AN ARTICLE BY BARRY WOOD AGED 14|
The reproduction below, word-for-word, with Barry's kind permission, is of an article which appeared in the Isle of Man Weekly Times June 9th 1978. Barry was only 14 years of age at the time. He was paid £3.30 !
HAILWOOD'S LUCKY THIRTEENTH
As a small boy of five I grew to love the Isle of Man TT Races through knowledgeable information from my mother. I had heard of riders, many of them champions such as Agostini, Pasolini, Read, Williams, Carruthers Shhauzu, Enders to name but a few who can be regarded as legends in their heyday. It was heroes such as these whom I could gaze at in awe as they skilfully rode their various works bikes such as the M.V.Agusta, B.M.W., and Benelli to victories on the TT Course and who I would rush up to in excitement to collect their autographs.
However, one thing saddened me about these great riders, because a year or two previously a rider, who in my opinion was greater than any of these had apparently dropped out of motorcycle racing after twelve fabulous TT wins on many different makes and sizes of bikes.
He had, before he left, set up the Island'sone time stunning record of 20 minutes 48.8 seconds, nearly 109 mph, on a 500 Honda Six*.In fact I had heard that once, when battling with Italian Giacomo Agostini for the lead in the 1965 Senior TT race, both hit a puddle of oil and water on the Creg Willys Hill at Sarah's Cottage. Both were thrown off, but although Ago retired, Hailwood picked up his battered MV Agusta and "toured" to the finish to win the race ! Many people believe that only he could have done it. Any lesser rider, they reckoned, would have retired, but Mike carried on grimly to win his seventh TT.
ASs I grew older I read more about Mike and the races he so often won. His TT record was always referred to at following TT's, and as Ago began to run away with his races by often as much as five minutes, enthusiasts would sigh and say " I wish Mike Hailwood would come back and give him a run for his money !" I began to despair of ever seeing this great rider in action and decided that he was just a legend from years gone by where I was concerned..
In 1971 a rising star named Barry Sheene made a disastrous debut in the TT. He had a bad practice week and fell off in the 125cc race at the Quarterbridgein atrocious weather, injuring his wrist. Following this spill he vowed never to race on this "danger course" again.
A year later Gilberto Parlotti crashed his twin Morbidelli in the mist on the Verandah when he hit a mile-post at the side of the road. At this, his fellow countryman Agostini pulled out of TT racing and Team-mate Phil Read and Yamaha riders John Cooper and Rod Gould began to plot against the TT retaining its world championship status.
In 1975 the TT lost its former glory with loss of its world status to rival European circuits. This was largely due to the fact that the riders referred to had incessantly complained about the TT course and everytime a rider was killed they "pointed the finger" at the TT, sending it another step towards destruction.
However, in 1976, a campaign was launched in an attempt to put the TT back on firm ground again. So top European riders like Biland, Hennen and Katyama were brought to the Isle of Man to see the TT course at first hand.
They all rode in the TT a year later and to the surprise of everyone, Phil Read (Who had pulled out of the MV team in 1974) entered five solo rides, one which was for the new World Championship Formula One TT which he won controversially from Welshman Roger Nicholls on a Ducati.
He also won the Senior TT on a 500cc Suzuki and he may have won more but for a mysterious incident on open roads in which he crashed his Yamaha (750cc) at 90 mph at Brandish Corner, injuring his shoulder, thus sidelining him from any more racing that week.
Everyone thought how cute Read was in returning to the Island after a five-year absence and winning on a circuit which he had previously criticised.
At this, a former TT ace, whom we have already spoken about, decided to ride in the 1978 TT....Whether it was a case of "if Read can do it, so can I" or maybe MIKE HAILWOOD merely wanted to ride and not race over the course on which he did so well and loved so much.......
TT fans, myself included, went wild with enthusiasm at Hailwood's return to the TT and the '78 series was daubed "the year Mike Hailwood came back".....
Books about him, posters, pictures and stickers of him appeared from everywhere, and a small firm called Sports Motorcycles entered him in the Formula 1 World Championship on an 864cc Ducati. Also Team Martini Hailwood came to the Island equipped with 250cc, 500cc and 750cc Yamahas for Mike. In this team were popular ex-Honda works mechanic Nobby Clarke and an ex-TT rider who had also knocked the course, Rodney Gould.
Mike told everyone that he intended to only ride and not race, but after a hectic practice week at which he had turned in a lap of 110 mph, enthusiasts willed Mike to win in a nostalgic fashion, as he had done in his heyday more that a decade ago..
The Formula 1 race day dawned and owing to lack of qualifiers for the solo races, a reserve practice session was staged from 5am to 6.00am. Mike went out on his Martini Yamaha and promptly set up a personal best of 20 minutes 8.8 seconds, 112 mph..But disaster struck on his second circuit when he slid off his 250cc Yamaha at Braddan Bridge, slightly injuring his hand. The big question all round the Island was "Would Mike be fit to race in the Formula 1 TT that afternoon ??" Fortunately Mikes hand was not badly hurt and he appeared on the grid at 4pm on his Ducati which had been appropriately numbered 12 for his 12 TT wins.
A late entry and a threat to the proposed Hailwood v Read battle was Irishman Tom Herron, who rode the ill-fated Tony Rutters Mochek Honda. Rutter had broken his leg following a prang just before the Gooseneck, Ramsey, on his Yamaha.
The race promised to be an exciting one and by Ballacraine, commentator Tommy Robb reported Mike five seconds ahead of his rival, No 1 Phil Read and by the second lap Read had been demoted to third by Tom Herron, with No 16 John Williams, No 4 Helmut Dahne, and No 11 Ian Richards all pressing for leaderboard positions. However Herron soon retired at Quarry Bends and Read was reported touring at the 11th Milestone. Hailwood seemed bound to achieve his 13th TT win.
All around the TT course fans went hysterical and cheered as they waved programmes to hurry Mike on. Patrons of the TT looked upon it as a piece of nostalgia from yearts gone by. Mike had won races over the TT course over ten years ago and after a decades absence, had come back to prove himself, in my point of view, the greatest rider ever on the TT course.
Minutes later Mike took the chequered flag on his Ducati anidst deafening cheers and applause, which proved how popular a win it had been.
Far behind came Wirral's John Williams, beating Ian Richards into third place, with seasonal German campaigner Helmut Dahne fourth, this time on an Eckhart Honda instead of the reputed BMW R75/5 which has made him famous at Ballaugh Bridge, Gooseneck etc., for his steady style of riding.
I was over the moon at seeing Mike's ride on the TT course as I had previously missed him through being too young, and I must say that he is even better than I expected him to be.
Finally, I would like to say that Mike Hailwood's appearance has done a great deal for the Isle of Man TT races and I am sure that everyone would wish to thank him for the great enthusiasm he has provoked among everone this year......
A great article, Barry, well done !!!