Giacomo Agostini was born in Brescia, Italy on June 16, 1942. He was fascinated with bikes and motorcycles from a young age. At 18, his father gave him a Morini 175 Settebello, his first true motorbike. Agostini soon took up racing. In 1963, he joined the MotoGP circuit on a Moto Morini. The next year he joined MV Agusta, racing in the 350 cc and 500 cc categories. In 1964, Britain’s Mike “The Bike” Hailwood won his third MotoGP title. But just a year later he found himself locked in a tight battle with his new teammate, Agostini. Hailwood won that year. Agostini came second, 10 points behind the leader. In 1966, Agostini only won three races, but three wins were enough to capture the 500 cc title ahead of Hailwood thanks to Agostini’s strong finishes throughout the season. One of his most extraordinary triumphs came in 1967. By then, fans in Italy knew him simply as “Ago.” He and Hailwood finished the year dead even, with 46 points each.
Agostino was awarded the title because he had three second place finishes to Hailwood’s two. Not long thereafter, Hailwood abandoned the MotoGP circuit for Formula One car racing. Agostino was the undisputed champ between 1968 and 1972, winning both 350 and 500 cc championship titles for five years running. He became the first Italian sports idol: girls loved his looks and boys dreamed of repeating his racing exploits. In 1973, Englishman Phil Read joined him at MV Agusta and won the 500 cc title, breaking “Ago’s” eight-year streak. In 1974, Agostini moved to Yamaha and finished fourth overall. Read won again for MV Agusta.
Agostini stayed on at Yamaha and won his final 500 cc world title in 1975. It was the first top-class driver’s title for a Japanese motor company. In 1976, he returned to MV. He won his final GP in Germany. He retired the next year with a record of 122 victories in 186 Grand Prix races. Agostini became a team manager for Yamaha. American driver Eddie Lawson won three of his four world titles – in 1984, 1986, and 1988 – under Agostini’s tutelage. In 1989, Agostino became team manager of Cagiva, helping the Italian manufacturer improve its racing performances. With 15 career world titles, eight in the 500 cc category and seven in 350 cc, Agostino remains the most successful driver in MotoGP history.