Phil Read MBE obituary
Working Class Hero
Phil Read Jan 1st 1939 – Oct 6th 2022
Let’s cut to the chase. Phil Read, who sadly passed away yesterday won seven world titles in an era where simply surviving a season was an achievement. Phil Read won races and set records on 500cc single cylinder Manx Nortons, highly-strung V4 two-stroke 125s and four-cylinder four strokes in an era when two-strokes were king.
In the 1960s racers rode in all three GP classes in a day on tracks with little consideration for safety and bikes as difficult to ride as anything seen in GP racing before or since. Phil also won eight TTs (mostly when the TT was part of the GP calendar). He was the first rider to win world titles on 125, 250 and 500cc machines and scored a stunning 121 podiums and 52 victories from just 152 GP starts.
Yamaha’s first world title in 1964 was Phil Read on a 250. MV’s last 500cc title in 1974 was Phil Read on a four stroke in a championship dominated by two strokes. It was also the last four stroke title until MotoGP arrived in 2002.
In racing terms all the above is enough to make him one of our racing heroes. Phil Read deserves his place in any two-wheeled hall of fame with Hailwood, Sheene, Rossi, Agostini or Roberts.
Phil Read wasn’t a gentleman playboy racer. He was a factory worker with a talent for riding motorcycles. And that meant that he didn’t always see life the same as everyone else. Sport is about conflict. For every Rossi there’s a Biaggi. For every Sheene there’s a Roberts, for every Beckham there’s a Cantona.
In 1968 Yamaha had two riders; Phil Read and Bill Ivy, both of whom were capable of winning the 125cc and 250cc world titles. A deal was done that Read would win the 125 and Ivy the 250. Phil duly wrapped up the 125cc title but had also decided to have the 250cc title as well. Which he did, by a whisker.
Some people might see that as unsporting, but that’s forgetting that to be the best – to be as good as Phil Read was – you have to be a fighter; focussed, driven and prepared to upset people.
Sport without conflict and passion is pantomime.
It’s not our place to pass an opinion – we weren’t there. BikeSocial simply has massive respect for Phil Read’s achievements on a motorcycle.
Our condolences go out to his family.