15-Time World Champion Giacomo Agostini Is A Living Record

“The history of my life is all there in this one room.”

trophy hall
Giacomo Agostini’s newly unveiled trophy hall is private, but once a month, fans may book a visit, which includes accommodations in Bergamo’s historic Villa Vittoria—managed by Agostini’s daughter, Vittori—and dinner with the world champion.Milagro/Gigi Soldano

Entering the “trophy hall,” the secret room inaugurated this past week in the garden of Giacomo Agostini’s home amid the green hills of Bergamo, you come to the realization that, for all his records and approach to racing, the 15-time world champion is not only the greatest of all time but the first complete modern rider, the precursor of today’s Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez.

Every corner of this intimate space is a page of racing history. On the wall, a photo freezes the moment Grand Prix riders were crossing train tracks. “It was Finland,” Agostini explains. “At that time, some circuits were part of the world championship, despite that they were so dangerous; you had to go.” Ago did and also won 10 Isle of Man TT crowns, until he refused in 1972 to compete on the mountain course because of what he argued was a lack of safety.

Agostini's racing gear
“When I started racing, leather suits weighed 1.2 kilograms; you crashed and you were naked,” Agostini recalls. “I convinced Lino Dainese to work on safety.” Next to the racing suits are his helmets, from early “pudding bowls” to later full-faced examples.Milagro/Gigi Soldano

“After every race, we celebrated like crazy because we were still alive,” he notes. “I have seen many friends losing their lives. Before each race, I disappeared for a while. People thought I needed to concentrate—not at all. It was much simpler: I was scared to death!” Viewed from this perspective, roadracing has perhaps lost some of its “familiar ambience,” as Agostini calls it, but “it is incredibly improved in terms of safety.”

In this room, conceived as a place of relaxation for a rainy day and for Agostini to show his racing life to his children, motorcycles are part of his daily routine. There are the iconic three- and four-cylinder MV Agustas that made the Italian duo unbeatable, the Yamaha TZ700 on which he won his Daytona 200 debut in 1974, as well as the Yamaha dirt bike used for training.

That victory at Daytona marked Agostini’s switch from MV Agusta to Yamaha and from racing four-strokes to a large-bore two-stroke. “I was facing a completely new challenge,” Agostini remembers. “It was my first time in the USA, the first time that I was competing on the banking, plus the debut of the Yamaha and the two-stroke engine. I spent two weeks testing in Japan to prepare this bike—a jewel.

“It was a four-cylinder two-stroke with 140 horsepower and a special gas tank for quick refill. At that time, I had won 13 world titles so on my bike there was this number, 10, while Kenny Roberts had the number one as he was champion in America. He challenged me, saying that he was the world champion not myself. I kept a low profile and spent the rest of the time walking the track to learn every single centimeter of asphalt and studying the lines of other riders.

Agostini museum.
In total, 364 trophies are displayed in Agostini’s museum. “There is not a favorite one,” the 15-time world champion claims. “There is my first trophy [1953], the one when I won the first championship in 1966 in Monza, Daytona 1974…”Milagro/Gigi Soldano

“On race day, I was leading but it was physically so demanding that after half of the race I wanted to retire,” he recalls. “I was completely dehydrated. I finally made it and won. When I saw Kenny again, I challenged him: ‘So who is the champion?’ He said, ‘It’s you,’ and he excused himself.”

Talent was not enough for Agostini. “To win, you need to take care of all technical details,” he says. Notebooks were the forerunners of telemetry. Gearing, tires, engine revs, and circuit maps show the scientific approach and attention to detail. Next to the notebook is a yellow shirt, Agostini’s lucky charm. “I had a black racing suit so I was always wearing this yellow T-shirt. I thought I lost it, but when my dad died, I found it in a closet of his wardrobe.”

Agostini
Agostini is a legend on and off the racetrack. He was able to move crowds and bring roadracing to a larger audience, women included. He also starred in several movies, including Amore formula 2 and Formula 1: Nell’Inferno del Grand Prix.Milagro/Gigi Soldano

Agostini won his 15 world titles with two manufacturers, MV Agusta and Yamaha. Márquez has eight titles—one shy of Rossi—and is only 26 years of age. “Marc is young and he is getting closer,” Agostini says. “If he just gets close, I’m happy. If he beats me, I hope to be there to celebrate with him. Records are there to be beaten. Vale won on both Honda and Yamaha. I don’t think Marc will leave Honda for another manufacturer because he is with a giant and he has nothing to prove.”