You can’t believe the stuff that happens at the Classic TT. The £250,000 MV triple that Ian Lougher was to race for collector John Chapman in Saturday’s 500cc Senior Classic race has blown up - hole in piston - but Chapman is replacing the bike with a replica of a 1966 Mike Hailwood Honda RC181.
That’s it - an RC181, the factory twin-cam four on which Hailwood beat Giacomo Agostini’s MV triple in the 1967 Senior TT, one of the most-remembered Isle of Man races in the event’s history.
The RC181 is not to be confused with the several Honda fours that are already running in the Senior race, which are based on CB500 single-cam engines that can be bought for less than £1000 one eBay.
Chapman’s RC181 was due to be ridden at a relatively sedate pace for just one 37.73-mile tour in next Monday’s Lap of Honour, but now the plan is for Lougher to ride it in Saturday’s 151-mile four-lap race. So the team’s move is audacious, to say the least. “I’ve ridden the Honda and I have every faith in it,” Chapman said.
The bike is one of a dozen €65,000 replicas built from original Honda drawings by Hungarian engineer Ronald Agoston, of which Chapman owns four. The steel-tube chassis is based on a 1966 Honda original, which Hailwood rejected for the 1967 season in favour of Reynolds and Lyster frames. Hailwood savaged the handling of the 1966 bike, so how Lougher will manage with it remains to be seen.
Now Chapman’s mechanic Aaron MacLeod is switching the RC181 rep from parade to race specification. “We have to secure the fuel cap and fit it with breathers, fit new tyres and a steering damper, drill probably 60 bolts to lock-wire them, and fit a belly pan and a rain light,” he said.
Meanwhile the MV replica is being sent back to the Italian makers.
“We took it to Jurby and it ran fine, but in practice Ian got to Sarah’s Cottage when he felt a surge and pulled in,” Chapman said. “The bike lasted 11 miles, so that’s £21,000 a mile it’s cost.”