Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports Images
The premier championship of motorcycle road racing, the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix, was first organized by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) in 1949. It is currently divided into three classes: MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3. The three classes are restricted to the 250cc, the 600cc and the 1000cc four-stroke engines respectively. The FIM remains as the sport's sanctioning body, while the commercial rights are owned by Dorna Sports.
MotoGP, the elite class of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, has changed dramatically over the recent years. With the upgrade of the four-stroke engines to 1000cc, some restrictive rules on the number of engines that may be used in a season, the fuel allowance during a race, etc, the riders too have had massive improvements in their yearly earnings. Top MotoGP riders travel around the world to compete the annual FIM World Championship series, and their sources of income are mainly determined by their performance in these series and the lucrative endorsement deals they have with various manufacturers and companies.
According to an estimate, leasing a top-level motorcycle for a rider in the MotoGP costs 3 to 3.5 million dollars for a racing season. Such motorcycles can reach speeds of up to 200mph. So, MotoGP is an extreme sport, and therefore, only few riders are selected on the basis of their current winning forms in the World Championships. Over recent years, the Championships were won mainly by Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner (retired) and Dani Pedrosa. They were all awarded with well-paid salaries for the services they rendered in MotoGP. Last year, a shining star in the name of Marc Marquez stunned the world with his winning performances in the Championship. On balance, every team is paying in the millions to their best riders in MotoGP.
However, MotoGP riders are getting paid peanuts when compared to Formula 1 drivers, NASCAR drivers or athletes from other major sports. Of course the number one rider on our list, a sporting icon, is making a handsome sum of money comparable to the athletes from other major sports, but what about the rest of the pack? Read on through our list of the top 10 highest-paid MotoGP riders in 2014 to find out.
10 Colin Edwards - Forward Racing Team - $950,000 per year
Colin Edwards is a 39-year-old American professional motorcycle racer. He is a two-time World Superbike champion and a record holder for the most points in a single season with 552 in the championship. After winning his 2nd Superbike World Championship, Edwards moved up to the MotoGP class in 2003. Nicknamed the 'Texas Tornado', he currently rides bike number 5 for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team. Edwards finished 14th in the 2013 MotoGP World Championship standings with 41 points. He has a yearly salary of $950,000.
9 Andrea Dovizioso - Ducati Team - $1 million per year
Andrea Dovizioso won the 125cc World Championship in 2004. He moved up to the MotoGP class in September 2007, achieving a highly credible fourth place finish in his premier class debut. He become one of Honda's most consistent riders throughout that season, finishing fourth and fifth several times, and achieving a 3rd place podium finish at the Malaysian MotoGP at Sepang. In 2012, Dovizioso was signed by Ducati to partner Nicky Hayden from the 2013 season onwards. He finished 8th behind Stefan Bradl in the 2013 Championship with 140 points. Dovi is paid $1 million annually by Ducati.
8 Cal Crutchlow - Ducati Team - $1.2 million per year
Cal Crutchlow is an English Grand Prix motorcycle racer, a former British Supersport Champion, British Superbike race winner and the 2009 Supersport World Champion. He began competing in the MotoGP class since 2011, joining Tech 3 for the 2013 MotoGP Championship. The 28-year-old finished the season in 12th position, and was named the "Rookie of the Year". 2013 saw Crutchlow finished 5th with 188 points in the Championship standings. He signed a two-year deal, paying him $1.2 million per year, with the factory Ducati team on August 2, 2013. He will be riding bike number 35 for the 2014 season.
7 Alvaro Bautista - Honda Gresini Racing Team - $1.4 million per year
Alvaro Bautista made his way into MotoGP in the 2010 season, after signing with team Suzuki. He currently drives for the Honda-equipped Gresini Racing team with bike number 19. Baustista made his international debut in the 2002 Grand Prix motorcycle racing season. He achieved the first position in MotoGP at the 2012 British Grand Prix, and his first ever MotoGP podium came at Misano in 2013. The 29-year-old Spaniard finished the 2013 MotoGP World Championship in 6th position with 171 points. He is paid $1.4 million per year by the Gresini Racing team.
6 Stefan Bradl - LCR Honda Team - $1.7 million per year
Stefan Bradl is a German Grand Prix motorcycle racer currently riding bike number 6 for LCR Honda team in the MotoGP class. He moved up to the Moto2 class of Grand Prix racing in 2010, and the 2011 season was his most celebrated time at that level. In 2011, Bradl won the World Championship in spectacular fashion. Just when the championship seemed to be going down to the wire with two rounds remaining, both he and the injury-bound Marc Marquez were neck and neck, both with fair shots at the title. He finished 7th in the 2013 Championship with 156 points The 24-year-old was signed to ride a 1000cc LCR Honda in 2012, and has a yearly salary of $1.7 million.
5 Nicky Hayden - Aspar Racing Team - $4 million per year
4 Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda Team - $4 million per year
Marc Marquez won the 2013 MotoGP World Championship, becoming the youngest world champion in the class at the age of 20. With the win, Marquez broke several records, the most notables of those being becoming the youngest rider to hold pole position, to take successive podium positions, to take the fastest lap, to win 5 successive Grands Prix and to lead the Championship (334 points in 2013), all in Premier Class. Marquez is one of the four riders to win at least one 125 cc, Moto 2 and MotoGP World Championship. The 21-year-old Spaniard drives bike number 93 for the Repsol Honda Team. He has a yearly salary of $4 million.
3 Dani Pedrosa - Repsol Honda Team - $4 million per year
Dani Pedrosa is a Spanish Grand Prix motorcycle racer who has been riding for the Repsol Honda team in the MotoGP class since 2006. He won the 125cc World Championship in 2003 and the 250cc World Championship in 2004 and 2005, becoming the youngest world champion in the 250cc class. Pedro is also the second-youngest winner in the Premier Class, after he won the Chinese Grand Prix race in May, 2006. He finished 3rd in the 2013 Championship with 300 points. The 28-year-old makes $4 million per year with the Repsol Honda team, riding bike number 26.
2 Jorge Lorenzo - Yamaha Factory Racing Team - $9.2 million per year
Jorge Lorenzo is one of the most celebrated MotoGP riders in recent years. He currently rides bike number 99 for the Yamaha Factory Racing team that pays him $7.2 million annually. He is the second-highest paid MotoGP rider with a yearly salary of $9.2 million, the other $2 million of annual earnings coming from endorsements. Lorenzo made a great start to his MotoGP career, finishing 2nd after qualifying in pole position for the Qatar night race in 2008. He won the 2010 and 2012 MotoGP World Championships, having already been the 2006 and 2007 250cc World Champion. The 26-year-old Spanish racer finished 2nd in the 2013 Championship standings with 330 points.
1 Valentino Rossi - Yamaha Factory Racing Team - $22 million per year
Valentino Rossi is one of the most successful motorcycle racers of all time with nine Grand Prix World Championships under his belt. He has won the MotoGP World Championship six times, in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009. Rossi was also the 2001 55occ World Champion, the 1999 25occ World Champion and the 1997 125cc World Champion. He finished the 2013 Championship standing on 4th position with 237 points. He will be riding bike number 46, partnering with Jorge Lorenzo until the end of the 2014 season. According to Sports Illustrated, Rossi earned an estimated $35 million in 2007. Today, he is the highest-paid MotoGP rider with an annual earning of $22 million, $10 million of which the 35-year-old earns from endorsements. Rossi is the only motorcycle racer present on a 'Forbes' top ten list for the highest-earning Motorsport competitors.