March 21, 2023

Phil Read MBE 1939-2022: Obituary – Motor Sport

Phil Read used to vomit. Often.

When the so-called Prince of Speed (because Giacomo Agostini was its king) was at the height of his powers in the late 1960s and early 1970s most Grands Prix were staged around street circuits, where he knew full well that one mistake might be his last, never mind the fact that he was fighting for FIM world championships, just as Fabio Quartararo , Pecco Bagnaia , Aleix Espargaró and others fight for world championships today.

Read and his rivals lived a knife-edge existence between risk and reward like few before or since. He admitted that the particular combination of the two often had him doubling up over the particular toilet prior to a grand prix, the hideous rush of adrenaline causing him to vomit just before he steadied and dressed himself for the battle: pudding-basin helmet and a leather onesie. Not much use when meeting a brick wall in a hundred and fifty hundred miles an hour.

“I has been bombing upward the M1 when I passed this Lotus doing about ninety. I looked inside plus it had been Jim Clark”

Despite all this, Read made history. He was the first rider to win the junior, intermediate and senior globe championships – 125s, 250s and 500s in those days – an achievement that even now has only been matched by Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez . That’s how special this individual was, in an age when every GP season stole several lives and no one seemed to care.

He won eight planet titles (two 500cc, four 250cc, one 125cc and a TT F1 crown on the Isle associated with Man), scored 52 DOCTOR victories, among 1961 plus 1975, and won eight TTs, riding everything from little two-strokes to big four-strokes

Read was a tough competitor, possibly the toughest of all time. It was probably Read that began the sport’s metamorphosis from the gentleman champions of old – Geoff Duke , John Surtees and so on – to the particular grinning assassins of today.

Phil Read in 1964 TT

Go through accelerating out of Ramsey during the 1964 250cc TT. His RD56 failed on that day but he received the world title, Yamaha’s first


John Cowie, the fierce competitor during Read’s later years whenever the he or she was back racing in Britain, remembers lining up with him around the grid from Cadwell Park in 1978, when there was a disagreement over the particular starting rules.

“Read leant over to me and said ‘you ain’t f**kin’ going to earn it anyway! ’, ” recalls Cowie. “I didn’t know the man yet he had already been one of my idols when I was a teenager. He blew that will right there. After he’d thumbed their nose with me he came up the inside of me into the hairpin, shoved me away and out there, until I was high plus dry, then cleared off. ”

This is the attitude it takes to win multiple entire world titles. However , on this particular occasion Cowie had the last laugh – he beat Read to that year’s British TT F1 title.

Read was bike racing’s George Best and revelled in the particular bad-boy image. He named his autobiography after his other nickname ‘Rebel Read’ and he had the accoutrements to go with it. This individual wore rockstar shades and fur-coats, resided in mansions in London’s stockbroker belt, drove a Rolls-Royce, flew his own private plane, spent their winters skiing within the Alps and water-skiing in Hawaii and had the string of glamorous wives and girlfriends. His living-it-large character brightened the sport with regard to years.

Read was born and bred in Luton, Bedfordshire. He or she started racing in 1956, aboard a 350cc BSA, encouraged simply by his mother, a keen motorcyclist. Just two years later he earned his 1st Isle associated with Man TT, at that time the world’s biggest motorcycle race, and he was on his way

After that TT earn he bought himself his first flash motor, the 3. 8-litre Jaguar Mark 2, which was soon replaced by an E-Type.

“I remember driving up in order to Silverstone within the E. I has been bombing upward the M1 at about a hundred whenever I passed this Lotus doing regarding ninety. We looked inside and it was Jim Clark [1963 and 1965 Formula 1 world champion]. I actually thought, that’s good, I’m a motorcycle racer plus he’s a good F1 driver, so I am doing okay. ”

Phil Read celebrates 1964 Italian Grand Prix

Study after winning the 1964 Italian 250cc GP on Monza


At the particular end of 1963 Go through was signed by Yamaha, the third Japanese manufacturer to take on the entire world, after Honda and Suzuki. The following year he gave the company its very first world name, the 250cc. Over the next few seasons the battle between Yamaha’s and Suzuki’s two-strokes plus Honda’s four-strokes became the most fabulous, most lethal arms competition in bike racing history.

The two-strokes were fast and scary too, prone to engine seizures because the particular metallurgy and lubrication associated with the days couldn’t cope with the heat produced by the engines. Riders like Examine and Yamaha team-mate Bill Ivy were basically crash-test dummies, developing technology that might kill them at any moment.

“You realised you could get killed, so you lived it up. At 1 meeting it got a bit hectic, lingerie flying out of the window…”

“I remember the 250 splitting a flywheel at Chimay [a lethal Belgian street circuit, still in use today] at top speed, ” Read through told me a few years ago. “I felt this go plus had the particular clutch in before it locked the rear wheel and sent me personally flying. You were always nervous…

“It had been new technology, like the moon landing. We were building multi-cylinder bikes, suffering their idiosyncrasies plus their seizures. The Japanese were upon a steep learning curve and we the riders were benefitting but also suffering. Seizures had been a constant concern, so I still ride along with two fingers within the clutch, even if I’m riding the four-stroke on the road!

“We were busy upon the bicycles and this was hard work – a 1000rpm powerband, about 350rpm in between gears, shifting all the time. Hard work but very exciting, with all the hi-tech interest, the sounds, the atmosphere.

1967 French 250cc Grand Prix at Clermont-Ferrand

Ivy, Learn and Hailwood during the particular 1967 French 250cc GP at Clermont-Ferrand. They finished in that order


“It wasn’t only the engines, though. It had been also the awful handling and lack of brakes. I remember during testing in Japan, Bill and I took some Yamaha engineers out in order to a certain section of the particular Suzuka circuit to see how the bikes handled. Usually the engineers stood within the pits and the bikes would flash by and look wonderful. Anyway, they came to watch us through the corners, where the particular bikes had been tying themselves in knots, and after two laps they were standing on the circuit, jumping up and down, saying, ’Slow down, slow down! We understand! ’. ”

With the risks came wild times, because Look over great peers never knew which night out may be their final.

“You realised you could get killed, so you lived this up between meetings. We were like Spitfire pilots. It was like ‘f**k it, we’ve survived another mission, let’s live up a bit’. It was thrilling to do it but the danger was the terrible problem. You had a choice; you can give it up or you could continue. I just prayed that I didn’t end up dead or a paraplegic. A person tried not to think regarding it, a person tried in order to make the most of this. ”

“At one conference in ’75, me and [Barry] Sheene had got blown away by Giacomo [Agostini] on the Yamaha. MV experienced brought these promotion girls along, so we were having a bit of a time with them in my hotel room. It obtained a little hectic, lingerie flying out from the window…”

During the sixties arms race Yamaha raced 125cc plus 250cc twins in the GPs, so Honda built the five-cylinder 125 and six-cylinder 250. Yamaha responded along with a V4 125 along with a V4 250. Things were getting out of hand, so at the end of 1967 Ford and Suzuki withdrew. That left Yamaha all alone to contest the 1968 125 and 250 competition, with Understand and Ivy.

Phil Read at home with family in 1973

Read larking around in home in 1973, with first wife Madeleine plus their sons, Michael, Graham, Phil Jr and Roki


Because Yamaha got no real opposition it decided to carve up the championships between its two stars before the particular racing acquired even started: Read might win the 125, Ivy the two hundred and fifty.

Both men obeyed team orders, until Read wrapped up the a hundred and twenty-five title from Brno, Czechoslovakia, with three races in order to go. A few hours later this individual dropped their bombshell.

“Bill had been telling everyone, ‘I’m goin’ to win the two hundred fifity title, I am goin’ to beat Ready’. I’d heard all of this, therefore as all of us lined upward for the 250s I stated to your pet, ‘Okay, if you think you can beat myself when we’re riding in order to orders, well, now you’re going have to competition me regarding it’. He said, ‘Ah, f**kin’ ‘ell, Phil’. So we raced, I won and was second. ”

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