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The Living Legend : Giacomo Agostini

He has many wins to his credit as the triple digits he frequently clocked in on his speedometer. Over the course of a remarkable racing career spanning 17 years, he took home 15 World Grand Prix titles (8 in 500cc and 7 in 350cc), 12 Isle of Man TT crowns and an astonishing 122 Grand Prix wins. He rarely crashed and was the dominant force on both 350cc and 500cc machinery for most of his racing life. Widely considered as perhaps the greatest Grand Prix rider of all time and definitely the man to beat for today’s generation of racers, he is none other than the living legend Giacomo Agostini.

 

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Born on June 16, 1942 in Brescia, Italy, Giacomo was passionate about motorcycling from his early childhood. But his parents discouraged him from taking up motorcycle racing and refused to sign a document that would legally allow him to pursue racing. Since the signature was impossible to get, Agostini went to a notary and told him he was going cycle racing. The notary understood cycle racing to be bicycle racing and convinced Agostini’s father that Giacomo was a nice boy and it was a good sport. His father duly signed and he was cleverly able to start his motorcycle racing career. He immediately began to impress in the world of motorcycling sport and his parents too soon acknowledged his talent in the circuit.

Ago, as he is affectionately referred to by his fans, then made his first telling impact in 1965 when he rode a 350cc three-cylinder machine to victory on its very first outing at the Nurburgring in Germany. With all eyes on him and his performance, he was soon given a world championship ride by MV Agusta as an understudy to Mike Hailwood. He narrowly missed out on his first world championship that year but, following the departure of Hailwood to Honda, Agostini became MV’s number one rider. In 1966 and 1967, he then battled to victory against Hailwood in one of the most dramatic seasons in the 500cc Grand Prix history. What followed after this was a shocking eight years of dominance with MV Augusta in the world championships. He won the 500cc title seven years in succession for the Italian factory. He would also win the 350cc title seven times in succession and completed the world title double in both 350cc and 500cc with MV in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972. Then in 1973, he won only in the 350cc title.

In 1965, he had made his TT debut as well in the junior category on a MV 350 three cylinder. The Italian star rode in just 16 TT races, won ten, stood second twice, ended third once and retired just three times, all on MV Agustas. During his TT years Agostini gave the crowds many thrilling races. But shockingly, after the death of his close friend during the 1972 TT, Agostini announced that he would never again race at the Isle of Man TT. He considered the 37 mile circuit unsafe for world championship competition. At the time, the TT was the most prestigious race on the motorcycling calendar.

Moving to Yamaha for the 1974 season, Agostini then made his U.S. racing debut in the Daytona 200. The Daytona 200 race event that year was loaded with talent, but the dominating Ago rode to victory in his first attempt. It was his first taste of glory on Japanese machinery and he backed it up with another 350cc crown in 1974 and his final world title in 1975 on 500cc machinery. Agostini enjoyed his last competitive year in 1976 when he managed to notch up only a win each in both the 350cc and 500cc class. Fittingly, his last career victory came at the Nurburgring in 1976, the German venue where he had won his very first Grand Prix race back in 1965. He then retired from motorcycle competition after finishing 6th in the 500cc category in the 1977 season.

 

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Ago had a great feel for the bikes, worked assiduously at getting them right, then went fast. But Agostini was not just the most successful rider of motorcycling history. After retirement, Agostini became team manager for Yamaha and later led Cagiva’s Grand Prix racing squads to win world championships. Ago won numerous accolades over the years and was the first motorcyclist to be recognized by the World Sports Academy. An immensely skilful and courageous rider, Agostini was a real crowd pleaser with film star looks and enormous charm. His celebrity status still obliges his presence at various international racing celebrations each year, and an admiring crowd is found everywhere he goes. Today, Agostini continues to wear his riding suit during the most important historical commemorations and keeps abreast of the world motorcycling championships as a television commentator.

 

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GRAND PRIX STATISTICS

RACES PARTICIPATED: 186

GP VICTORIES: 122

GP 2ND POSITIONS: 35

GP 3RD POSITIONS: 2

PODIUMS: 159

POLE POSITIONS: 9

RACE FASTEST LAPS: 117

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WINS: 15

ISLE OF MAN IT STATISTICS

RACES PARTICIPATED: 16

VICTORIES: 10

2ND POSITIONS: 2

3RD POSITION: 1

DID NOT FINISH: 3

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