MOTOGP » Giacomo Agostini
Career 500cc/MotoGP world championships:
8 -1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1975.500cc/MotoGP race wins:
In terms of success, Giacomo Agostini is the undisputed king of motorcycle racing, having claimed seven consecutive
premier-class world championships, and then taken an eighth two-years later. The Italian also heads the all time premier-class win list with 68 victories and took a further seven consecutive world titles - and 54 wins - in the 350cc world championship.
After winning Italian national championships and finishing fourth as a wild-card in the 1964 350cc Italian GP, Agostini was signed by MV Agusta for a full time ride in the 1965 350 and 500cc world championships.
'Ago' made an instant impact by winning the 350cc season-opener and only lost the title to Jim Redman after a mechanical problem at the final round. Giacomo also finished second in the 500cc championship, behind team-mate Mike Hailwood, with one victory to his credit.
Hailwood moved to Honda for 1966, leaving Agostini to lead the MV Agusta attack. The Italian would win three races on his way to a hard fought first 500cc world championship victory over the Englishman.
Agostini and MV Agusta would successfully defend that title for the next six seasons, although the 1967 championship was only decided in their favour by a tie-break over Hailwood. However, Honda’s withdraw and the retirement of Hailwood meant that the 1968 title was one of Agostini’s easiest; he won all ten races and also took his first 350cc crown.
The Italian’s total domination of 500cc would continue throughout 1969 and 1970 with another ten wins apiece (from twelve and eleven starts respectively), followed by eight wins in a row in 1971 and then a new high of eleven victories (out of thirteen starts) in 1972.
The bubble finally burst in 1973 when new team-mate Phil Read broke Agostini’s stranglehold on the 500cc class. Then, in a brave move that would be repeated by countryman Valentino Rossi some 20 years later, Agostini made headlines by leaving the dominant manufacturer and signing for Yamaha.
The best Yamaha had finished fourth the previous season and Agostini would match that placing in his first year with the Japanese team - taking two victories while Read and MV Agusta comfortably retained title. However, Agostini did successfully defend the 350cc title – his seventh in succession and first with Yamaha.
1975 then saw Agostini take his premier-class revenge as he took four wins and went on to beat Read in a last round title decider. It marked the first 500cc world championship for Yamaha, a two-stroke machine and the first time MV Agusta had lost the title since 1957!
But the win proved something of a false dawn for Yamaha who would struggle to match the new four-cylinder Suzuki in 1976. Agostini switched back to MV Agusta and took victory in the German season finale. The win would be Agostini’s 122nd GP win and, fittingly, the last achieved by both himself and the famous MV Agusta brand. The 35-year-old would retire gracefully at the end of 1977, his place in history assured.