Terry Dennehy’s Drixton-Honda
Talk about unlikely combinations. Two 22-years-old Australia bike mechanics, working in Milan with a Swiss frame maker, turn a Honda CB450 roadster into a competitive racer.
But the Drixton-Honda Terry Dennehy and Ralph Hannan built with Othmar Drixl finished fourth in the 1969 Italian 500 GP and ran out of fuel while holding second place to Giacomo Agostini’s MV in the East German GP.
In 1970, Dennehy took sixth place in the Belgian GP and was a comfortable second in the Yugoslav GP, only to retire with oiled plugs.
Leading journalist Mick Woollett told the author that for its day, Dennehy’s machine was a very competitive privateer’s 500. Private entrants had limited options in 500 machines in ‘69. British singles were wearing out; the Linto twin had reliability problems; the Aermacchi and Bultaco singles were really ‘stretched’ 350s; and Kawasaki’s H1R triple only went on sale in 1970.
The Honda 500 was possible through the can-do attitude of the two Australians, regular shots of espresso coffee and ready access to parts in Milan.
Drixl made the frame and tank, while the lads built the engine. They bored the engine to 500cc and replaced the torsion-bar valve springs with coils. Terry ported the cylinder head and sourced American Webco camshafts.
“Many parts were bought ‘off the shelf’ in Milan,” Hannan said. “We could go around to factories and buy the stuff straight out of the box. We had Aermacchi pistons and valve springs, Fontana brakes and Ceriani suspension. The carburettor was a 32mm dual-throat Weber. Rob North made the exhaust pipes for us in England.”
Ralph Hannan went on race in New Zealand and talent-spot Graeme Crosby. Elder brother Ross Hannan became Crosby’s Superbike sponsor and Ralph turned the spanners.
Terry Dennehy developed Meningococcal in Belgium in December 2002 and died within 24 hours.
by Don Cox