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Setting the Scene - The Riders

The prospects for the 1967 250cc World Championship were very exciting. Mike Hailwood was in his second year as a full factory Honda rider and was keen to retain the title which he won in 1966, beating Phil Read in the process. Phil had been Champion for two years in 1964 & 1965, riding the RD56 air-cooled twin and he was anxious to win the title back after a difficult year developing the new water cooled V4. He was being backed up by Bill Ivy, now in his second year with the factory Yamaha, the plan being that Bill would go for the 125 title with Phil's help and vice versa for the 250. Mike Hailwood was supported by Ralph Bryans, elevated from the smaller bikes to replace Jim Redman who had to retire following a nasty crash on the new 500 Honda the previous year. There were doubts that Bryans would be up to the task and it was thought that Hailwood would be effectively on his own. This view was even held by Honda who felt that no one could be as fast as Hailwood, so if Mike was going to win the title he would do it on his own. Hailwood felt the burden of going for three titles, 250, 350, and 500 and although the 350 should be fairly comfortable, the other two would be very tough. Honda bowed to his request for support in the 250 and as they had withdrawn from the 50 and 125, they were able to give Bryans a ride. They told him, however, that he should just treat it as practice, to keep his hand in until they had developed new smaller competitive machines and they only provided him with one of the 1966 bikes!

Setting the Scene - The Machines

Just as the riders were two different characters, Mike a flamboyant laid-back playboy type, Read a more reserved, serious chap, so the machines were very different. Both were very exotic, technically advanced machines, the Honda a DOHC, air-cooled, straight six, four stroke with the engine as a fully stressed frame member whereas the Yamaha was a V4, disc valve, water cooled, two stroke with an independent, full cradle, featherbed type, frame.

The Yamaha RD05A V4 Disc Valve Water Cooled Two Stroke

In its second full year, the fabulous RDO5A had been much improved and it was lighter, lower and more powerful, developing 68bhp at 14,000 rpm, weighed 130kg and was capable of over 150mph. By the end of the season another 2bhp had been squeezed out of the motor. The steering head and rear fork pivot had been strengthened; the former now adjustable and two steering dampers (a normal hydraulic unit plus a vane-type) were fitted, all to improve handling. This followed advice from Reynolds Ken Sprayson and a long test session with Read and Ivy during the winter. Bore and stroke was 44mm x 40.5mm respectively. The power band was very narrow being between 12,000 & 14,000 rpm and the gearbox was fitted with eight gears to help keep it on the boil. Those of you who were able to get to the Assen Centennial TT would have had the pleasure of seeing this fantastic machine, although I understand that due to a faulty coil, only those present for Fridays practice were able to hear it.

The Honda 250cc 6 Cylinder RC166 DOHC Four Stroke

Hailwood had a new 250 six with a new frame similar to that used for the 297 six and a new engine which developed 63bhp at 18,000rpm and the bike weighed in at 116kg. Bryans’ 1966 bike was slightly less powerful at 60bhp and only revved to 17,000. He said he did not mind having the less powerful engine since he was smaller and lighter than Hailwood and could go as fast as him on the straights. The Honda, unlike the Yamaha, was fully developed but as the Yamaha was already more powerful this was a disadvantage. For the last two races, however, they used an engine with the bore of the 297 i.e. 41 mm x 31.5mm instead of 39mm x 34.8mm and this gave another 3-5 bhp.

The Points Scoring System.

For the 250 class there was 13 rounds with the best seven scores counting. Presumably, it was structured in this way because in those days the bikes were not so reliable and to be sure of the best rider winning, this allowed for a number of DNFs to be ignored. The points were awarded as follows: 8,6,4,3,2,1, down to sixth place. We will have to return to this system later.

The Championship Rounds:

Round One Spanish GP Barcelona.

The course was the beautiful 2.3-mile Montjuich Park circuit high above Barcelona. It was tight, twisty and up and down with a very low average speed of around 75mph. In practice Hailwood was a second faster than the Yamaha boys, demonstrating that the RDO5A, despite its improvement, was still a handful and with no significant straight  the lighter nimbler Honda was more suited to the circuit. It was hot and sunny and Read and Ivy had already participated in the 27 lap 53min 125 race and only had time for a quick cool drink before the 250s were called out for another 33 lap ordeal, lasting over an hour. Ivy led off the line from the push start on his wailing two stroke, ahead of Hailwood with Read close behind. Bill's bike started to misfire on the first lap and Hailwood took the lead. A trip to the pits to change the plugs failed to stop the misfire so Ivy retired.

Phil managed to stay with the Honda for two laps but then Mike started to pull away, gaining two seconds a lap, breaking his own lap record with a speed of 76.94mph. He was leading Read by over half a minute when the rear tyre started to lose pressure and after two lurid slides he pulled into the pits to retire on lap 14. The report in MCN at the time said "Hailwood gave the tyre a savage kick accompanied by some very uncomplimentary language" demonstrating the difference of 30yrs because today the expletive would have been printed in full or at least enough letters and dashes to identify it. Phil Read was then left to win easily from Ralph Bryans with a margin of 22secs. No other rider completed the full 33 laps. A piece of wire was found to have penetrated Hailwood's rear tyre and unfortunately this is the type of hazard they had to put up with from a course that was a public road for the rest of the year. First blood to Read 8pts, Hailwood no score.


Results 250cc 331aps = 77.73miles

                       h      m        s          mph 

1  P. Read      1       3     35.4       73.34

2  R. Bryans   1       3      57.0       72.92

Record lap Hailwood 1m 50.2s = 76.94mph

Points Read 8, Bryans 6.

Round Two, The West German GP, Hockenheim 

This took place a week later and the long straights were expected to favour the faster Yamahas and true to form they were quickest in practice with Bill Ivy on pole with a time of 2mins 12.9secs, faster than Redman's 500cc record of the previous year. Again the weather was hot and the 250 race followed immediately after the 125 in which both Read and Ivy were brought down by a back marker. Despite their bruises they shot ahead from the start with Hailwood's Honda spluttering along behind on only five cylinders. He pulled into the pits and retired after two laps. Ivy took the lead but at the start of lap 6 his gearbox failed. Read took over at the front, building a lead of half a minute over Bryans when the heat of the day altered the carburation and one of the plugs fouled. He called into the pits and as the plug was changed Bryans screamed past into the lead. Half a minute elapsed before Read could rejoin the race and he set off after Bryans with only four laps to go. Hailwood hung out a board to Bryans telling him to rev the engine to 18,000 but Ralph was unable to respond because the carburation was too rich and he could only get it to rev to 16,500, 500rpm below the old bikes normal limit. However, it did not matter because Read, despite a very gallant effort, failed to catch Bryans but only by 4secs. Ralph had deprived Phil of 2pts but with his tally now 14 and Hailwood yet to score it did not appear to be significant. Where were the Bryans doubters now?

Results 250cc 231aps = 96.72 miles

                          m        s        mph

1 R. Bryans       54     4.1    107.31

2 P. Read          54     8.3    107.25

Record lap  Ivy 2m 15.8s 111.49mph

Points Read & Bryans 14 each.

Round Three, The French GP, Clermont Ferrand

This dramatic race was held at the beautiful and twisty 5-mile circuit built around the hills in the Auvergne Mountains high above Clermont-Ferrand This was Hailwood's favourite track and aboard the lighter nimbler Honda he was going to be very difficult to beat. For the first four laps he tucked behind Read and Ivy, then took the lead, broke the lap record and drew relentlessly away. Read was hampered by a useless clutch, the cable having pulled out of the handle-bar lever socket and Ivy was also in trouble, the engine had a bad misfire and the gearbox was playing up. With only 4 of the 16 laps to go Hailwood lost first and second gears as he accelerated round a slow corner. He nursed it up the hill and round to the start and with such a big lead called into the pits to see if the mechanics could do anything to rectify it. They worked furiously and he rejoined the race just as Read came through. With Phil missing gear changes without a clutch, Ivy had caught back up and was just behind him after almost packing it in, until he remembered there was a £45 prize for third!

As they swung into view on the next lap the crowds at the start/finish were rewarded with a tremendous sight, Read and Hailwood were side by side with Ivy a bikes length behind. Just imagine the sound of six screaming Honda cylinders mingling with the eight (or should it be seven and a half) wailing Yamaha two stroke cylinders. As they disappeared from view Read missed a gear and Hailwood took the lead only for Mike to suffer the same problem on a tight corner. Bill Ivy gave Mike a cheery nod as he slipped past and drew away to win. Phil also got past to finish second leaving Hailwood to tour home third with Bryans staying behind to take fourth. Mike Hailwood uncharacteristically refused to go to the rostrum because he was so angry and disappointed. It was a tremendous display by all three riders because the course was difficult and dangerous enough when the bikes were OK but with the track surrounded by rock kerbs, bridge walls and trees and in some places overlooking dangerous slopes, racing with a faulty gearbox which could easily lock up or a clutchless two stroke whose engine could seize must have taken a lot of courage. Ralph Bryans practice season was going well, second in the table only three points behind Read, what would happen if he started racing?  

Results 250cc 181aps = 90.09 miles

                        h     m       s        mph

1 W. lvy           1      9    14.4     78.07

2 P. Read        1      9     22.7    77.91

3 M. Hailwood  1      9     47.7    77.45

4 R. Bryans      1      9     48.3    77.44

Record lap  Hailwood 3m 36s 83.42mph

Points Read 20, Bryans 17, Ivy 8.

Round Four, The Isle 0f Man TT.

In practice Hailwood lapped at 105.12mph, 5mph quicker than Bill Ivy on the fastest Yamaha. In those days practice times could be misleading on the long road circuits because riders would not always show their hand and after the first lap it looked as though Read might be able to make a challenge, since he was only 1.8 secs down on Hailwood and they had lapped at over 103mph from a standing start with Ivy only 0.8 secs behind Read. Through the speed trap the Yamahas were noticeably faster; Ivy 153.8mph, Read 148.8mph, Bryans 145.8mph and Hailwood 145.2mph. Hailwood, however, had been taking it gently on the first lap after putting a swinging arm from the 297 bike onto the 250 in order to use a bigger tyre but he did not have the opportunity to try it out in practice. From the second lap onwards he steadily drew away at the rate of 10 to 15 seconds a lap until the last two laps when the margin was 25 secs/lap as Read had to ease his pace. At half distance Ivy was 25secs down on Read when his Yamaha went off song and then broke a crankshaft. Ralph Bryans finished third nearly three and a half minutes behind Read after problems with the front brake.

After the race Mike Hailwood explained that the Honda had not been handling as well as in practice. They were concerned about tyre wear and decided to fit a 3.50-inch on the rear instead of the normal 3.25-inch. This would not fit in the 250 rear fork, so they used the swinging arm from the 297 six but did not have the opportunity to try it before the race. Apart from that he had a fine ride but thought he had no chance of winning the World Championship. Examination of the two Honda rear tyres after the race confirmed that Mike had made the right decision since Ralph's smaller section tyre was almost worn out and he had not ridden so hard. Phil Read said his Yamaha had been jumping out of gear on occasions and the engine had lost a cylinder several times. Showing his hands covered with blisters Phil said that even though it was fitted with two steering dampers, the bike still needed a lot of holding. You could not relax like on a Norton, you had to hang on all the time. He also had a couple of heart stopping moments when his Yamaha slid sideways on wet tar.

On the way to Holland for the Dutch TT, Hailwood and the Yamaha boys took part in the Post TT meeting at Mallory Park. It was Hailwood’s wish to do these International meetings as it was the only chance to earn some decent start money because the GPs exploited the riders, paying only a pittance. The FIM knew that the riders had to take part in the GPs to have a chance of winning a title and also to fulfil their works contract or try to obtain one. The factories obviously were not keen on them racing in the non-title meetings since the riders took the risk of getting injured and jeopardising the title challenge. Honda allowed Hailwood to ride but he could not use his GP machine only an old bike. The only old bike available, yes you've guessed it, was Bryan's 1966 model which he had been riding in the GPs. When you look at the points situation after the TT, maybe they should have swapped bikes for the title race since Ralph was better placed, and would have been easier on the more highly stressed 1967 bike whereas Mike needed some reliability and some finishes!

Results 250cc 6 laps = 226.5 miles

                             h      m       s         mph

1 M. Hailwood      2     11    47.6    103.07

2 P.  Read            2     13      6.4    102.05

3 R. Bryans          2     16    27.0     99.55

Record Lap Hailwood (lap 2) 21mins 39.8secs 104.5mph

Points Read 26, Bryans 21, Hailwood 12, Ivy 8.

Round Five The Dutch TT Assen

Here Hailwood was in a class of his own on a circuit that rewards riding ability and he won the 250, 350 and 500 races convincingly. Despite dropping the V4 in practice, Read shot away from the line at the start of the 250 and stayed in front for a whole lap with Hailwood, Ivy and Bryans close behind. Mike then swept ahead and pulled away to win. Phil's bike went "sick" with the all familiar plug-fouling problem but he kept going until he finally pulled in and retired at half distance. This left the "in form" Bryans (I told you they should have made him No.1) dicing with Ivy for second place. On the 7th lap Ralph got ahead and held the position for another 3 laps before the brake problem he experienced in the IOM resurfaced again and Ivy was able to pull away and take second. Despite two wins on the trot and now only six points behind Phil Read, Hailwood was still not very optimistic about retaining his title because the rounds to come were on fast circuits, which would suit the Yamahas.

Results 250cc 17 laps = 81.38 miles

                            m      s         mph

1 M. Hailwood     54    27.7     89.66

2 W. lvy               54    57.0     88.86

3 R. Bryans         55      7.5     88.58

Record Lap Hailwood 3m 8.5s = 91.43mph

Points Read 26, Bryans 25, Hailwood 20, Ivy 14.

Round Six, The Belgium GP, Spa Francorchamps.

Hailwood’s worst fears about the speed of the V4 Yamahas were realised when he found himself 4s a lap slower than Ivy in practice! Phil Read was fastest with a lap of 4m 9.3s and Hailwood was over 5s down with a time of 4m 14.8s! The circuit, in the east of the country, right on the German border, was another of the classic courses, part of which is still in use today but only for F1 and no longer for GP bikes. The 8.8 miles of public roads in undulating countryside had a series of wonderful fast curves. It was a true road circuit, bumpy, only the width of a public road, passing through villages and farms with brick walls, trees and fences as the boundaries, just like the IOM, but much faster. You had to have a fast machine, which would hold to the road, and the rider needed a lot of “bottle”. After a long spell of good weather and record laps in practice, one of the biggest crowds of over 100,000 attended on race day, packing the many banked vantage points provided by the up and down nature of the track.

When the 250s came to the line, the heat of the day was almost too much but at least there was no 125 or 350 race at this GP and with the 500 last on the programme this was the first race for all the protagonists. In those days there were six classes but organisers only had to run a minimum of four. Hailwood had been demoralised by the Yamahas in practice but was placing his hopes on a good start to try and get in their slipstream and get them to pull him round. Unfortunately for him, at the drop of the flag, Read and Ivy shot ahead with those fabulous V4 engines whining up and down as they changed gear, down through Eau Rouge and up the hill, with Ivy in the lead as they disappeared from view. Hailwood meanwhile, made a poor start and was balked by slower riders on the hill as he strived desperately to get through to third place. When they swept through at the end of the first lap Read was just in front of Ivy but Hailwood was only 100yds behind and was obviously riding at 11/10ths trying to stay with the Yamahas. It was all to no avail, with Read pulling away from Ivy and Hailwood dropping back to 200yds after lap, then half a mile at the end of lap 3. He wisely decided to settle for third place and was fortunate to inherit 2nd place, well behind Ivy, when Phil Read's Yamaha broke a crankshaft on lap 5.

With so much full throttle at Spa fuel consumption is high and Ivy was worried that he might run out of juice so he eased the pace but still won by over half a minute. Hailwood finished with his Honda six misfiring and snaking quite alarmingly. Ralph Bryans meanwhile had been in a safe third place but the Honda had developed a bad oil leak and he pulled into the pits after 6 laps but the mechanics were unable to stop it so he rejoined without losing his place to Derick Woodman (MZ). Then, less than a mile from the finish the inevitable happened, the engine seized. He coasted as far as he could then jumped off and started to push the bike home. Woodman was in similar trouble with three seizures on the last lap due to a failing magneto and he came to a halt with Bryans in sight but Ralph won the "run" to the flag. During his Yamaha career Phil Read took a lot of stick when the fragile two strokes expired, being accused of pushing too hard. His lap record in the race, however, was nearly 2s slower than his practice pole so he was not over stretching the engine, it was just one of those things. Bryans now led the Championship. Hey Ralph, steady on, don't you think you're taking this practice lark a bit too seriously, you're making them look silly, you're supposed to be saving yourself for the new smaller bikes next year!

Results 250cc 91aps = 78.84miles 

                            m        s           mph

1 W. lvy              38      42.1      122.25

2 M. Hailwood    39      16.7      120.45

3 R. Bryans        47        7.6      100.39

4 D.Woodman    50        9.9        94.31

Record lap Read 4m 11.1s = 125.61mph

Points Bryans 29, Read & Hailwood 26, Ivy 22.

Round Seven, The East German GP, Sachsenring.

Practising was held in hot humid conditions but the weather broke with thunderstorms the evening before race day and stopped raining only half an hour before the first race, the 350, was due to start. Despite the early morning rain 150,000 East Germans flocked to the 5.43 mile circuit which was celebrating its 40th year. Hailwood suffered from the race order this time with the 250 at the end of the programme straight after the 500 but as he had retired just before half distance he had been able to get a reasonable break. With the 500 race between the 125 and 250 races, Read and Ivy had an unusually long gap after the 125 before they had to bring out their RDO5As for the 250 race. From the start Hailwood and Read shot away together but Phil using the Yamaha's tremendous acceleration swept ahead as they disappeared from view. At the end of the first lap, however, Hailwood was ahead with Read tucked in behind. The East German crowds starved of top quality sport were treated to a fantastic battle as the two fought it out with their howling, screaming machines leaping, bucking, and sliding around the bumpy curves. Hailwood was revving the Honda to 19,000 rpm trying all the riding tricks he knew to break away but Read hung on countering every move. Some thought that Mike was playing with Phil but it was probably the other way round. The battle raged for 6 of the 15 laps but on the 7th, the six-cylinder engine cried enough. In Mike’s own words it was "kaput" and he toured in to retire. He doffed his helmet to Ivy as he streaked past into 2nd, well ahead of the consistent Bryans. Read again led the title race with Bryans 2nd, only one point behind and Hailwood knocked down to fourth behind Ivy.

Results 250cc 151aps = 76.6miles

                       m        s           mph

1 P. Read      46      40.6     103.64

2 W. Ivy         47      34.1     101.21

3 R. Bryans   48      19.4       99.63

Record lap Read 3m 1.8s = 105.92mph

Points Read 34, Bryans 33, Ivy 28, and Hailwood 26.

Round Eight, The Czech GP, Brno .

For the third race running, the Yamahas blew Mike Hailwood and the Honda away. Again it was held during a very hot spell, so hot in fact that the course was watered between races by a sprinkler lorry, in an effort to cool the tarmac down and prevent it from melting! Even higher crowds from the sport-starved population behind the Iron Curtain were attracted to the 8.66 mile Brno circuit and the attendance was estimated at over 200,000. The track, another road course, had a good combination of slow and fast sections. There was a tricky downhill run through a village with bends and curves, before dropping down to a suburb of Brno. The same four classes as the week before in East Germany were held but in the slightly different order of 125, 350, 250 and 500. This enabled the Yamaha boys to have a break between their races whereas Hailwood had his three races one after the other, with his two most difficult last. His bike had been built from the bits of two machines following his "blow up" at the Sachsenring, the week before.

Read took the lead from the push start and for the first lap Hailwood managed to remain the Honda meat in a Yamaha sandwich before Ivy got past. From then on the Yamahas pulled steadily away, at the rate of 10s a lap, to finish side by side, just over a minute in front of Hailwood. Towards the end Hailwood eased off to save himself for the 500 race and Bryans closed up. After the race Phil Read said "We could have gone faster but we just cruised round." Bill Ivy under orders to finish behind Read broke Hailwood’s 1966 lap record by 10s. Mike Hailwood said “I'm shattered but the Honda is a 3 year old design and it’s had a good run, I reckon the Yamahas are 10 to 15mph faster." Racing motorcyclists are prone, as ever, to exaggerate their opponent’s machine superiority and Hailwood was no exception because the speed trap at the end of the pit straight clocked both Read and Ivy at 142.83mph, compared to Hailwood's 136.62mph. Maybe as they were just "cruising", Read and Ivy were reining in their Yamahas on the straight, so as not to give too much away or more importantly guarding against unreliability in what was already becoming the battle of the breakdowns. Phil Read had taken a significant lead in the title race but it only needed one DNF for him to fall back into the clutches of the others.

Results 250cc 9 laps = 77.93miles

                           m        s         mph

1 P. Read           48      4.2      97.25

2 W. lvy              48      4.3      97.24

3 M. Hailwood    49      5.5      95.50

4 R. Bryans        49      8.4      95.47

Record Lap Ivy 5m 13.7 = 100.04mph

Points Read 42, Ivy 34, Bryans 33, and Hailwood 30.

Round Nine, The Finnish GP, Imatra.

Honda were running short of spares for the sixes and the engines were well worn but they sent two brand new engines to Europe just in time for the Finnish GP, held at the 3.76 mile Imatra track. When Kenny Roberts contested the GPs for the first time in 1978 he could hardly believe what he saw because the public roads course was lined with trees and at one point traversed a railway level crossing! In contrast to the fine weather at the previous few GPs a cloudburst hit the area at the start of the first race, the 500. The heavens opened just as they formed up on the grid and the race should have been delayed. On the 4th of 23 laps Hailwood crashed as his Honda aquaplaned on a river of water running across the track.  With trees surrounding the corner, he was very lucky because he slid unhurt across a kerb and between the trees, whereas his bike hit a tree and was badly damaged!

The conditions were not quite so severe when the 250s came to the line for the next race but they were still bad enough. Hailwood was in determined mood and cleared off to an easy win, his Honda much easier to handle than the 70 bhp Yamahs round the slow corners and on the slippery surface.  Phil Read's chances went when his bike would only run on three and a half cylinders but he held third place behind Ivy until the transmission started playing up and he had to retire on the 17th of 23 laps. Bill Ivy missed a braking point and took to the escape road at one corner but his second place was not at risk since Ralph Bryans had retired with a broken gearbox and Hailwood and Ivy were the only riders to complete the full race distance! Ralph said he made a mistake after riding Hailwood's bike in practice. As he did not notice much difference between Mike’s bike and his, he decided to use his 1966 bike for the race but after being used for both GPs and Mike's International appearances it was past its sell-by date and the gearbox broke and he suffered his only DNF. The Championship had closed right up again with only 4 points covering the top three.

Results 250cc 23 laps = 86.17 miles

                              h     m     s         mph

1 M. Hailwood       1      4    52.4    79.72

2 W. Ivy                 1      6    31.5    77.73

Fastest Lap Hailwood 2m 46.2s=81.15mph

Points Read 42, Ivy 40, Hailwood 38, Bryans 33 (36)

Round Ten, The Ulster GP, Dundrod.

It was in Northern Ireland that the 250cc-title race took a dramatic turn. Phil Read was fastest in practice and very confident after lapping at 104.03mph. Unusually for Ulster the weather was very good and a record 80,000 crowd packed the vantage points around the track. Mike Hailwood came to the line with sticky tape across his nose and his mouth covered saying, "I expect to have to do a lot of slip-streaming today and those stones hurt." Yet another of the hazards of a public roads course! From the flag, Hailwood was first off the line with Read tucked in behind and on the second lap Phil took the lead along the back of the course at Budore. Unfortunately for him it did not last long because as they braked at the hairpin Hailwood's front wheel appeared alongside his knee. Phil appeared to leave his braking a little late and his front wheel locked up on the bumpy surface and all of a sudden he was sliding down the road on his side desperately hanging onto the handlebars. Mike managed to avoid him and ended up against the straw bales but he had the clutch in and after a quick look to see that Phil was OK he got away in the lead. Phil never let go of the handlebars and picked himself and the machine back up and tried to restart but the right handlebar had scraped against the road and jammed the throttle, so he was out.

Ivy, on his first appearance at Dundrod made a valiant effort to stay with Hailwood for six laps, one of which was at a speed of 105.63mph, not far short of the record Hailwood set at 105.86mph. He kept the lead down to 5s/200yds but the Yamaha started to run on 3 1/2 cylinders and he was caught and passed by Bryans, whose fastest lap was a very creditable 105.52mph. After the race Phil Read complained "They should have had the oil flags out. There was a patch of petrol and oil, which had been dropped by somebody else. It had been covered by cement dust but was still slippery underneath and I slid off when I hit it. I would have been able to get going again but for the throttle jamming." These comments were reported by MCN but not by Motor Cycling and in his autobiography Phil does not mention the oil, only that he crashed and was perhaps over-confident or trying too hard. That night when he returned to his hotel he was down in the dumps, the 250cc title was slipping away and he wondered if the mistake at the hairpin had cost him the championship. I am an ardent Phil Read fan and at the time was only to happy to accept that some oil had taken him out which need not have been there rather than accept that Phil might have made a mistake. Even now I am reluctant to acknowledge the facts or include it in this article but have done so in the interests of objectivity. Was any reader there at the hairpin that could shed light on the incident? For the first time Mike Hailwood had a smile on his face as he took the points lead whereas Phil Read, who until now had always been in the top two, dropped to third.

Results 250cc 15 laps = 112.0 miles 

                            h   m     s          mph

1 M. Hailwood     1    3    50.2    104.31

2 R. Bryans         1    4      6.0    103.88

3 W. Ivy               1    4    31.6    103.20

Record lap Hailwood 4m 13.0s = 105.86mph

Points Hailwood 46, Ivy 44, Read 42, Bryans 36 (42).

Round Eleven, The Italian GP, Monza.

It was crunch time with only three races left and anyone who could put together a string of consistent finishes would be in with a good chance of taking the title. The 3.57-mile Monza track with its long straights and fast corners suited the faster Yamahas and the smaller lighter Ivy was quickest in practice. The weather was hot and the Yamahas raced without their front mudguards to improve the airflow through the radiators and help to prevent overheating because the bikes were on full throttle for most of the lap. The Yamaha riders were very confident as demonstrated by their wheelie display as they assembled on the line, raising the crowd to fever pitch. Read and Ivy shot ahead from the push start but at the end of the first lap Hailwood was in the lead and Ivy tucked in behind him, then Read and Bryans, 2.7s covering all four. Mike was riding really hard to try and open up a gap but the next lap the positions and distances were the same so an exciting battle was in prospect. Then suddenly on the third lap Hailwood was out pushing in with his Honda dripping oil after a con rod had snapped.

Phil Read took over at the front and opened up a 1. 6s lead but Bryans was determined not to let the Yamahas get away and made up for his lack of speed by tigerish cornering and on the 12th lap only 0.3s covered all three. On the lap 14, Ralph forced his way to the front only for Phil to grab the lead back but Ralph was having none of it and snatched it back. However, the Yamahas were only going as fast as they needed to win, mindful of the reliability problems in previous races and towards the end, tried to use their speed advantage. Read took the lead while Ivy tried to hold up Bryans  but Ralph was not going to give in that easily and once again split the two Yamahas. It was not until the last corner that Ivy was finally able to get ahead of the Honda, breaking the lap record in the process and only 0.8s covered the trio at the flag and the race time was also a record! Phil Read had again opened up a small points lead and Hailwood dropped to fourth six points down.

Results 250cc 22 laps = 78.55 miles

                       m        s         mph 

1 P. Read      39     22.2     119.72

2 W. Ivy         39     22.8     119.69

3 R. Bryans   39     23.0     119.18

Record lap Ivy 1m 45.7s = 121.61mph

Points Read 50, Ivy 46(50), Bryans 40(46), and Hailwood 44.

Round Twelve, The Canadian GP, Mosport Park

This was the first and last Canadian GP and was only given to the home federation to celebrate the Dominion's centenary. The course was not suitable for a GP and was disliked by the riders, being narrow and dangerously slippery and was the last place they wanted to go with so much at stake. In addition the weather was bitterly cold with temperatures no higher than 45 degrees F and Ivy's hands were blue from the cold after the 125 race and he said he could hardly feel the control levers. As a result the international jury decided to reduce the 250 race from 32 to 25 laps. The Organisers were also not up to running a World Championship round because the only petrol pump in the paddock dried up after the 125 race! Jerry cans were hurriedly brought into use but the jury then realised that if the 250 race was shortened they would not comply with the FIM's one hour duration rule so the race distance was returned to the original 35 laps but no one told Honda. As a consequence the race was delayed for 45 mins to enable them to top up their petrol tanks. This one-hour rule may seem difficult to understand since even with the original race distance the race time was under an hour and if you look back, a number of other races were below this time but I think there was a minimum distance or a minimum time.

Honda used the bigger bore motor for the first time and this presumably would have been the direction development would have taken if they had continued GP racing in 1968. Both Read and Ivy's Yamahas were fitted with redesigned cylinders. After a practice spill Read was detuned and the race was between Hailwood and Ivy. Mike shot ahead from the start with Bill doing a wheelie but he soon caught up and they diced for the rest of the race changing positions constantly until Ivy's V 4 seized with a lap to go. He said afterwards that that his engine had been misfiring on one cylinder for several laps. Read, a poor third until then, was elevated to second, finishing one minute behind Hailwood. Ralph Bryans who strained his back in a practice crash, was lapped by the 20th lap but still finished third and Yvon du Hamel was fourth riding a 1965 RD56, could this be the one on display in a Canadian museum! Of the other 17 finishers, 10 were on Yamahas and these were, presumably, TD1s most of which initially went to North America. For both Read and Hailwood this was their eighth score so now they had to start dropping points.

Results 250cc 32 laps = 78.4 miles 

                               m       s        mph   

1 M. Hailwood       52     31.0     89.57  

2 P. Read              53     31.0     87.90

Record lap Hailwood 1m 36.8s = 91.16 mph

Points Read 50(56), Hailwood 50(54), Ivy 46(50), and Bryans 41(50).

Round Thirteen The Japanese GP Fuji

The title was going down to the wire and the final race around the 2.7-mile Fuji Speedway was expected to be a nerve racking, nail-biting climax but instead it fizzled out like a damp squib and in total confusion. This was nothing to do with the weather, which was foggy and rainy for Saturday’s practice and cool and overcast with Mount Fuji shrouded in mist, on race day. Both Read and Hailwood had fallen in practice and before we describe what happened in the race we should understand what each rider needed to become Champion because this should have dictated the factory's tactics. Hailwood's lowest score was 4 for a third, so to improve his seven best scores he needed first or second, whereas Read's lowest score was 6, for several second places so he could only improve by winning. To decide the title on net scores, however, both men had to win, so effectively it was just between the two of them and to draft in additional riders to take points away from an opponent would not make very much sense. Yamaha, however, did just that but it may have been more a case of wanting to have a strong presence at home. In all, there were four riders on works V 4 Yamahas and with the course featuring a long straight and several fast curves and only two slow corners, it would suit them.

Yamaha's Hasegawa took the lead from the start with Hailwood in second place but for Read it was a frustrating end to a long and hard season when his Yamaha broke a crank and he had to retire on lap six, "My bike was never right. It went on 1-3-4-2 cylinders." Hailwood stopped a lap later with his Honda misfiring but his mechanics could do nothing about it and he rejoined the race with the engine spluttering badly and he retired on lap eight with a faulty magneto. On lap 26, Hasegawa's Yamaha broke a crank, as did Ivy's three laps later. Ralph Bryans won the race and Motohashi was second on the only works Yamaha to finish. Had Yamaha overstretched themselves and their resources, instead of ensuring that Read had a reliable bike? The big question at the end of the race was who was World Champion since both Read and Hailwood had 50 points from their seven best scores?

FINAL SCORES Best Seven to Count

                          SP    WG    F     TT    Hol     Bel     EG     CZ    Fin     NI     IT     Can     Jap     Max     Best

1 P. Read           8      6      6       6       0        0        8        8       0        0        8       6        0          56       50

2 M. Hailwood     0      0      4       8       8        6        0        4       8        8        0       8        0          54       50

3 W. lvy               0      0      8       0       6        8        6        6       6        4        6       0        1          51       46

4 R. Bryans         6      8      3       4       4        4        4        3       0        6        4       4        8          58       40

Initially, the organisers said Read was Champion until someone pointed out that Hailwood had scored more wins so they reversed their decision but the FIM steward, Otto Sensberg said the "draw" would not be resolved until the FIM Congress in October. Phil Read left Japan hoping that the decision would go his way. He did not have to wait long and it was bad news because the following day Mr Shaw the secretary of the FIM’s sporting committee told MCN, on the telephone, that Hailwood was Champion. The confusion arose because the rules had been updated in 1964 and they were printed in French and the English translation was only to be published during the week after the 1967 Japanese GP! In the previous rules, which were still in circulation in English, the next score would count in the event of a tie, in which case Phil's fourth second place would give him the title. The latest rules said that the number of wins would be taken into account if the seven best scores were equal. It was all very unsatisfactory and if you look at the scores you can see that Read was much more consistent, with four wins and four-second places, compared to Hailwood's five wins, one second and two thirds. A lot of people thought Phil had been robbed of the title and there were a number of letters in the weekly motor cycle press supporting him. One in particular from a Mr M. P. Firth from Huddersfield demonstrated how farcical the rules were for a tie. He pointed out that if Hailwood had five wins and two thirds he would not have won the title even though he still had more wins than Read, so a second place gave him the title but was not good enough to give Read the decision.

The Review of the 1967 250cc World Championship Season - The Battle of the Breakdowns

Plug oiling was a particular problem with the early racing Yamahas and the bikes had to be carefully warmed up on soft plugs on the warm up lap and then racing plugs put in on the start line. Officials, used to four strokes, often queried the delay before the race while the plugs were changed. The operation was very fiddly with the top two plugs having to be loosened by an open ended spanner (there was no room to use a tubular plug spanner) and then removed, piping hot, with the fingers. The bottom two plugs were accessed by releasing the flaps in the fairing. Even then, the riders had to be careful when starting, because the engine could easily flood and wet the plug. This seems strange these days when two strokes are so reliable and start so easily. No doubt electronic ignition and electronic measures to advance or retard the ignition play a part but presumably the positive oil feed to the big ends in addition to a petroil mix meant there was plenty of oil flying about which was only too ready to foul a plug. In 1966 I had a YDS3 with an oil pump to meter oil to the engine according to throttle opening which appeared to be a step forward. I remember being initially surprised that owners of the TD2/TR3 production racers junked the oil pumps and just used a straight petroil mix. On consideration, however, the reasons made sense and from that day until now petroil mix has provided perfectly adequately lubrication even for today’s, near 200bhp, 500 V4s.

Carburation was very critical on these two stroke fours, varying with temperature as the race went on and the plug would readily foul up and this was in spite of a lever on the left handlebar to alter the air mixture during the race. The mechanics found that as the upper cylinders received the warmer water from the lower cylinders, the carburation needed to be slightly richer. Another factor, which seriously affected reliability, was the cranks, which seemed to break with monotonous regularity and epitomised by the failure of three of the four works bikes at the last GP. For the following year they were beefed up but looking back over 1967, they appeared to break quite often when the engines suffered a misfire. The sum result was that, in 13 races, Read's bike broke down four times and Ivy's five times, which is pretty poor by today’s standards.

In Honda's case, it was simply a case of trying to squeeze out more power from an engine, which was already fully developed. They then had to push it during races, without enough spares backup to replace components before the reduced life could come into play (at the time they were engaged in their F1 quest and that took a large chunk of their resources). Even though he won the title Hailwood was not very happy, firstly with the manner in which he won but also with the 250 six, which was too troublesome and not very satisfying to ride.

Phil admitted in his autobiography that he was off form in 1967, his marriage was on the rocks and his marine business in Jersey was going down the tubes. For him marriage was a together thing and he missed the support his wife gave him in the early Yamaha years. Having set up home in Jersey and started a family, his wife stayed at home to raise the children and naturally formed her own circle of friends from the local community. Phil was away for long periods and when he came back home he found that he had nothing in common with his wife’s friends and they drifted apart. Many people mistook his shy introverted nature for aloofness and arrogance but it meant he needed his own close circle to support him. If the bikes had been reliable then it would appear that Phil Read would have taken the title comfortably without any need for a tie decider. In view of what happened the following season the loss of the title through the farcical rules had a profound effect and we will look at the 1968 season later.

Bill Ivy had a played a good supporting role but had more breakdowns suggesting that he was not as experienced as Read in nurturing the fragile V 4s. His contention during the close season that he was fed up with shutting off to let Phil Read win does not bear close examination. In the Czech GP he stayed behind Phil but that was only because the latter was only going fast enough to win and reduce the chances of a breakdown and a similar situation occurred in Italy. In East Germany Phil beat Ivy by over 50s and was well ahead in Belgium before his crank broke. We will go into this more when we come to the 1968 season. Ralph Bryans did very well considering this was his first year on a 250 and a six cylinder at that. He was the most consistent of the four and with a little more support from Honda could have won the title which, in the end, they only really fluked thanks to the two points Ralph denied Phil at Hockenheim.

This review was composed by reference to MCN and Motor Cycling press cuttings from 1967, Phil Read's two autobiographies, Bill Ivy's biography (recently republished) and Jacques Bussillet's book, Mike Hailwood and the Honda Six.

Copyright Roger Gowenlock 2002

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