Dorna and FIM Pay Tribute To Ángel Nieto

Press release tributes to Ángel Nieto, who died on Thursday at the age of 70, from the FIM and Dorna:

Remembering Angel Nieto
Angel Nieto (1947-2017)

Looking back at the life and achievements of one of Spain's most legendary motorcyclists

Spanish motorcycling legend Angel Nieto sadly passed away on August 3rd, succumbing to injuries sustained in a quad bike accident in Ibiza in late July. A true giant of the sport in Spain and on the world stage, the Champion from Zamora will be deeply missed.

Nieto was a 13-time World Champion, but due to superstition would always refer to the number as 12 + 1. Born in Castile and Leon in 1947, the Spaniard would emerge as the leading force in establishing his nation as a motorcycling world power, winning an incredible 90 Grands Prix and taking 139 podiums on his way to his 12 + 1 world titles. Over almost two decades, Nieto set his name in stone as a true great, competing in and often dominating the 50cc, 80cc and 125cc events and Championships he entered.

This dominance and brilliance over 19 years at the top established him as one of the all-time elite – alongside the likes of Giacomo Agostini, Valentino Rossi, Mike Hailwood and Phil Read in the annals of two-wheeled history.

Six 50cc World Championships and seven on 125cc machinery also make Nieto the rider to have won the most titles with different manufacturers, as the Spaniard rode for and won on Derbi, Bultaco, Garelli, Minarelli and Kreidler machinery. He also took domestic titles in every conceivable class from 50cc up to 750cc in his native Spain, setting his legend in stone at home as well as on the world stage.

His cavalier charisma and character were a great reflection of the late 1960s and ‘70s, with his personality more than matching his achievements on track. Later Nieto was also a team manager, at the helm when Emilio Alzamora won the 125 World Championship in 1999, and became the head of a motorcycling dynasty as family members followed his path into the world of two wheels. The Nieto name remains synonymous with Spanish motorcycling and the 12 + 1 World Champion will be deeply missed; forever remaining an inspiration to his nation and to the entire MotoGP™ paddock.

The MotoGP™ community extends its deepest condolences to Nieto’s family and friends as we bid farewell to a true giant of motorcycling history who will be greatly missed.

Tribute to Angel Nieto

Spanish motorcycling legend Angel Nieto sadly passed away on 3 August, after he succumbed to injuries sustained during a quad bike accident in Ibiza in late July.

Angel Nieto Roldan was born on 25 January 1947 in Zamora, Spain. His brilliant career – which would see him clinch 13 World titles – or 12+1, as he used to say for superstitious reasons… – started in the mid-sixties when he joined the Derbi factory, first as a young mechanic, then as a rider alongside Spaniard José Busquets and Australian Barry Smith.

In 1966 he took part in his first World Championship events and finished 9th overall in the 50cc World Championship thanks to a 5th place at the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim. The following year the performance of the Derbi improved a lot and he finished in 4th position, scoring points in four of six races and earning a brilliant second place in Assen.

In 1968 he was 4th again, with another second place at his home Grand Prix in Montjuich. 1969 was his break-through year: with his two first wins and three second places, he became World Champion for the first time, just one point ahead of Dutch rider Aalt Toersen. Meanwhile Derbi had prepared to enter the 125cc class, and in 1970 Nieto began to be a leading rider in both 50cc and 125cc for almost fifteen years.

That year he took the 50cc title again and finished second in the 125cc behind Dieter Braun and his Suzuki. In 1971, he succeeded in the 125cc class, winning five races, after a great fight with a Suzuki rider called Barry Sheene! But in the small class he finished second to Jan de Vries and his Kreidler.

Then he would get both titles in the same season: 1972 saw him double World Champion, in the 125cc ahead of Swede Kent Andersson, and in the 50cc level on points and results with Jan de Vries – he got the title beating the Dutch rider in the total of the times.

In 1973 Angel Nieto switched to Morbidelli, who seemed to have a promising machine; he was 7th in the 125cc Championship, and in 1974, he came back on a Derbi which took him to third place. In 1975 he took the 50cc title riding the very fast Kreidler, against which he had fought all these years: six wins and two second places.

In 1976 he went to another Spanish manufacturer, Bultaco: another title in the 50cc, and a second place in the 125cc. In 1977 he clinched his third consecutive World title in the smallest class, again on a Bultaco, and he then decided to concentrate on the 125cc, as he had lost the battle against the Morbidelli riders, Italian Pierpaolo Bianchi and Eugenio Lazzarini, ending in third.

He left Bultaco for another new manufacturer Minarelli in 1978, but after taking only 4 points in six races, he went back to Bultaco and scored 84 points in the last six races. A great performance, but it was not enough for the title, Lazzarini was too far ahead. In 1979 the Minarelli was working well and Angel clinched seven consecutive wins in the first seven races (and one in the last six…) gathering more than twice the points of the second placed rider…

It was not the end of his career – yet. After a third place in 1980, the Minarelli became the fastest bike and Angel was back on the top of the 125cc class in 1981 with eight wins and another title. Then he decided to change again, this time to Garelli: the motorcycle seemed to go well, and it did: three more consecutive 125cc World titles in 82, 83 and 84. At this point he decided that the time had come to stop. He became team manager, then TV commentator on Spanish TV. He was a much-recognised figure in the paddock and such was inducted as MotoGP Legend in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002.

It is with great sadness that the FIM President, Vito Ippolito said: “I share the pain of Angel’s family and friends after his untimely death. It's a tough blow to our great motorcycle community, not just in Spain, where he was very much loved but the whole world over. I met him at the first ever Grand Prix in Venezuela many years ago, he was one of my favourite riders. Later, I was lucky enough to meet him again in the paddock where we always exchanged some friendly words. His presence will be greatly missed by us all, although we will always remember Angel, both as a great champion but most importantly as a true motorcyclist and gentleman.”

The FIM and the entire motorcycle community extend their deepest condolences to Angels’ family and friends.

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I watched him as a racer and enjoyed his commentary on Spanish TV.

He raced at a time when even factory riders would roll up in a van and be thankfull for a few crew members. They would ride on courses like the IoM and race in equipment that had little cahnce of protecting the rider from some of the brutal scenery that surrounded many of these tracks. They saw colleagues die almost by the race, yet they continued to ride. And the tracks in the world championship were the best and with the best facilities. In the Spanish championship the circuits were often street tracks in much the same mold as the Irish road racing events. There are bars all over Spain with pictures of Nieto and Co racing in these events. They very often hold pride of place.

And Nieto then went on to succeed at one of the most difficult transitions; that of becoming a pundit. He was one of my favourite commentators, bringing a passion, knowledge and understanding of what racing at the highest level could be like, something that few racers have managed to do.

Along with our own Kropotkin and Dennis Noyes, Nieto was one of the truly great analysts of our sport. To have succeeded at not only being one of the true greats of racing, but also being a true great in the commentary box was a remarkable feat.

For many enthusiasts in Spain, the great shame was that he was never awarded the Principe de Asturias prize for outstanding performance. The outcry at Alonso getting it immediately on winning the F1 title was heartfelt and has probably contributed to the waning popularity of the monarchy in the country. 

Angel Nieto will be sorely missed.