Kiwi Rider January 2022 Vol.1 - Page 87

and Geoff Duke ’ s Norton victory in 1951 . Then the Italian bikes ruled the roost . Gilera , and MV Agusta , between them , won every 500 World Championship until 1975 , when Giacomo Agostini won on a two-stroke Yamaha . The interesting point is that although following the two British victories of Graham and Duke on AJS and Norton , many of the dominant Italian bikes were ridden by British riders , for example Geoff Duke , John Surtees , Gary Hocking , Mike Hailwood , and Phil Read all rode to victory on either Gileras or , mostly , MV Agustas . Many believed that the arrival of the twostroke 500s was the beginning of the end for the class in Grand Prix racing . With the benefit of hindsight , this could be seen as a truthful prophecy , but the Yamaha , Honda , and Suzuki two-strokes did go on for another 26-years .
Above : Matchless 500 G80 1952 Below : AJS Spring Twin 500 1952
BIGGER AND BIGGER 1975 was , however , an abrupt end to four-stroke Italian success in the class . In 2001 the final 500ccc two-stroke crown went to Valentino Rossi on a Honda , but the trend towards bigger capacity four-strokes had started long before that in America . In the mid-1970s the Daytona 200 had become the premier road race in
the world , and from the manufacturers ’ point of view a showcase for the vast American market . For the first time the European Grand Prix circus faced competition . Capacity was lifted to 750cc . BSA and Triumph sent works teams , including Mike Hailwood , and Yamaha managed to
Agostini on a Yamaha . The first championship win by a two-stroke 500cc in 1975