When Mike Hailwood made his celebrated comeback to the Isle of Man TT in 1978, after an 11-year absence from the circuit where he already had 12 wins to his name, the deal was initially for him to ride an NCR Ducati 860 in the TT Formula One race and possibly the week-ending Unlimited TT, with much of the sponsorship coming from Castrol. The arrangement suited Mike, as the Ducati was considered the underdog against the works Honda to be ridden by Phil Read, and certainly suited the Ducati’s entrant, Sports Motorcycles of Manchester, who were happy to have Mike and the blaze of publicity all to themselves. However Mike’s comeback created such a media avalanche that soon a second string was being mooted; for Mike to ride not one, but three Yamahas supplied through the company’s European headquarters in Amsterdam and fettled by legendary race mechanics Nobby Clark and Trevor Tilbury. There was a production TZ250 for the Lightweight TT, an ex-Agostini OW20 4-cylinder 500 for the Senior TT, and a production TZ750 for the Unlimited TT. The catalyst was a deal arranged by Hailwood’s long-time ‘manager’ Ted Macauley, a Manchester-based journalist, with the money coming from the Italian Martini & Rossi company under their famous Martini vermouth brand, which had a long and illustrious history in motor sport. The company had backed numerous successful Le Mans efforts, world rally teams, and the Brabham Formula One team, so the Hailwood/Yamaha effort was a very good fit for them, and one that was welcomed by the TT organisers, who had endured some lean times in the previous few years. The Yamahas, rider and crew were decked out in the distinctive Martini colours of red, black and blue, and to maximise the impact, Yamaha also provided a road-going XS1100 in the same livery. After such a long absence, Mike was keen to cover as many laps of the 60.7 kilometre TT course as possible before official practice got under way, and Yamaha/Martini were just as keen to have their mobile bill board circulating
regularly as the tens of thousands of TT fans poured onto the island to watch their idol back in action. Apart from the livery, this XS1100 was different from standard in one major respect in that it sported a comprehensive touring fairing – reminiscent of the American Windjammer style – which had been created by British designer John Mockett. These days, Mockett is better known as ‘Sprocket’ – his edgy cartoons depicting rather unflattering renditions of MotoGP stars and personalities. Back in the ‘seventies, Mockett had several commissions from Yamaha Amsterdam, including designing of the livery for the Grand Prix bikes and team apparel when Giacomo Agostini headed the squad in 1975. A similar commission came about when Kenny Roberts appeared on the scene with his mainly American crew. Prior to the 1978 TT, Mockett had moved on from general design to the more technical side, which he revealed in a recent interview. “Yamaha let me loose in the wind tunnel developing a fairing for the XS1100. It was intended as an R&D exercise but ended up reaching the market as the Martini Yamaha. It was ugly but it worked. With an open-face helmet you could smoke at 100mph if you wanted to, and most of us did.” Wherever Mike and the Martini XS1100 went in the Isle of Man during the 1878 TT fortnight, it created near hysteria. The moment he stopped around various parts of the course Mike and the bike were engulfed by well-wishers. During his frequent reconnaissance laps, Mike would pull up at popular spots such as the Crosby Hotel, Creg Ny Baa, and Ramsey where newspaper photographers would just happen to be on hand to capture the frenzy his presence created. Consequently, Mike and the Martini XS1100 grabbed the lion’s share of the pre-race publicity. Of course, history records that Mike went on to a fairytale return, winning the opening race of TT week, the Formula One, on the Ducati, annihilating Phil Read and the works Honda in the process. With that win in the bank, it was then time to focus on the other three races in which he was entered on the Martini bikes, but ultimately, the Martini effort, known officially as Team Martini Hailwood, achieved little. After crashing the 250 during practice, he finished 12th in the Lightweight TT race, failed to finish the Unlimited on the 750, and ran out of fuel on the 500. Ironically, the least important and certainly least expensive component of the Martini Hailwood effort, the XS1100, went on to better things. In 1979, Yamaha announced a limited production run of just 500 Martini XS1100s, with around 70 destined for the UK market, a similar number for USA, and the balance for Europe. We now know that at least one made it to Japan.
In reality, the only non-standard feature of the new machine was the John Mockett fairing, but that component represented the most visible and memorable aspect of the motorcycle. One of the bugbears of touring motorcycles, when loaded with panniers and with the weight of a pillion passenger, is for the front end to become progressively lighter as speed increases. Using the Yamaha wind tunnel, Mockett was able to experiment with the fairing’s shape in order to generate front end down-force, which at the time was the buzz word in the Formula One world but had equal applications in motorcycling terms, particularly for touring bikes. The other aim was to provide outstanding weather protection, with deep shrouds for the rider’s hands, and to this end the design succeeded admirably, although the overall appearance was controversial for the still-staid British buying public. It was constructed in two parts, with the top section mounted on the handlebars and the bottom part attached to the frame. This meant that the top section of the fairing rotated with the movement of the handlebars, and allowed the top section to be narrower as it did not need to allow the handlebars to rotate inside it. Mockett’s design incorporated luggage compartments, and two Cibie spotlights,
one on each side of the lower section, with the mounting flutes carefully blended to the overall shape. These lights were omitted for the models sold in Germany, where such extra illumination was not permitted on motorcycles. All up, the fairing was a very practical and worthwhile addition to what was already a fine motorcycle. The penalty of course, was weight, the fairing adding 25kg to the Yamaha’s already portly 256kg. Just what happened to Mike Hailwood’s Martini XS1100 following the 1978 TT is unknown, but it was certainly a significant player in the unprecedented pizazz that surrounded the TT, which up to that point had been in the doldrums since losing its status as an FIM World Championship round in 1976. That year (1978) I was a TT rookie, but mighty fortunate in having struck up a friendship with Mike through our efforts in teaming together on a Ducati 750SS for the 1977 Castrol Six Hour Race and 1978 Adelaide Three Hour Race. We both arrived in the island well before TT fortnight; he to refresh his memory of the track and me to unravel a seemingly endless ribbon of corners and obstacles. Fortunately I was able to borrow a very well used Yamaha RD350 from a local motorcycle dealer, which I flogged mercilessly around the course day and night, often in company with Mike on the XS1100. One day he decided against going out, the bar at the Douglas Casino proving more attractive than further laps of the dank and drizzly circuit, and he offered the big Yamaha to me. “Just remember, if you get pulled over by the police, lie!” were his parting instructions. So off I set, now thoroughly protected against the elements, and with an abundance of smooth surging four-cylinder power beneath me. The XS1100 really came into its own across the bleak mountain section, where the fairing made light work of the omnipresent cross winds. The limiting factor of the whole plot was then, as now, the tyres, particularly the rear 17 inch hoop with its high sidewalls, which tended to flex, and hence, overheat the tread area.
Mindful of returning the XS1100 to Mike in one piece, I took things reasonably easily, but I must admit that when I came down the long undulating descent to the always crowded Creg Ny Baa Hotel, with patrons spilling all over the road and the car park bursting with motorcycles, I decided to stop and bask in some reflected glory, being the temporary custodian of the most regal and recognizable motorcycle on the island at that point. Immediately the Yamaha and I disappeared under a sea of fans, and it seemed to matter not that I was an imposter on the maestro’s machine. A pint of O’Kell’s Ale was thrust into my hand amid a barrage of questions. What could I do but accept with grace and humility? Suitably refreshed, I dashed off on a second, unplanned lap; I knew Mike couldn’t care less, his mind by this stage occupied on other things.
The Martini Yamaha XS1100 was but a dim memory (well, it was 38 years ago) when I received a phone call from Steve Leembruggen, the always enthusiastic proprietor of Old Gold Motorcycles in Londonderry, western Sydney. Steve explained that his latest shipment of pre-loved motorcycles due into Sydney from Japan included a rare machine – a Martini Yamaha XS1100, or more accurately an XS 1.1 as they were known in Europe – and would I like to test ride it? Would I what!
Prior to the machine’s arrival, I set about collecting some 38-year-old thoughts, but a breakthrough came when I contacted Paul Butler, formerly with Yamaha and more latterly MotoGP Race Director, and a very well known figure in the administration side of motorcycle racing. As it turned out, Paul is now retired and
“... you could actually feel the down-force that Mockett built into the fairing...”
living in the Isle of Man, married to Vicky, who is the former Mrs John Mockett! Small world, indeed. Paul was able to supply the wonderful original shots of Mike on the ‘prototype’ Martini XS 1.1 featured here. Old Gold’s XS 1.1 is no concourse model, just a good original example of a very rare motorcycle. After arrival from Japan, it had been fitted with a new seat cover and new tyres, but before delivery to the new owners, I was given the chance to take it for a gallop. The roads of outer western Sydney are a stark contrast to the Isle of Man’s combination of village streets and the gusty mountain stretch, but immediately I recalled the thinking behind the model; cruising in comfort. Sure, that concept has come a long way in 38 years, but back then, the by-word for the specification was the BMW R100RS, a motorcycle that set new standards for the touring rider (and passenger). The Yamaha, with its Mockett fairing, is out of the same mould, with the emphasis firmly on weather protection. Enveloping a big engine in a plastic fairing invariably accentuates engine noise, and this is immediately noticeable, with every little rattle and squeak assuming a new awareness that was previously swept away in the airstream on the naked version. On one of the very few original road tests of the Martini XS 1.1, the rider was moved to note, “For straight line comfort and effortless speeding, there’s little to match it.’ It’s worth noting that the specification of this 1979 motorcycle could well apply to any of today’s super cruisers; shaft drive, a 12 volt power outlet for electrical accessories, double overhead camshaft (albeit two valve) engine, adjustable fairing, triple disc brakes, adjustable suspension, and more. And then there’s the performance. With the aid of the slippery fairing, the XS 1.1 will see a genuine 205 km/h, should you be lucky enough to find a road that allows it, which I wasn’t, at least second time around. Equally impressive is the torque – 66.5 ft/lb (90.1 Nm), with heaps of grunt spread from 2,000 to 6,500 rpm, which is where you spend the majority of your riding time in an urban situation. But John Mockett’s work is most evident in the environment in which I originally experienced this excellent motorcycle. Once you round Ramsey Hairpin on the TT course, accelerate up the steep hill through Waterworks, around the Gooseneck and through what is now known as Joey’s, away she goes. The next stretch is all wide-open spaces, windy more often than not, often wet. Here the Martini XS 1.1 was really in its element, where you could actually feel the down-force that Mockett built into the fairing at work. Even the designer himself admitted the design was somewhat controversial (“ugly” were his actual words), but 500 buyers had no hesitation in stumping up a fair wad of cash for the Martini replica back in 1979. I just wish I had been one of them. The Martini is now co-owned by a couple of real XS11000 enthusiasts; in fact one of them was instrumental in establishing the Down-Under chapter of the XS1100 Owners Club. As he owns five such bikes, his enthusiasm for the model is understandable, and he now has a real rarity to play with. It is not intended to restore the Martini, just refurbish it in certain areas. The engine and gearbox seem fine to me, and there are plenty of parts available for the other minor areas that need attention. Watch out for this one at future XS1100 OC rallies!
ABOVE Mike Hailwood with a couple of friends at the launch of Team Martini Hailwood in London in 1978. RIGHT On a typically British fine summer’s day, Mike prepares to cut some demo laps of Donington Park on the XS1.1 prior to the 1978 TT.
From the front, the Mockett fairing is considerably slimmer than contemporary models.
Top section of the fairing rotates within the lower. Cibie spot lights were not used on the models sold in Germany.
All original in here. Owner says the screen can be polished back to full clarity.
“1100” to us. Nice new seat cover!
Storage compartments are handy and unobtrusive.