Phillip William Read, MBE (1939-2022)
By James Robinson
Phil Read was one of the greats of British motorcycle racing. The boy from Bedfordshire, born on New Year’s Day 1939, became an Isle of Man TT winner in 1961, was picked by Geoff Duke to ride Gileras in 1963, then signed for Yamaha, duly delivering the firm its first grand prix world title in 1964. ‘The Prince of Speed’ was to win five more world titles for the manufacturer, his last in 1971 coming as a privateer.
After that, Read signed for MV Agusta, winning two 500cc world crowns, before then coming back to the TT, and claiming victory in the Formula 1 and Senior races in 1977.
Always divisive, perhaps Read’s greatest misfortune was his career dovetailed with Mike Hailwood’s; if it hadn’t, Read would have had even more impressive figures than his still mightily good 52 GP wins, 121 podiums (a British record), eight TT wins and seven GP world championships.
This tribute will pictorially illustrate the racing history of one of the best of Britain’s two-wheeled aces, using historic images from the world-leading Mortons Archive.