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Phil Read MBE has died

Phil Read, one of the greatest riders Britain has ever produced, has died.

He was 83 and left behind him achievements which may never be matched - the first rider to win seven world championships in the 125, 250 and 500 cc classes at a time - 1961 to 1976 - which included the IoM TT and riders of the calibre of Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini.

From a working life as an apprentice fitter in Luton but benefitting from the support from his mother who took him to Mallory Park with his Gold Star for one of his first serious races in 1958.


Two years later he was winning the Junior Manx Grand Prix on a Manx Norton and a year later, straight from this achievement, he was winning the  Junior TT. It was in this year that his great rival Mike Hailwood was winning three TT races.

It was the presence of Hailwood, who came from a rather different background, which probably denied Read being given the recognition that he deserved.

They were quite different in personalities but his achievements on the track don’t tell lies. His other great rivals were Giacomo Agostini - and it shouldn’t be forgotten that Read won two  500cc world titles on MVs in 1973/74 but had to give best to Ago in 1975 after the Italian hero had transferred to Yamaha.

Just as much a rival was Bill Ivy, his team-mate when Yamaha were giving the Honda sixes real competition. It has often been said that the man you really want to beat shares the same pit garage, it was certainly true here. But both had great successes.

His final races were back in the Isle of Man in the F1 races in 1978 when Hailwood made his legendary comeback on a Ducati and Read was riding a Honda. Hailwood got the better of him and although Read had one or two problems he was big enough to admit that Mike was the better man.

To have achieved so much and lived so long in a sport which was to say the least extreme, is a remarkable achievement and the award of the MBE and becoming an FIM legend is some form of recognition. But while he never quite achieved the heights of Hailwood or maybe even Agostini he was one of the all-time greats.

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