a non-factory bike. The Doctor claimed his maiden premier class title in 2001 when continuing in the Nastro Azzurro Honda team, with Repsol Honda running Alex Criville and Tohru Ukawa. It was the beginning of a dominant few years for the famous #46.


‘King’ Kenny Roberts arrives

Before Rossi, Italians such as Marco Lucchinelli and Franco Uncini in 1981 and 1982 claimed titles riding for non-factory teams, but it was ‘King’ Kenny Roberts who inspired generations with his exploits when he arrived on the World Championship scene. 1978 saw Roberts dethrone Barry Sheene and Suzuki on an Independent Team Yamaha to become the first rider from the USA to win a Grand Prix road racing World Championship.


Gibernau and Melandri come close

At the height of Rossi’s dominance, Spain’s Sete Gibernau and Italy’s Marco Melandri were the riders who finished runner-up to The Doctor in 2003 and 2004 with Telefonica Movistar Honda. Who can forget some of those Rossi vs Gibernau battles in the former’s debut season with Yamaha in ’04?

Quartararo and Morbidelli threaten

We had to wait a while to see the re-emergence of Independent Team riders challenging for titles. In 2020’s atypical campaign, Franco Morbidelli finished runner-up to Joan Mir in the Petronas Yamaha SRT set-up, with teammate Fabio Quartararo also making a serious bid for the crown before a late-season dip of form ultimately cost the Frenchman from taking the title fight all the way.


Enter ‘The Beast’  

In 2022, Ducati sophomore Enea Bastianini lit up the premier class riding a year-old Desmosedici for Gresini Racing MotoGP™. ‘The Beast’ established himself as a firm title contender with three wins in the first seven races of the season, with victory battles vs now teammate Francesco Bagnaia in San Marino and Aragon set to be remembered for years to come. By the finale, Bastianini claimed P3 in the overall standings behind Bagnaia and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™’s Fabio Quartararo.


Will we see a first Independent Team rider claim the MotoGP™ crown since Rossi? There’s every chance it can happen this year. 

Follow the entire 2023 Season LIVE & VOD with VideoPass!