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Giacomo Agostini, known as ‘Ago’ won an astonishing 122 Grand Prix victories from 1965 to 1976 and throughout these years he was consistently World Champion in the 500 cc and 350 cc. classes.
The boy from Lombardy in Italy started racing a Morini bike but it wasn’t long before MV Augusta spotted his potential and signed Agostini up. His team mate was Mike Hailwood who then moved to Honda in 1966. Ago succeeded in beating his former team mate that year and then there was no stopping him: he went on to win the 500 cc World Championship seven times in succession. This proved to be his lucky number as he also won the 350 cc World Championship seven times.
Ago left MV Augusta in 1974 for Yamaha coming second to Phil Read in the 500 cc category but winning the Daytona 200, the premier American motorcycle race, at his first attempt. He concluded his motor biking career in 1977.
The ‘Earl of Speed’, Phil Read is described as an ‘elegant rider who was a lover of luxury (he went to the tracks in his white Rolls Royce)’. He achieved the triple honour of winning the 125, 250 and 500cc categories, having that determination and ambition essential to sporting winners. He was combative, meticulous and only number one would do.
He brought glory to Yamaha along with team mate Bill Ivy. But unable to control his competitive spirit in 1968, he disobeyed team orders and fought Ivy for the 250cc title.
They finished the season tied on points and Read was awarded the championship. This ended his relationship with Yamaha and in 1972 he joined MV Agusta. 1973 saw him break Agostini’s long run of wins as he gained the 500cc World Championship and he repeated this again in 1974. He retired from Grand Prix racing in 1976.
John Surtees, or ‘Big John’ as he became known as, is the only person to have won World Titles on two and four wheels. After being a hugely successful rider in the 350 and 500cc categories, in 1961 he turned to car racing and won the F1 title in 1964.
Racing for MV Agusta, he regularly broke the records and became the first man to win the Senior Isle of Man TT three years in succession.
From the age of 19 when Johnny Cecotto won his first motorcycle World Championship in 1975, racing on two and four wheels has dominated his life. That year he defeated defending champion Giacomo Agostini to become the youngest ever 350 cc World Champion. Success came the following year at Daytona but then a succession of injuries impeded his winning streak. In 1978 he added the 750cc World Championship to his titles. He retired from motorcycle racing at the end of 1980 and turned his energy to auto racing participating in 23 F1 Grand Prix in 1983 and
Dirt track racer from the age of four, Louisiana born 'Fast Freddie' made his name in the first half of the 1980s. Honda signed him up for the Grand Prix team full time in 1982, and a year later he won his first 500 cc World Championship title ahead of Kenny Roberts by only two points. 1985 was his golden year, winning first the Daytona 200, followed by the 500 cc and 250cc World Championships. He retired in early 1988, with unsuccessful comeback attempts in 1989 and 1993.
See also: Patrick Burnham's Sport Textile Art