Motor Cycling: TT hero rides a storm to the end

Alan Seeley sees the hero and villain of Manx racing, Phil Read (left), finish a poignant final lap

"THE OLDER I am, the faster I was" is the self-deprecating motto of many motorcycle road racers, slowing down as the years go by. But Phil Read, the seven-times world grand prix champion, was not quite ready to hang up his leathers, even though the glory days of works rides for Yamaha and MV Agusta are a long way behind him.

The 59-year-old Read, who became a household name with a string of epic wins in the 1960s and 70s, raced for the last time yesterday on the legendary Isle of Man TT course, a key circuit in the forging of his reputation, and one of the last in the world to be made up of public roads.

Read's return to the punishing 38-mile Isle of Man Mountain course, to contest the Senior Classic Manx Grand Prix, was an emotional one as it marked the 40th anniversary of his first island race, the 1958 junior event. Next year he will be 60 and his age will bar him from racing.

Mist and fog delayed the start by three hours yesterday and Read had to be content with 16th place behind Walsall's Bob Heath. Even so, the ageing racer averaged 94.50mph over the three laps and earned a silver replica awarded to the first 18 home.

Read's first victory came in the 1960 senior (500cc) Manx. The following year came the first of his seven TT wins in the junior (350cc) event.

In 1972 the TT still counted towards the world championship and was more dangerous than the other circuits. Following the death of the Italian, Gilberto Parlotti, Read was one of the most vocal of the leading riders in a campaign to have the TT's championship status revoked. This duly happened, but made Read unpopular with many Isle of Man purists.

Read is unrepentant about his support of the campaign, but retains a soft spot for the Isle of Man: "By the early 70s we had a feeling that rider safety wasn't at the top of the race organisers' priorities, and the price for riders who did come a cropper was far too high. Parlotti's death was the final straw. But the Isle of Man is still the greatest and most challenging circuit in the world."

Returning to the island in 1977, Read proved he had lost none of his aptitude for the Mountain Course, snatching victory in the Formula One and the prestigious senior events, on a Honda and a Suzuki.

"It was a very emotional and worrying return. I had a van with my name on the side which I parked on the sea-front in Douglas. A policeman knocked on the hotel room door and suggested I hide the van round the back for fear of public reprisal. Some of the marshalls even threatened to strike if I rode. The message was rammed home when I was refused service in a filling station. After my victory on the senior I won back some respect, and because I overcame appalling wet conditions to win the Formula One, there was a slightly louder cheer for me at the prizegiving."

Before this year, Read's last competitive island ride was in 1982 when he posted his fastest-ever Mountain Course lap, taking 20min 22.6sec to cover the 38 miles, averaging 111.09mph. A consummate all-rounder, Read is the only racer ever to win world championships in 125, 250 and 500cc classes.

"I would ride any bike I was contracted to ride to the maximum of its and my ability. Road racing is the only thing I ever wanted to do, so I just got on with it with a will to win. Second place is the first loser," Read said.

His latest and last island outing got off to a blistering start, with the Prince of Speed posting the third-fastest time in the first practice session. "A lot of the really fast boys haven't been out yet and my averages are some way off the pace," he added.

Read was right to be cautious. His Matchless G50 500cc racer, typical of the type of bike he began his career on, presented him and his team with endless problems. He broke down in sight of the finish line on his first lap of Monday evening practice, but with typical panache, took a taxi back to the paddock rather than wait for his team to pick him up once the roads had re-opened.

Read did not feel under pressure to win. All he hoped for was a top 10 finish and a couple of 100mph average laps.

He did not quite get there, but when the flag dropped, he went all out for glory, just like he had done for the last 40 years.

A diary of Phil Read's TT story will appear in Classic Bike, published on 23 September.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick