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Legends: Phil Read

Submitted by on January 25, 2011

Phil Read was the Prince of Speed and might also be called the Prince of Longevity – winning his first world championship event (the 350 TT) at the Isle of Man in 1961 and his last, the World TT Formula One Championship, back on Mona’s Isle in 1977.

Read, who turned 72 on January 1, keeps busy doing demo rides at classic events with former rival Giacomo Agostini on a pair of specially built MV 500s.

Born in Luton, Phillip William Read won seven world GP championships between 1964 and 1974. He recorded 52 GP victories and 121 podiums across the 125, 250, 350 and 500 classes, including seven TT victories when the IoM was a championship round.

He was the first rider to win world titles in the 125, 250 and 500 classes, Yamaha’s first world champion (1964 250 crown), MV’s last world champion and the last rider to win the 500 championship on a four-stroke machine (1974 500 crown). Read was 35 when he claimed the second of his two 500 championships — the second-oldest premier-class champion ever.

Some said Read had the misfortune to hit the scene at the same time as fellow Englishman Mike Hailwood. They won their first championship races in the same week, and were considered near equals for talent and finding the best in any machine.

Indeed Read rode some fearsome machines, from Gilera 500-4s to the Yamaha RD56 air-cooled 250 twin, the famous Yamaha V4 125 and 250, and the MV 500 triples and fours.

But Read had the mentally toughness to cope with both a dangerous era and rivals such as noted hard man Jim Redman. In fact Read proved a master at out-psyching team mates, first Bill Ivy at Yamaha in 1968 and then Agostini at MV in 1973.

by Don Cox

Images: philread.org

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