Title: Giacomo Agostini attends the International Festival of Speed, thinks Vinales is fast and has his records still intact!

Author: Myanna Wedes

Giacomo Agostini, the fifteen times World Champion of two wheel motorsport made his way out to Australia for the QBE International Festival of Speed. The event took place on 23rd – 26th March and was a success as fans from all age demographics attended the event to meet legends like Agostini and race their prestigious classical bikes around Sydney Motorsport Park.

The event this year celebrated Italian motorcycle history with the exclusive appearance of the Laverda V6 amongst others and Agostini’s 350cc and 500cc original race bikes. It was an incredible sight for motorcycle enthusiasts and fans of the Italian stallion. Ago as he is known stands tall with 122 Grand Prix wins and those 15 World Titles that no one else has been able to repeat. Valentino Rossi has come close although still has not been able to pass Ago as the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time).

Originally Ago’s family was not happy with his choice to race bike and were against his dreams. The true story behind his ability to race is explained in the interview below with the Champion during some off track time at Sydney Motorsport Park.

Q: Giacomo what is it like coming to an event like this in Australia? What does it mean for you?

Giacomo: It is a very long time since I have been here at Eastern Creek. The last time I came here was in 1994 I think when I was a team manager with Cagiva. We won here. I have a nice memory of here. It is a long trip to come from Europe but this time the organisers convinced me to come and explained the memorial with Barry Sheene.

For me this weekend was difficult because I work with Sky Television in Italy and I have my role in MotoGP. We talk by telephone to discuss the MotoGP. I am happy to be here. It is difficult because the first trip was from Milano to Abu Dhabi and when I arrived in Abu Dhabi there was another fourteen hours. The weather is nice.

 Q: What has been your favourite moment to ride throughout your career?

Giacomo: The best part has always been when I won. The victory make you happy. For example, you might like Eastern Creek but then you come and do not win and then you do not like it as much as before. When you win, you say very nice place.

Q: So if you finished second, would you be very unhappy?

Giacomo: Yes. You know why… … In my career I win a lot. Sometimes I did finish second or third in my career but not many times fortunately. People would say Agostini is finished. We were forty riders and I finished second… I finish behind the other riders they would talk. The people were used seeing Ago in first place. When you finish in second it was very difficult. For example when a rider finishes all the time in seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth position… then one time they finish third everyone goes ah yes this is fantastic. When they would look at Agostini, they would say he will win and after one race I finish third, they say this is very bad or he is too old.

Q: In terms of the MotoGP series, what are your thoughts on Rossi, Marquez, Lorenzo and Vinales for 2017? 

Giacomo: Very good question this as 2017 is very difficult to tell. I am at Sky now and on Saturday morning we have to provide our opinion and tips. I say it is difficult because there are too many riders who are very very close. Of course it is only three or four riders to choose but that is still three or four. We have a new rider with Vinales and he is very very fast. During the winter tests he was always the fastest and never crashed. He was going to the limit during the testing, staying in the top and never crashing. I think of course we have to see the testing and races separately. During a race he must continue to get used to the competition of the other riders and you need experience. He is good. I think he has a chance to win and also Marquez because he is World Champion. Valentino Rossi also has a chance to win. He is not the fastest but he is very clever, professional and has loads of experience during the race. He knows how to use the slipstream and also psych out other riders. Rossi is more smart! We also have Lorenzo with Ducati. Lorenzo is very fast but he is a difficult guy. If something goes wrong he gets very nervous and some others riders can stay calm and sit down, think and ask why it is not good or does not work. If Lorenzo starts with a good time he will also be very fast. Therefore it is difficult to say who will be the winner.

Q: Who is Giacomo Agostini as a rider and person in comparison to Marquez, Rossi, Lorenzo and Vinales? 

Giacomo: I think Valentino Rossi. All of the systems including your head and heart for riding, we are very close.

Q: When you rode a motorcycle what was it like compared to the technology of today? 

Giacomo: In our days it was about the rider. Today you have technology with a computer and telemetry, which can help you. In my time we had nothing. When I stop after practice we would go back to the garage and I would sit with my technical people and talk about everything. For example, when we raced we would say ahhh the engine only go 11,000… or maybe 11,300. Today you cannot say that because in the garage the computer gives out the reading. The data is clear. You have a lot of help today. When I raced it was said you have a pulse and use that to adjust (points to wrists). You have the feeling in my time and it was very sensitive. Nowadays, you keep the wrist in a certain way and the electronic system kicks in and helps you. What we did in our time with our wrists the electronics do today.

Q: With the loss of John Surtees, can you tell us a bit about him from your personal experiences? 

Giacomo: When John finished with MV Agusta (Meccanica Verghera Agu) I started with them and he changed to Ferrari and won the Formula One World Championship. After many years, people do forget because they focus on newer people. For example, people at 20-25 years old now focus on Rossi and Lorenzo not Agostini. This is the life. It is impressive in your head what we do today. We watch Lorenzo, Marquez, Rossi and Vinales and people don’t think of Surtees or Agostini. I want to say that I am very lucky because after many years young people still recognise me. For example, on the aeroplane some people asked me for my autograph at 25,000 – 35,000 feet in the sky. I think because also in Italy we have some competition, the people say Valentino can beat the Agostini records. He has not done this yet. Rossi talks about me. I am very lucky and thank you Valentino as the people remember me. Otherwise, it is easy to forget after many years.

Q: Do you see yourself as a mentor to certain riders of the years. Do riders look up to you for information based on your experiences?

Giacomo: No because it is very difficult as many years ago the sport has changed with the electronics. Sometimes people say that Ago wants to teach however I prefer something different. If they say Ago please provide your ideas, I am happy to do this.

Q: It is said that your father did not approve of your motorcycle hobbies, how did you stay focused to become so successful and an icon of motor racing? 

Giacomo: You can start racing at 18 years of age. When I started I need a permission slip from my family. My father did not want this. Every day I complained. My father said I do not want to sign my son’s date of death. For example: if he gave me permission and I died, he would have felt like it was his fault. Today I understand what my father was saying because I have a son. It is very difficult to give your permission but today there is more safety. You have a good helmet, the leathers, the air bag system and the circuits have better safety. In my time, it was very dangerous. We had trees, wood, barriers and everything. Many people were killed. I remember one day that we went to the notary and they were a friend of my father’s. I complained to them and they asked why. I said my father does not want me to race and I do. He convinced my father to sign the papers because the sport was good and after 6 months of complaining, he said yes! He signed. At the end, before we left the studio and office, the notary thought I wanted to ride bicycles not motorcycles. I am very lucky because I already had the permission!

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

About The Author

Myanna Wedes

Myanna has an incredible grasp and knowledge of the sport in detail and continues to secure lead stories every week. She is in constant contact with team and rider media management. She is an admitted lawyer with two degrees and is currently writing a biography on Alan Jones MBE 1980 F1 World Champion. She is a fond lover of two wheel motorsport, predominantly MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.