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Giacomo Agostini: "Rossi is courageous but he is not the best ever"

Giacomo Agostini: 'Rossi is courageous but he is not the best ever'

Giacomo Agostini: "Rossi is courageous but he is not the best ever"

Statistically, there can be no arguments over the greatest motorcycle racer of all time. Giacomo Agostini won 68 races and seven World Championships with MV Augusta in the 500cc class during the late 1960s and early 70s before switching to Yamaha for one final triumph in 1975 – a record unmatched by any other rider. Despite Agostini's achievements, however, personal opinion rages over who is the ‘All-Time Greatest' – a hypothetical title many people believe Valentino Rossi could assume should he retain his World Championship crown next season after his defection from Honda and the all-conquering RC211V.

Agostini, who test rode Rossi's V5 for three laps at Catalunya on Tuesday, revealed his admiration for his young compatriot's courage, but insisted it was impossible to compare him against past heroes. "I think Rossi's decision shows he is a very courageous rider, and he is certainly one of the best," smiled Agostini with his familiar glow of warmth and sincerity. "But I remember Mike Hailwood winning races on a 125, a 250, a 350, a 500… on a Norton, an MV Augusta, a Honda – sometimes virtually all on the same day! I don't know - it is impossible to say who is the best ever.

"People say that if Valentino wins on the Yamaha he will be the best – but why? Young people watch Valentino ride now and he gives them great emotion – an emotion that I can never give to them because they weren't born when I was racing. Not only myself – they never saw Mike Hailwood, Kenny Roberts, Freddie Spencer…Today, Valentino is the man everybody is looking at and he is very good, for sure. If he doesn't win on the Yamaha, he will still be very good, but at the same time if he does win it will not make him the best ever".

Agostini then brought the Catalunya pit-lane to a deafening standstill as he fired up the RC211V in the same style he used to light up the MV Augusta, grabbing handfuls of lunging clutch and screaming throttle before splitting the horizon in a crescendo of noise. One day earlier, neighbours of the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia almost had their windows shattered as he took a few laps on the Ducati Desmosedici.

"Compared to my bike, sitting on the Ducati was like sitting on a bomb!" laughed Agostini, now aged 61. "In any case, I was going far too slow to understand the bikes. To understand a motorcycle you have to know everything about it and then ride it at 100%. I have only had three laps with these machines, which wasn't even enough time to find my braking markers. Even the gear shifter is on the opposite side to my old MV, so I would need twenty laps at least to get any sort of feeling and be able to compare the bikes. Anyway, it was a nice opportunity and good fun".

Tags:
MotoGP, 2003, Valentino Rossi

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