The ‘G.O.A.T’ a phrase thrown around by many MotoGP fans, but who really is the ‘G.O.A.T’? Or is the G.O.A.T purely down to personal opinion?
Valentino Rossi sits in a club of a small number of riders who were able to win five consecutive premier-class titles, Mick Doohan and Giacomo Agostini are the only other two names who also were able to achieve this incredible feat. Since these premier class titles which took his overall tally to 7 titles, Rossi was able to add two more titles to his name taking the total to 9 championships, his domination in the early 2000s plus his character and personality which brought thousands of fans to the sport and turned him into a worldwide superstar.
His contributions to the sport and effectively ‘saving’ it when it was at a tipping point leads many to believe that Rossi is the Greatest Of All Time due to his contributions on and off-track with ex-teammate Colin Edwards being one of the first to dub Rossi as the ‘Greatest Of All Time’ with many people agreeing with this new revelation, almost overnight people starting calling Valentino the G.O.A.T.
Rossi, as humble as he is, does not claim he is the G.O.A.T saying, “I am on the podium of history, it is impossible to say if I am better than Ago or Mike.”
This is because the age-old argument of the ‘GOAT’ also boils down to two other names, Giacomo Agostini and Mike Hailwood. Agostini is the most successful rider of all time with 15 titles to his name and 122 wins at an incredibly dangerous period for the sport where it was not uncommon to hear of a rider losing their life every race weekend especially with the inclusion of the Isle Of Man TT in the racing calendar. Agostini dominated the late ’60s and early ’70s winning every race he contested for a number of years across the 350cc and 500cc championships, his 122 wins and 15 titles on paper give him the title of the most successful rider ever.
The problem is that numbers do not tell the full story, this was a time when riders could contest in multiple championships meaning Agostini amassed a lot of his wins on the same day, winning 2 races a weekend with 2 titles a season. The numbers very quickly added up, not to mention that Agostini was also the only factory rider on the grid for most of his career with MV Agusta which gave him a 30hp advantage which assisted him to win a lot of races. This absolutely does not take away from the achievements of Giacomo who still was a class above the rest, you can have the best machinery but if you’re missing talent then you will not perform, 15 titles is a feat which we will very likely never see again.
Not to mention that Agostini also won Isle Of Man TT races, 10 to be exact, at a time when drum brakes and super skinny tyres were not uncommon. The Isle of Man TT is the most dangerous and famous road race in the world, with the track taking a total of 260 lives, it was not uncommon to hear of multiple riders losing their lives at this track before it was removed from the calendar following a strike from riders including Agostini.
Based on this information about Agostini you may feel that he is the G.O.A.T, but Mike Hailwood fans would disagree wholeheartedly. Mike ‘The Bike’ Hailwood has a total of nine world championships to his name and a staggering 14 Isle Of Man TT wins, not to mention that Mike returned to the Isle Of Man in 1978 after 11 years to contest on a Ducati 900SS, people did not think he would be competitive, but who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Hailwood won the race in style. Hailwood managed his nine titles in only nine years, taking 76 wins in the process, not even Rossi’s record is that good.
Mike ‘The Bike’ Hailwood
Hailwood managed 4 consecutive premier class titles between the 1962 and 1965 seasons before Agostini took away the 1966 title from Hailwood following issues with his Honda which caused 4 DNF’s in the opening 4 races, he still managed to win the 250cc and 350cc titles and often competed in three and even 4 classes in one race weekend registering entries in the 125cc, 250cc, 350cc and 500cc championships throughout his career often winning races and cleaning up the competition, for example, winning every race in the 1966 250cc championship, he was a hugely dominant force and was not afraid to ride for multiple manufacturers often riding for Norton, MV Agusta, Honda, AJS, MZ and more, winning the bulk of his titles for MV and Honda.
Hailwood also had a career in F1 competing for Team Surtees, this was unsuccessful for the most part however he managed two podiums amongst a flurry of DNF’S.
If you look at race wins, Valentino Rossi is the G.O.A.T, he has a total of 89 premier class wins vs Agostini’s 68 and has done so on two different manufacturers, 500cc two-stroke machines, 1000cc four-stroke machines, 990cc’s and even 800cc’s in a technically demanding era, but Agostini has eight premier class titles compared to Valentino’s seven.
Truthfully, the question cannot be factually answered, not one rider is worthy enough of the ‘Greatest Of All Time’ badge because it is truly impossible to compare them, could Rossi win at the Isle Of Man TT? Maybe so, could a prime Agostini win on a Yamaha M1, potentially. But we do not have concrete answers for this, the ‘G.O.A.T’ accolade is truly down to personal opinion, the times have changed and Rossi rides in an era which is completely different to the era Hailwood and Agostini raced in.
The Greatest Of An Era accolade is something which can be factually proven with Valentino Rossi taking that crown for the 2000-2009 decade, but of all time? He sits on the podium with Agostini and Hailwood, none of them a winner, none of them a loser.
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