-- Ago on Rossi/Stoner & more...
The most successful grand prix motorcycle racer of all time, Italy’s Giacomo Agostini – who has touched down in Australia ahead of his special guest appearance at this weekend’s International Island Classic at Phillip Island – believes his countryman Valentino Rossi has got what it takes to return to the top of the MotoGP tree in 2013 now that he’s back on a factory Yamaha.
“People think that Valentino is past his best, and there may be some basis to that, but I believe that he can still win races in MotoGP,” said Agostini, a 15-time GP champion. “It won’t be like before when he was winning every Sunday, but he will be competitive and take it up to (Jorge) Lorenzo and (Dani) Pedrosa, so that alone is going to make it an exciting spectacle.
“And I’m also going to enjoy watching Spain’s Marc Marquez take the step up from Moto2 to MotoGP. It won’t be that easy, as he’s riding a bike that has double the horsepower of before, so that alone will present its challenges. He’s a great young talent, but he just has to treat 2013 as something of a learning year.”
Seventy-year-old Agostini still takes an active interest in road racing at the highest level, and is disappointed that Australia’s Casey Stoner won’t be on the grid in 2013.
“You have to respect his decision to retire at such a young age, although it is disappointing to see such a talent leaving the sport so early. He is great to watch, especially at his home track of Phillip Island.
“It’s obviously not a physical thing, or a lack of money on offer, but I can understand the mental fatigue that goes with racing.
“I retired at 35 because my head told me that was enough, and also because I was lacking some motivation after I had achieved everything I had wanted to in racing. And my skills were starting to decline – something that happens to all of us.”
Agostini was last in Australia 10 years ago for the International Island Classic -- Australasia’s largest historic bike festival – when he brought over a fleet of racing bikes from Italy. This time he’ll be cutting demonstration laps during the three-day event (January 26-28) aboard an MV Agusta grand prix replica housing a genuine 1968 in-line four-cylinder engine.
Ago will also attend a special welcome dinner with over 650 guests at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit on Saturday evening.
“I have fond memories of racing in Australia in the 1970s,” said Agostini. “But one of my regrets is that I didn’t get the chance to race around Phillip Island, and it’s just a spectacular place – especially going down the front straight towards the ocean.
“I think I would have enjoyed racing the early Superbikes like we are going to be seeing at the Island Classic this weekend, as there is lot of banging of elbows and the action is always fierce.
“But these days I am content with a more relaxed lifestyle, which includes riding my big Yamaha scooter around Italy and attending all these revival historic events that are happening around Europe at the moment. That’s enough for me.”
The International Island Classic will be headlined by the International Challenge, a four-race square-off between teams from Australia, the UK, New Zealand and America.
The field is packed with blue-chip talent, led by former 500GP and 250GP star Jeremy McWilliams, who has been the leading individual point scorer over the last two years – but it still hasn’t stopped the crack Aussie team continuing its winning ways in the International Challenge.
As well as McWilliams, other stars in action will include Australian superbike legends Shawn Giles, Malcolm Campbell and Rob Phillis; Melbourne’s Isle of Man-riding enforcer Cameron Donald; 2009 world endurance champion Steve Martin; and Irishman Ryan Farquhar. Martin is the current historic lap record holder at Phillip Island, but that benchmark is set to be lowered again following a full $3 million resurface of the 4.445km grand prix circuit in December, 2012.
Tickets for the 20th AMCN International Island Classic are available at the gate with a Sunday only adult ticket $45; children under 15 at $5 per day; and a weekend adult ticket $70.
|-- Island Classic 2013 - Thursday Pit Bits Video + Onboard laps with Shawn Giles & Steve Martin --|
ABOUT THE ISLAND CLASSIC
The AMCN International Island Classic has become the jewel in the crown of historic racing in the southern hemisphere, and next weekend 372 riders on over 400 bikes, will qualify Friday and compete across 44 races on the Saturday and Sunday.
Now in its 20th year, the headline event is the Tahbilk International Challenge, a four-race square-off between men and historic machines from Australia, the UK, New Zealand and America.
The field is packed with blue-chip talent, led by former 500GP and 250GP star Ireland’s Jeremy McWilliams, who has been the leading individual point scorer over the last two years. He is joined by fellow Irish TT star, Ryan Farquhar and Steve Brogan in the UK squad.
NZ is led by veterans Roger Gunn and Kevin Grey ; while 14 riders, including Pat Mooney, Wade Boyd and Deano Swims, are flying their machines from the US for the historic Challenge.
It is the crack Aussie team they all want to beat. The locals have dominated the International Challenge since its inception, and are planning their fifth consecutive team win with an all star line up including Australian superbike legends Shawn Giles, Malcolm Campbell and Rob Phillis; Melbourne’s Isle of Man-riding enforcer Cameron Donald; and 2009 world endurance champion Steve Martin.
Martin is the current historic lap record holder at Phillip Island, but that benchmark is set to be lowered again following a full $3 million resurface of the 4.445km grand prix circuit last month.
TICKETS AND CAMPING
Tickets for the AMCN International Island Classic are available at www.islandclassic.com.au or at the gate. Adult three day passes are $70, Sunday only $45 and children under 15 are free Friday and just $5 on Saturday and Sunday; or splash out with a VIP Club Classic package on pit roof for $125 Sunday.
Being the Australia Day long weekend, make it a family getaway. Trackside camping is super reasonable with four nights of camping for $70. Add a three day event entry ticket for a family of four and you get a long weekend getaway for less than $250. The campground is open from Thursday to Sunday inclusive, and spots must be pre-booked on www.islandclassic.com.au or by calling the circuit on 03 5952 2710.
Phillip Island GP Circuit hotline telephone 03 5952 2710 or www.islandclassic.com.au
-- 2012 Island Classic Coverage
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