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AMCN Heritage Issue: Five Years Of GPs Between 1960 And 1964 | News

To celebrate Australian Motorcycle News’ inaugural Heritage Issue we recap the bits you probably forgot about the five Grand Prix seasons between 1960 and 1964.

1960

Honda debuts its impressive four-cylinder 250cc and twin-cylinder 125cc grand prix machines and signs Australian riders Tom Phillis and Bob Brown to pilot them. However in July that year, 30-year-old Brown crashed at the West German Grand Prix and died as a result of his injuries. Brown would still finish up sitting sixth overall in the 350cc world title and fourth overall in the 500cc class.

For the third consecutive year, MV Agusta-mounted John Surtees was untouchable as he claimed both the 350cc and 500cc world titles. Italian rider Carlo Ubbiali, also riding MV Agusta machinery, claimed both the 1960 125cc and 250cc world titles.

Englishman Derek Minter, riding a Steve Lancefield Norton, became the first-ever bloke to lap the Isle of Man at 100mph (160km/h) on a single-cylinder motorcycle.

Jack Ahearn won both the Australian Junior and Senior TTs at Bathurst in 1960.

John Surtees

John Surtees

1961

Count Agusta caused a sharp inhale around the motorcycling world in January of 1961 when he announced that MV Agusta would quit world championship racing. A month later Benelli and Morini followed suit. Of course the three factories eventually changed their minds and Gary Hocking won the 350cc and 500cc titles on 1960-model MV Agusta machinery with the word ‘Privat’ painted on the tank to indicate the fact the bikes weren’t full factory machines.

Australian rider Tom Phillis won Honda’s first-ever Grand Prix race and went on to take the 1961 125cc World Championship. Mike Hailwood took the first of his nine world titles to be crowned the 250cc World Champion ahead of Phillis.

In the same year, Hailwood also became the first rider to win three TT races in one week. He gave Honda its first TT wins over the mountain in both 125 and 250 classes (the 125cc win was Hailwood’s first-ever TT victory) and he also notched up a Senior TT victory aboard Norton machinery in the same week.

Jack Ahearn won the Senior GP at Bathurst’s Mount Panorama.

Jack Ahearn

Jack Ahearn

1962

The 50cc tiddler class was introduced in 1962. The three-lap 50cc Isle of Man TT was won by Ernst Degner with an average speed of 75.12mph (120.89km/h). The German rider would go on to become the first-ever 50cc World Champion.

Jim Redman and Honda’s plan to win the 250cc title included supporting teammate Bob McIntyre to the 350cc TT victory at the Isle of Man. Redman however, a vocal opposer of the Mountain circuit, refused to race which saw reigning 125cc champ Aussie Tom Phillis step up to support McIntyre’s plight. During the race, and while chasing his mate Gary Hocking, Phillis crashed at the fast Laurel Bank curve and was fatally injured. He was just 28 years old.

Hocking struggled with Phillis’ death that he quit motorcycle racing shortly afterwards and switched to what he believed was a safer career in car racing. Tragically, not 12 months later, Hocking was killed in a racing crash.

Jim Redman went on to win both the 250cc and 350cc world titles that year, Hailwood wrapped up the 500cc on an MV Agusta and Swiss rider Luigi Taveri nabbed the 125cc crown, also on a Honda.

Ernst Degner

Ernst Degner

1963

German manufacturer Kreidler came this close to winning the 50cc title with Hans-Georg Anscheidt with a 12-speed 50cc two stroke! Mechanical problems in the last race of the season handed the title to New Zealand’s Suzuki-mounted Hugh Anderson.

The Anderson and Suzuki duo, too, claimed the 125cc world title while the 250cc title ended up being a spectacular cultural stoush between Japan and Italy. At a time when the Honda multis were dominating, Italian rider Tarquino Provini started proving competitive on his single-cylinder Morini. Provini survived many unexplained setbacks; dramas surrounding visas, customs impounding his bike, Suzuka making him pay track hire fees if he wanted to learn the circuit — which he couldn’t afford and as he lined up for the final race of the year at Suzuka, Redman and Provini were tied on points.

Redman won the race on a new lighter bike and nabbed the 1963 250cc crown, but would go down as one of the most fascinating 250cc seasons.

Mike Hailwood won his second consecutive 500cc world title on board the MV Agusta, it was the third of his eventual nine.

It’s hard to believe nowadays, but it wasn’t until 1963 that Isle Man TT officials deemed it necessary to have a rescue helicopter on stand by. Aussie Jack Ahearn finished fifth in the Junior TT on board a Norton in a race that was won by Redman.

Mike Hailwood

Mike Hailwood

1964

Mike Hailwood was in command of the 500cc championship yet again, he won the first six races on his works MV Agusta and had the title wrapped up with two rounds to go. However, there was a determined little Australian on his privately entered Manx Norton by the name of Jack Ahearn who finished runner up to Hailwood in the 1964 title.

Playing the role of both rider and mechanic, Ahearn won the Finish GP at Imatra, and finished on the podium at Solitude in West Germany, Ulster Grand Prix at Belfast and Nations at Monza. His victory in Finland meant he became just the second Australian to win a 500cc Grand Prix race after Ken Kavanagh did it 12 years prior.

The same year was the first world championship win for both Phil Read and Yamaha when the pair proved successful over Honda in a 250cc grand prix season which went down to the wire. Much like the previous year, Honda air-freighted a brand-new six-cylinder machine to give Jim Redman the best chance of defending his title against Read, though it proved fruitless as the bike suffered reliability issues and handed Read the win.

Redman claimed the 350cc world title that year, Honda-mounted Luigi Taveri edged out Redman for the 125cc title, and Kiwi Hugh Anderson retained his 50cc crown on the Suzuki.

Phil Read

Phil Read

AMCN Vol 65 No 18 on sale from 17 March