Switching from two wheels to four in motorsports

We look at the most successful (and least successful!) moves from racing motorbikes to cars.
MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi tests a Ferrari F1 car at Mugello in 2008
Valentino Rossi tests a Ferrari F1 car at Mugello © McKlein Image Database
By Greg Stuart

Moving between disciplines in motorsport is tough. Talented though he is, F1’s Kimi Raikkonen could only manage a best finish of fifth in his two-year stint in the World Rally Championship, while Juan Pablo Montoya, a prodigious talent in an F1 or an Indy car, enjoyed only a handful of victories in his seven years as a NASCAR driver.

But if you think it’s tough switching between different four-wheeled disciplines, it’s even tougher making the move from two wheels to four. Redbull.com takes a look at some of the best and worst switches over the years.

Valentino Rossi – MotoGP to rally, F1, sportscars

MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi driving at Wales Rally GB 2008 in a Ford Focus WRC
Valentino Rossi at Wales Rally GB 2008 © McKlein Image Database

The winner of nine Grand Prix World Championships has made the most of his motorsports connections, bagging himself several Formula One tests with Ferrari (that's Rossi in the top picture) over the years, with Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo famously announcing that if he could field three cars, Rossi would be a Ferrari driver.

‘The Doctor’ also likes a spot of rallying, first competing back in 2002 at Wales Rally GB, while last weekend, Rossi finished second to Citroen’s Dani Sordo at the Monza Rally Show, an event he’s won three times in the past. Rossi has also competed in the Blancpain Endurance Series in a Ferrari 458.

John Surtees – MotoGP to F1

John Surtees was a seven-time motorcycle champion when he switched to racing in Formula One
John Surtees won titles on two and four wheels © Emmanuel Zurini/DPPI

Surtees’ move from motorcycle racing, where he won seven championships on 350cc and 500cc machinery, to Formula One is the stuff of legend, with the Englishman taking his first win in 1963 for Ferrari before claiming the title for the Scuderia a year later. Surtees remains the only man to have won top-class two- and four-wheeled titles.

Mick Doohan – MotoGP to F1 and various at Race of Champions

MotoGP champion Mick Doohan driving a Lamborghini Gallardo at Race of Champions 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand
Mick Doohan at last year's Race of Champions © DPPI/Jean-Michel Le Meur

The five-time 500cc champion has been less successful when competing on four-wheels. A test with Williams in 1998 along with rally driver Tommi Makkinen resulted in several spins, while the Australian failed to progress past the first round at last year’s Race of Champions, where he competed in cars such as the Audi R8 LMS, Volkswagen Scirocco and a Lamborghini Gallardo. He's going back again this year though...

Travis Pastrana – Motocross to rally, rallycross and NASCAR

FMX star Travis Pastrana competing in Rally Argentina 2007 in a Subaru Impreza WRX
Travis Pastrana at Rally Argentina 2007 © McKlein Image Database

The freestyle motocross legend – the first man ever to pull a double backflip in competition – has competed in a number of WRC rounds over the years, as well as being a four-time Rally America champion and a current driver in the Global Rallycross series. A switch to NASCAR has proved more challenging for the chirpy Pastrana, as documented in his Red Bull video series ‘On Pace with Pastrana.’

Casey Stoner – MotoGP to V8 Supercars

Former MotoGP champion Casey Stoner racing his Volden Commodore V8 Supercar in 2013
Casey Stoner raced V8s in 2013 © Vue Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner called time on his motorcycling career last year, aged just 27. A switch to the second tier of the Australian V8 Supercars series followed in 2013, before Stoner announced in September that he was planning to take some time away from all motorsport in 2014.

And switching from four wheels to two…

Sebastien Loeb – Rally to various motorcycle disciplines

© Mathias Kniepeiss/Red Bull Content Pool

The nine-time WRC champion has been trying every discipline he can get his hands on since retiring from rallying, and recently confirmed that he would be competing at the Scorpion Masters motorcycle event at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France on November 30th. Loeb will go up against riders like Antoine Meo in a number of different motorcycle disciplines, including circuit racing, enduro and trials.

Sébastien Loeb
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