News 10 Nov 2017

Agostini returning to Australia in 2018 for Island Classic

Iconic grand prix racer to make Australian appearance.

Image: Russell Colvin.

The most successful grand prix motorcycle racer of all time Giacomo Agostini will be a special guest at the 2018 International Island Classic, set to take place on 26-28 January.

In a massive coup for the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, the 75-year-old Italian icon will be joined down under by a quartet of world championship-winning four-stroke MV Agustas, which will all parade the 4.45km grand prix circuit on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the event.

Two of those MVs will be the ones that brought ‘Ago’ championship success: the three-cylinder 500, which he won the 500cc title on from 1966-1972, and the four-cylinder 350 which saw him beat all-comers on in 1972 and 1973.

The balance of the MV Agustas are also 500cc four-cylinder machines: the first one ridden to the half-litre world title by John Surtees (1956, 1958-1960), Gary Hocking (1961) and Mike Hailwood (1962-1965), and the second one by Phil Read in 1973 and 1974.

The four bikes are normally housed in a private collection in Milan, and Phillip Island circuit managing director, Fergus Cameron has managed to secure agreement for the treasures to be lent to Phillip Island.

Ago will ride in parade laps aboard his title-winning 350cc machine, while the other three will be ridden by Italian mates who will be accompanying him on the long-haul to Australia: Romano Colombo, Gilmo Paglini and Carlo Elli.

Colombo owns the Surtees/Hocking/Hailwood 500, while the other three MV Agustas are Carlo’s, who is the son of the late original owner, Ubaldo Elli.

“We have been friends with Giacomo and Romano for many years, and they trust that we will treat these beautiful machines with the greatest care,” said Cameron. “We are thrilled to bring this iconic collection to Australia, especially for the 25th year. It shows what stature the Island Classic is held on the global historic calendar and we are very proud.”

As well as the on-track action, Ago will sign autographs and talk with fans each day at the MV Agusta display in the paddock, and he’ll help out with some on-course commentary. On Friday night, he’ll be the special guest at the traditional welcome dinner. This will be Agostini’s third visit to the Island Classic following previous appearances in 2003 and 2013.

Agostini, who hails from Brescia in Italy, belongs in the pantheon of all-time grand prix greats, having competed in 186 races in the 1960s and 1970s for 122 wins and 159 podiums. With such a phenomenal 76 percent winning rate, it’s no surprise that he retired with 15 world titles: seven in the 350cc class (1968-1974) and eight in the 500cc ranks (1966-1972, 1975).

In 1976, the year after is final 500cc title, Agostini competed in the Australian TT on an MV Agusta, but on a sweltering 40-degree day he was bested by Yamaha-mounted local star Kenny Blake on the purpose-built circuit at the Laverton Air Force Base.

Following retirement, Agostini moved into team management, with his most impressive results coming alongside American Eddie Lawson with three world 500cc titles.

The International Island Classic will be headlined by the International Challenge, a four-race square-off between teams from Australia, the UK, New Zealand and America. The Jeremy McWilliams UK team is the three-time-defending champion, but it will severely tested in 2018 with Australia and America recently announcing that WorldSBK legends Troy Corser and Colin Edwards will be bolstering their stocks.

The International Challenge stars is for bikes manufactured between 1973 and 1984. But there’s so much more to the Island Classic, with a field of over 500 classic bikes and 300 riders racing in what will be the event’s 25th commemorative year.

The three-day Australia Day long weekend extravaganza features 56 races from Friday to Sunday. All races are between four and six laps and feature bikes from pre-WW1 bikes through to Vintage (1920-1945), Classic and Post Classic (from 1946 to 1972), and the more recent Forgotten Era and New Era classes. Sidecars will also join solos on the program.