Giacomo Agostini and his untouched record, at LiveToRide

Motorbike Racer Whose Record Still Stands today!

We couldn’t have a Legends of Racing series without including probably the best there ever was – Giacomo Agostini!

It was through the second half of the 1960’s and early 1970’s when Giacomo became the first true legend of motorcycle racing.

There’s one measure of greatness and probably the most universal which is overall Championship Titles and Premier Class victories.

During the Italian’s reign at the top he amassed an amazing 122 Grand Prix victories which led to 15 World Championship Titles (eight in 500cc and seven in 350cc), along with 12 Isle of Man TT crowns – a record that still stands today.

The only racers who have come close are Angel Nieto who currently sits second with 13 World Championships and Valentino Rossi, Mike Hailwood and Carlo Ubbiali who are all equal third with 9 World Championships.

So where did it all begin for the man they call ‘Ago’?


A Little About Giacomo Agostini

Giacomo Agostini was born on June 16th, 1942 in Brescia, Italy, and grew up in a well-to-do family as the oldest of four brothers in Levere near Bergamo.

His father Aurelio Agostini worked on the Town Council and was quite respected, so when Giacomo told him he wanted to race bikes, he was immensely against it.

Well, Giacomo wouldn’t take no for an answer, but as a signature from his parents was a requirement before he could start racing, he spoke to a family friend who eventually persuaded his father to sign the form.

Funnily enough though, the family friend thought it was for racing pushbikes – little did he know it was motorcycle racing.

By that stage it was too late because Ago had already submitted the paperwork and was ready for his first race.

The Beginning of Ago’s Motorbike Racing Career!

In his early days, he cut his racing teeth in European hill-climb events, which was racing up hillside roads and not the American style of hill-climbing.

At 21 he won his first major race – the 1963 175cc Italian championship, aboard a Moto Morini.

This got him noticed by Morini management which led to his first real break the following year, when a Morini factory rider left the team to join the more prestigious Benelli.

Ago was signed as a factory rider for the first time, and he didn’t disappoint his new sponsors, taking home the 1964 Italian 350cc title and placing 4th in the Grand Prix race at Monza.


Triumph in the Motorcycle Race

That really put him on the map, and again led to him being noticed by another major manufacturer – this time MV Agusta.

The then-head of privately owned MV Agusta, Count Domenico Agusta, signed Ago to a factory team where he would have his first taste rubbing elbows with greatness as a teammate to the supremely talented British rider, Mike Hailwood.

Hailwood quickly became a mentor to the 22-year-old Italian, and with so many resources now behind him, the stage was set for Agostini to become a superstar.

It was in 1965 when he really stepped up to be counted riding a 350cc three-cylinder machine to victory on its very first outing at the famous Nurburgring in Germany.He narrowly missed out on his first World Championship that year too, but everything was about to change now that Mike the Bike had departed to Honda, leaving Ago as MV’s number one rider.

The following two seasons he was twice runner-up to Hailwood in the 350cc class, but managed to take revenge in the 500cc claiming the World Title in both 1966 and 1967, with both championships coming down to the final event.

There was a lot more success to come too, especially with Honda’s departure from racing in 1967, which heralded eight years of dominance by both Agostini and MV Agusta.

Amazingly he completed the World Title double with MV on both the 350 and 500 in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972.

Removal of Isle Of Man From The GP Circuit

It was clear Ago was a natural on the racetrack, but in the early years of Grand Prix racing, the racing schedule also included the treacherous Ulster Grand Prix along with the infamous Isle of Man TT as part of the championship.

Of course in comparison, the two road courses were a far cry from the usual racetracks of Europe, instead consisting of narrow roads flanked by rock walls, barbed wire fences and hundreds of trees.

But Ago defied the odds and was just as impressive in these two prestigious events as he was on the circuits.

He won the Ulster Grand Prix seven times and the Isle of Man TT 12 times.

In 1972 after the death of his friend and compatriot racer Gilberto Parlotti in the IoM, Ago took an unprecedented stand and refused to ever race the Isle again.

Initially it was an unpopular move, as the IoM was often considered the most exciting and prestigious races on the circuit, but it soon gained momentum with more racers following suit and boycotting the event.

Organisers finally succumbed to the pressure and in 1977 removed the Isle of Man from the GP circuit.


Motorbike Race Victory On The First Try At Daytona 200!

Meanwhile back on the world stage, the biggest threat to Ago’s supremacy in the top class was now from young Finnish sensation Jarno Saarinen, who burst on to the scene racing for Yamaha in 1971.

He battled with Ago for two years until in 1973 he was tragically killed in a horrendous pile up during the 250cc class at Monza.

It again brought home the dangers of motorcycle racing, but Ago remained focused, and also made more waves by announcing to the racing world that he would be switching from MV Agusta, where he had spent almost a decade dominating, to Yamaha in 1974.

He still continued his winning ways taking two World Titles aboard the Japanese marque, winning the 350cc class in 1974 and the 500cc class in 1975.

It was also in March of 1974 Ago made his US racing debut at the Daytona 200.

It really was a who’s who of racing that year with the amazing line-up that included racers like Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene.

Ago led early, but then had to battle Sheene, Roberts and Gary Nixon.

For half the race, the quartet staged some of the most exciting laps ever turned in the 200.

Eventually, the other three riders fell by the wayside due to bike issues or crashes and Ago rode to victory in his very first attempt at Daytona.

Winning the 200 not only increased his popularity in America, but also helped solidify the Daytona 200’s standing as a world-class motorcycle race.

“Winning Daytona was a very good memory for me,” Agostini said.

“I’d left MV [Agusta] for Yamaha and this was to be my first race with Yamaha.

Many people said I was finished, that riding for MV was the reason I won races. Winning at Daytona proved to those people that I could win on another brand.

It was my first time in America, my first time racing a two-stroke motorcycle and my first time working with the Japanese. I had a lot of emotion after winning that race.”


Agostini’s Retirement as Motorbike Racer

After winning his final world title in 1975, Agostini left Yamaha and signed for his old team MV for ’76, maybe for sentimental reasons.

Either way, both the 34-year-old and the MV Agusta team were in decline, yet Ago was still able to give himself and MV one last hurrah with some victories.

The following year, with MV gone he signed for Suzuki for 1977 which would prove to be his final season, one that came without any victories.

The charismatic Barry Sheene was now in control of the 500cc class and 35 year-old Agostini officially retired on December 22nd, 1977.

Fittingly, his last career victory came at the Nurburgring, the same track where he won his very first GP race in 1965.

Without question Ago retired as a true champion and with a record of titles that remains unprecedented today.

Gracefully Retired From Sports

After retirement, had a brief career as a Formula One auto racer, another passion of his, from 1978 to 1980.

He didn’t enjoy much success and returned to the Grand Prix paddock in 1982 as the manager for Marlboro Yamaha.

As a manager, he would find himself mentoring other now-legendary racers such as Eddie Lawson and Kenny Roberts, who went on to compose the ‘American Dynasty’ of the 1970s and 1980s, an unbroken streak of American flat track racers-turned-road racers who dominated Grand Prix for over a decade.

Agostini remained a successful team manager until 1995 when he retired gracefully from the sport entirely.

Since then he has won numerous awards and accolades over the years including the first ever motorcyclist recognised by the World Sports Academy.


His Exceptional Successes in Motorcycle Racing Will Not Be Forgotten

These days he still supports the sport where he achieved so many unparalleled milestones by attending Moto GP’s and Classic Race meetings all around the world, including here in Australia at a recent International Festival of Speed.

And thanks to good mate Kevin Magee, I was actually privileged enough to meet the legend, which was a wonderful experience that will last with me forever.

I never saw him race as I was only knee-high to a grasshopper at the time, but I definitely watched footage of him as I grew older.

He, like many of the other legends featured in our legends of racing series possessed skills on a motorcycle that only the selected few do.

So can you rate Giacomo Agostini as the best of all time? Maybe you can, because a lot of his peers, current and past, will be the first to say he was the best there ever was.

But again how do you measure such an accolade?

Does it come down to the supernatural raw talent of someone like Mike Hailwood or the sheer skill and calculation of superstar Valentino Rossi, both who have already been featured.

Maybe it’s the tenacity and determination of the mountain king Joey Dunlop or the freak abilities of young gun Marc Marquez?

There are many aspects which can be used to determine the best of all time, but if you simply judge it on how many championships and victories, Ago is clearly ahead of his rivals with the only current threat being Valentino Rossi, who’s ultimate record is yet to be determined.

Rossi currently has 115 race wins, and could well close the gap on fellow Italian Ago’s total of 122, but in all honesty, it’s going to be an almost impossible feat in the current company of racers – and he also won’t be surpassing Ago’s incredible feat of 15 world titles.

Then you’ve got the possibilities of Spaniard firecracker Marc Marquez, who definitely knows how to win – he’s featured next issue. Being so young some may scoff at the idea of including Marquez in the mix, but look what he’s already achieved?

There is no doubt we are watching an elite champion in the making, because in only its infancy of what will be a stellar career, he’s already been demolishing records along the way.

Could Marquez be the next to jump Agostini’s tally, only time will tell. But for now, it seems the man they call ‘Ago’ may well remain the one to beat.

Check out our LiveToRide magazines for more exciting information and keep your passion for riding alive always.

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