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Yamaha's history from 1955 to 2005 – Part 5

Yamaha's history from 1955 to 2005 – Part 5

Yamaha's history from 1955 to 2005 – Part 5

1973-1975: Premier class glory for Yamaha with Saarinen & Agostini

Yamaha's glorious record in the premier class, which Valentino Rossi continues to this day, began with Jarno Saarinen and Giacomo Aogstini in the early 70s. And in 1975, just two years after entering biking's toughest arena, Yamaha became the first Japanese marque to win the 500 World Championship.

Always alive to the greatest challenges, Yamaha had developed its two-stroke racing technology in the 125 and 250 classes, but always knew where the biggest prize was to be won. With this in mind, Yamaha entered the 1973 500 World Championship with Finnish genius Jarno Saarinen. The YZR500 (or OW19) and Saarinen won their very first race together, the 1973 season-opening French GP. In doing this they defeated Giacomo Agostini and his MV Agusta four-stroke, the partnership that had totally dominated GP racing since the mid-60s. "Yamaha has built a beautiful machine," said the 15-time World Championship early in 1973. "Saarinen and the bike are fantastic together, we cannot hope to compete with them."

The world had never seen a bike quite like the OW19, a water-cooled, inline four cylinder two-stroke that produced 80 horsepower in a controllable manner, thanks to reed valve induction technology, used for the first time by Yamaha on a roadracer. Saarinen continued his runaway domination of the 1973 500 GPs until he was tragically killed in a multiple pile-up during May's Italian 250 GP.

Stunned by his death, Yamaha withdrew its official team and returned to Japan to prepare for the 1974 season, for which they courted Giacomo Agostini. The Italian heart-throb knew that Yamaha's two-stroke technology was becoming unbeatable and joined Yamaha for the 1974 season. Ago won only two GPs that year aboard the 90 horsepower OW20 and OW23, which featured Monocross rear suspension (as used on Yamaha's world title-winning motocross bikes), but the factory did win the constructors' World Championship.

The following year Ago and his OW26, now featuring a cassette-type gearbox for rapid ratio changes, swept all before them, winning four GPs and the world title. It was Ago's last but the first of many premier-class crowns for Yamaha…

MotoGP, 2005

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