Motorcycling's 'Prince of Speed' Phil Read dies

Seven-time world champion Phil Read passed away at 83

AFP October 07, 2022


Phil Read, a seven-time world motorcycling champion dubbed the 'Prince of Speed' in an era dominated by Giacomo Agostini, died Thursday at the age of 83.

"The Yamaha Racing family are incredibly saddened by the news that Phil Read, Yamaha's first-ever road racing world champion, passed away in his sleep at home in Canterbury, England this morning," said the Japanese manufacturer in a statement.

Read won two premier class 500cc world titles in 1973 and 1974, ending eight-time champion Agostini's stretch of seven in a row.

He had made his world championship debut on the Isle of Man in 1961, winning the 350cc race.

In 1964, he won his maiden world championship for Yamaha in the 250cc class, the first for the Japanese factory.

Read repeated the feat in 1965 and again in 1968, adding the 125cc title that year for good measure.

However, it was a triumph not without controversy.

After watching Read take the 125cc title, fans -- and Yamaha -- expected him to let teammate and compatriot in the Japanese team, the hugely popular Bill Ivy, take the 250cm honours.

But in the last race at Monza, Read gave Ivy no chance and won the championship.

"We were both on the front row and I told him that if he wanted to win the championship he would have to beat me first," Read recalled in a 2019 interview.

Ivy died in a race in Germany in 1969 and the popularity of Read plummeted. He became known as "Read the rebel".

In 1972, the Italian team of MV Agusta, which dominated the championship in the 350cc and 500cc classes, offered him the chance to become teammate to multiple world champion Agostini, the 'King of Speed'.

Read stunned the great Italian the following year by winning the 500cc title.

Agostini decided to leave to join Yamaha allowing Read to successfully defend the 500 crown in 1974.

That was the last world title ever secured by MV Agusta with Agostini gaining revenge with his eighth elite level title in 1975 with Yamaha.


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