Agostini, a name dominating the Grand Prix motorcycle world in the 1960s through to the early 1970s, secured an impressive 15 world titles, with eight achieved in the top-tier MotoGP league we’re familiar with today. His tenure between 1963 to 1977 saw 122 hard-fought victories, a record that firmly established Agostini’s reality far beyond most riders’ dreams.
From 1967 through to 1972, the word “unstoppable” hardly does justice to Agostini’s prowess. In the 350cc and 500cc categories, he unsurprisingly claimed every title from 1968 to 1970. Yet, the course of Agostini’s illustrious career might have dramatically diverged had a proposition by Ferrari to recruit him into Formula 1 between 1966 and 1967 become a reality.
It would not be Ferrari‘s maiden venture in scouting two-wheeler expertise. John Surtees, the acclaimed bike racing champion, won the Formula 1 World Championship for the Scuderia in 1964. After a testing session with Ferrari Dino 206 Berlinetta in Modena, at Enzo Ferrari‘s behest, Agostini was left contemplating a possible career pivot. Speaking to F1 Initiative’s French edition, Agostini reflected, “Ferrari made me try out a car.” He added, “I used to see him all the time in Modena because Ferrari was testing on the same circuit as me. He suggested it to me, I did the test and I thought about it for a few days. An enormous amount of thought…[It’s] Ferrari that’s offering you a car!”
But, despite the appealing prospect of shifting to F1 with Ferrari, Agostini eventually realized that his true allegiance lay with motorcycles. This decision earned Enzo Ferrari‘s respect. Agostini shared his thoughts, saying, “Since I was born, I’ve thought about two wheels and not four, so why should I betray them now that I’m successful, that I’m winning and climbing on the podium every Sunday? Why should I leave something that has made me dream since I was born? I didn’t dream of cars, I dreamt of motorbikes. So, I said no, I’d have to make do with what I’d had and stay [where I was]. Most of all I thought about the love I had for two wheels. That’s what I was thinking about. Why wasn’t I thinking about four wheels but about two? And why should I leave them now? When I met him [Enzo Ferrari], he appreciated that and said ‘I understand you’. He understood my seriousness.”
Despite his dedication to two-wheels, Agostini did ultimately race in Formula 2 and the British F1 Championship as he wound down his motorcycle racing career. He secured several podium finishes, although his four-wheel record couldn’t quite measure up to his two-wheel victories. Post-retirement, Agostini took on managerial roles, leading Yamaha’s factory team in the 1980s to win three 500cc titles with Eddie Lawson, and a brief stint overseeing Cagiva before the brand withdrew at the end of 1994.