Agostini was the son of a wealthy Italian industrialist. His father originally didn’t approve of his son’s motorcycle racing career. He did everything he could to persuade his son not to race.
Agostini had to steal away to compete, first in hill climb events and then in road racing.
Agostini was born on June 16, 1942 in Brescia, Italy, and was raised in Levere near Bergamo. He was raised in a well-to-do family and his parents discouraged him from taking up motorcycle racing. To start racing he needed a signature from his parents.
Agostini went to a notary and told him he was going cycle racing. The notary, who was a friend of his father’s, told Agostini’s father that Giacomo was a nice boy and it was a good sport and his father signed. The notary understood cycle racing to be bicycle racing, not motorcycle racing, but with his father’s signature now in hand he was able to start his motorcycle racing career.
Agostini cut his racing teeth in European hillclimb events (racing up hillside roads, not the American style of hillclimbing) before being offered a place on Morini’s works team in 1964. He immediately began to impress and was soon given a world championship ride by MV Agusta as understudy to Mike Hailwood. Hailwood became something of a mentor to him.
Ago, as he became known, 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. 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.
Eventually his father came to terms with his racing and he won the 1963 Italian 175cc championship aboard a Morini. He got his break when Morini factory rider, Tarquinio Provini left the team to ride for Benelli. Count Alfonso Morini hired the young Agostini to ride for him.In 1964, Agostini would win the Italian 350cc title and proved his ability by finishing fourth in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza
These results caught the eye of Count Domenico Agusta who signed Agostini to ride for his MV Agusta squad as Mike Hailwood’s team-mate.Agostini then fought a season-long battle with Honda’s J im Redman for the 1965 350cc world championship. He seemed to have the title won when he led the final round in Japan at Suzuka when his bike failed him, handing the title to Redman.
At the end of the 1965 season, Hailwood left to join Honda as he had tired of working for the difficult Count Agusta. With Agostini now the top MV Agusta rider, he responded by winning the 500cc title seven years in succession for the Italian factory.He would also win the 350cc title seven times in succession and won 10 Isle of Man TTs. In 1967 he battled Hailwood in one of the most dramatic seasons in Grand Prix history.
Each rider had 5 victories before the championship w as decided in Agostini’s favor at the last race of the season.
Ago’s MV Agusta 500cc 3cylinder GP on which he won six World Championships
On the 350cc bike, he was twice runner-up to Hailwood, in both 1966 and 1967. But he managed to take revenge in the 500cc class as he prevailed in several duels between the two riders over the same two seasons. Ago claimed the 500cc world title in both 1966 and 1967 in championships that came down to the final event.
Honda’s departure from the scene in 1967 heralded eight years of dominance by Agostini and MV Augusta in the world championships. He completed the world title double with MV — on both the 350cc and 500cc — in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972. In 1973, he won the 350cc title and then, with Yamaha, he won the 350cc world crown in 1974 and the 500cc title in 1975.
The only real threat to Ago’s supremacy came in 1971 when Jarno Saarinen, a young Finnish rider, burst onto the scene with Yamaha. Saarinen won the first two rounds of the 1973 season on a powerful 500cc Yamaha but he was then tragically killed in a horrendous 250cc-class pile-up in the third round at Monza. MV and Ago were once again left in almost total command.
But MV’s plans to develop a new four-cylinder model eventually saw Agostini relinquish his 500cc ride to Englishman Phil Read — and then move to Yamaha in time for the 1974 season.
Agostini made his U.S. racing debut in the Daytona 200 in March of 1974. The race that year was loaded with talent, including Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene, as well as all the top U.S. riders. Agostini 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 (that year reduced to 180 miles due to the oil crisis).
Eventually, the other three riders fell by the wayside due to bike problems or crashes and Agostini rode to victory in his first attempt at Daytona. Winning the 200 not only added immensely to Agostini’s popularity in America, but it 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.”
Ago’s Daytona Yamaha 1974
After winning his final world title in 1975, Agostini enjoyed his last competitive year in 1976 when he managed to notch up Grand Prix wins in both the 350cc and 500cc class. Fittingly, his last career victory came at the Nurburgring, the German venue where he had won his very first Grand Prix race back in 1965.
After retirement, Agostini became team manager for Yamaha’s and later Cagiva’s Grand Prix racing squads. Under his guidance the team won world championships. Ago has won numerous awards and accolades over the years.
He was the first motorcyclist recognized by the World Sports Academy.
Practice in 1976 at the Nürburgring with the 350cc MV
Agostini dropped a bombshell on the Grand Prix world when he announced he would never again race at the Isle of Man TT, after the death of his close friend, Gilberto Parlotti during the 1972 TT. He considered the circuit unsafe for world championship competition. At the time, the TT was the most prestigious race on the motorcycling calendar.
Other top riders joined his boycott of the event and by 1977, the event was struck from the Grand Prix schedule.
Agostini surprised the racing world when he announced that he would leave MV Agusta to ride for Yamaha in 1974 season. On his first outing for the Japanese factory, he won the prestigious Daytona 200, the premiere American motorcycle race.He went on to claim the 1974 350cc World Championship but injuries and mechanical problems kept him from winning the 500cc crown. He rebounded and won the 1975 500cc title, marking the first time a two-stroke machine won the premier class.
The 1975 championship would also be the last world title for the 33 year old Italian. In 1976, he rode both Yamaha and MV bikes in the 500cc class, yet raced only once in the 350cc to win in Assen. For the challenging Nürburgring, he chose the 500cc MV Agusta and took it to victory, winning the last Grand Prix for both himself, the marque and the last for four-stroke engines in the 500cc class.
He retired from motorcycle competition after finishing 6th in the 1977 season in which he also raced in 750cc endurance races forYamaha.
Like John Surtees and Mike Hailwood before him, Agostini raced in Formula One cars. He competed in non-championship Formula One races in 1978. He competed in the European Formula 2 series in a Chevron B42-BMW and British Aurora Formula 1 with his own team and a Williams FW06.
He ended his auto racing career in 1980.
In 1982, Ago returned to the motorcycle racing as the Marlboro Yamaha team manager. As team manager he managed many successful riders including Kenny Roberts, and Eddie Lawson. He also served as the Cagiva race team manager in 1992.
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