“I had all my trophies piled up in a small room in the house, and didn’t even know how many I had – I thought around 250 or so, but it turned out to be almost one for every day of the year!” says Ago. “My wife Maria and I had decided to downsize our house now that the children had left home, so we bought a very pretty smaller villa nearby, and prepared to move there. But then we couldn’t get the price we wanted for our present house, so in mid-2019 I decided to turn the new one into a B&B which Vittoria could run, while making a Sala Trofei on the site of a garage we had at the bottom of our current driveway. That way I could finally start to enjoy all the memories and mementoes I have.”
The display incorporates just six bikes, one a ’74 Yamaha offroader given him for keeping fit after he signed for the Japanese company. Alongside it are another Yamaha – the 1974 350cc twin he won his first World title for them on in his debut season on a twostroke, plus a pair of MV Agusta triples, a 1972 disc-braked 350 and 1967 drum-braked 500, each boasting the no.1 plate it earned at World level. Off to one side on a simulated stretch of Florida banking, is the actual TZ750 OW31 factory Yamaha with first-series 698cc motor on which he won the 1974 Daytona 200. “Daytona is a very nice memory,” says Ago with a satisfied smile. “Here you see photos when I’m leading the race, another when I stopped to refuel, and this one here after the finish when I am so dehydrated they must give me an injection, so I can go to the prize-giving to receive this huge trophy here by the wall. But there I meet the trophy girl, and she gives me encouragement to recover quickly!”
It must have been a huge decision leaving MV Agusta after so many years, and 13 World championships, to go to Yamaha. “It was difficult, of course. I started in GPs with MV Agusta, and I won a lot of races, and MV Agusta is my second family. But also with Yamaha I had a very nice bike, and a very nice team, with very good people. The only problem is that I am Italian, and the people are Japanese, and we talk English! So we made a lot of mistakes, but eventually we understand each other, especially once the Japanese Yamaha people began to move their hands like Italians! They were like Italians but with Japanese faces, because they were passionate about going racing, whereas maybe for Honda, it was more business. I think a lot before I change from MV to Yamaha, because I had to go to Japan, and everything was different food, chopsticks, sleeping on the floor, and taking off your shoes when you go to the restaurant.
But after two weeks I understood it was my third family, because I met very nice people, and when I asked to change something, they did it very quickly, no discussion. Everything that I asked for got done, and that’s how we won the World Championships together – first with this 350 in our very first year, the second one with 500.” But to make the switch from four-stroke to two-stroke so successfully surely didn’t happen overnight. “No, it’s true. I spent two weeks in Japan to test the 700, 500, and 350. Every day, at 9am, a car came to pick me up and I went to Yamaha’s private track, where I spent all day, every day, just riding. Every day to test this, to explain that, to change this, to make that – they were very patient, and did everything I asked immediately. First I prepared the 700 for Daytona, because it was my first race of the season. And then after that was OK I tested the 500, and then only the last day I rode the 350. Only the last day, because it was more important for Yamaha to win Daytona, and the 500 GPs. So I tried the bike, and I said, “Yes, it’s good, but not perfect.” I told them everything that needed to be done - I said, “You must change this, that” – and then I left. So they modified everything, and the test rider went 1.5 seconds quicker next time! So when I received the bike for my first race on it at the French GP in Charade, I was 1.5 seconds faster than everybody, so I won the race. Another nice first-time win – first GP with Yamaha, first GP with two-stroke and first race for this new 350.”
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