Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Epic battles: Hailwood vs. Agostini, 1966 & '67 GP seasons

Honda desperately wanted to wrest the 500cc Grand Prix championship from MV Agusta. The Japanese company already had a powerful motor but couldn’t seem to make a suitable chassis for it. Moreover, its first foray into Formula One car racing was stretching the engineering department thin. Rather than attempt to build an all-new bike, Honda poached MV’s star rider: Mike Hailwood. MV let Hailwood go and promoted their “junior” rider, Giacomo Agostini, who had spent 1965 as Mike’s understudy.

Mike’s smooth style allowed him to ride bikes that bucked and slid underneath him. He wasn’t a complainer, either. He’d ride the wheels off anything he was given. He managed to win three races on the Honda 500 in ’66 and five races in ’67. (Including the Senior TT, as shown in this video; a win that was made easier by Ago's DNF.) But for the first time, even 'Mike the Bike' couldn’t make winning look easy. He used to climb off the Honda with his hands blistered and bleeding.

By contrast, Ago lacked Mike’s raw talent but was a master of bike set-up. Mike won a few battles but Ago won the wars, taking the 500cc title in both years before Honda withdrew from Grands Prix in frustration.

No comments:

Post a Comment