Vale Phil Read
Phillip William Read, MBE died on 6th October 2022, at the ripe old age of 83, after a long battle with prostate cancer. He competed in Grand Prix motorcycle racing from 1961 until 1976 and won seven world championships.
Phil Read in 1968 – Jack de Nijs
Phil Read was the first competitor to win world championships in the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc classes and, in 2013, was named an FIM Legend for his motorcycling achievements.
Born on 1 January 1939, Read later worked as a fitter and started amateur short-circuit racing in 1958 on a BSA Gold Star. In 1960 he won the Junior Manx Grand Prix on a Manx Norton at record speed. In 1961, he won the 350cc Junior TT race in 1961 and placed second in the 350cc and 500cc races at the North West 200 in Northern Ireland on Manx Nortons.
He won the Thruxton 500 endurance race in 1962 and 1963, riding Syd Lawton’s Norton Dominator 650SS machines.
In 1963, Read was temporarily drafted-in to fill Derek Minter’s absence in the Scuderia Duke Gilera Grand Prix team and came third in the Isle of Man Senior TT that was won by Mike Hailwood on an MV.
In the following Dutch TT at Assen and the Belgian GP 500cc race, Read came second.
Phil Read could see the potential in the 1962 Yamaha RD48 250cc two-stroke and the 1963 RD56 was even better. He signed with Yamaha and had instant success, winning the 1964 and 1965 world championships.
In 1966, Yamaha introduced a new four-cylinder engine that was troublesome, so he lost the championship to Mike Hailwood, on the six-cylinder, Honda RC166 four-stroke. The competition was much closer in the following year and the pair tied for the championship points, but Hailwood won, having had five race victories to Read’s four.
Read on 250 Yamaha (61), following Mike Hailwood (35), with Rod Gould (33) close behind, in 1967 at Cadwell Park
In 1968 Read had cliched the 125cc title and was instructed to let teammate Bill Ivy take the 250cc title, but Read went flat-out to win it. They finished the season tied in the points and Read was awarded the championship based on elapsed times.
Phil Read (8) at the Dutch TT – Anefo
After the major Japanese factories withdrew from Grand Prix racing at the end of 1968, Read concentrated on the major British and European international meetings.
However, he returned to the Grand Prix circuit in 1971, on a production Yamaha, modified with a new frame, twin disc brakes, improved horsepower, six-speed transmission and slippery aerodynamics. On this privately-entered bike he won the first three Grands Prix of the season and went on to claim his fifth world championship.
Phil Read’s 1974 MV 500
In 1972 Read joined the MV Agusta factory racing team and, in 1973, riding in both the 350 and 500 classes, he took the 500cc title, and repeated the feat in 1974.
On the MV he made Agostini’s Yamaha fight for the 1975 500cc championship, but Read finished the season in second place. He left the Italian company to campaign a private Suzuki in the 1976 season, after which he retired from Grand Prix racing.
Read entered TT events from 1977, winning the Formula 1 race on a works Honda CB750 SOHC and the Senior race on a Suzuki.
He competed in the 1978 TT against Mike Hailwood, who made a famous comeback, riding a Ducati 900SS. Read’s last race was at the Isle of Man TT in 1982, at the age of 43.