MV Agusta's 17-year domination of the 500cc World Championship with their prima maniera (first generation) four-stroke Grand Prix racers, has only been matched in the modern era by the equivalent class supremacy of Honda's NSR500 V4 two-stroke. Indeed, the parallels between the two very different motorcycles are fascinating, for each began life as a futuristic but flawed creation, and only achieved success once this was jettisoned in favor of a more conventional, yet still distinctive design.
Both the MV Agusta 500 Quattro and the Honda NSR500 had to struggle against a compatriot rival for eventual supremacy, alternating championship wins before gaining the upper hand – though in MV's case this came thanks to Gilera's retirement after winning the 1957 world title, whereas Honda eventually saw Yamaha off in the 1990s.
Each, however, owed its initial dominance to the supreme skills of two men, John Surtees for MV Agusta and Freddie Spencer for Honda, before coming into the hands of Hailwood and Doohan – who achieved such all-out dominance that it was news when they didn't win, rather than vice versa. Each was then supplanted by a very different model which allowed a younger rider then acclaimed as the best-ever, to win successive Grand Prix races and serial world titles Agostini on the MV Triple and Valentino Rossi on the RC211V Honda, before crossing the paddock to join their team's greatest rival – in both cases, Yamaha. Guess history does repeat itself, after all: what goes around comes around.
What's more, as with Honda, MV Agusta's Grand Prix challenge was born of the will to win of a single remarkable man, eager to prove the intrinsic merits of the motorcycles bearing his name, in the one venue where no lies can be told: the race track. Count Domenico Agusta was a bombastic, demanding, ruthless, capricious and despotic person, according to some of those who actually rode for him. His determination to win, and the unfailing support he gave the men who created and rode the red-and-silver race monsters to so much success resulted in 75 World Championships, 270 Grand Prix victories, and no less than 3027 race wins from MV Agusta's GP debut in 1948, to the day the music died in October 1996.