In addition to dominating the Grand Prix circuits of the world throughout his career, he also won ten Isle of Man TT victories, when that race was regarded as one of the most difficult and dangerous challenges in the sport, requiring above all the quality of courage.
Brought up in Lovere, near Bergamo, he competed in hill-climbs before being offered a place on Morini’s works team in 1964. He immediately began to impress and was soon given a World Championship ride by MV Agusta, as understudy to British racer Mike Hailwood, who became a mentor to him.
Giacomo made his breakthrough in 1965, at the age of 23, when he rode a 350cc bike to victory in its first race, at the Nurburgring. He narrowly missed out on his first World Championship that year.
Following the departure of Hailwood to Honda, he became MV’s No 1 rider and responded by winning his first 500cc World Championship in 1966. This was the first of seven successive 500cc titles which he won from 1966 to 1972. He also won the 350cc World Championship title seven times between 1968 and 1974.
In 1967 he had a memorable battle with Hailwood in one of the most dramatic seasons ever seen in Grand Prix history. In the 500cc event, the contest went down to the last race in Canada after the two had swapped wins all season. Hailwood won in Canada to tie on points with Giacomo. Each rider had five wins, so it came down to second places, with Giacomo taking the title with three seconds to Hailwood's two.
In 1974 Giacomo surprised the racing world when he switched to Yamaha. In that year, in addition to winning the prestigious Daytona 200, the premier American motor cycle race, he also won his seventh 350cc World Championship, but injuries and mechanical problems hampered his 500cc challenge. However, he came back in 1975 to win the 500cc World Championship for the eighth time – his final world title.
Fittingly, in 1976, his last career victory came at the Nurburgring, the German venue where he had won his very first Grand Prix back in 1965.
A man of principle, Giacomo shook the motor cycle world when, after the death of his close friend Gilberto Parlotti at the 1972 Isle of Man TT, he announced he would never again race at the event because he considered it unsafe. At the time, the TT was the most prestigious race on the calendar. Other top riders joined his boycott and by 1976 it had been removed from the Grand Prix schedule.
At the end of 1977, he moved to car racing, but this was not a happy time for him and in 1980 he retired. However he returned to racing in 1982 as team manager with Yamaha and immediately guided New Zealander Graeme Crosby to a world title. Under Giacomo, American Eddie Lawson won three 500cc World Championships in 1984, 1986 and 1988.