The 1967 Senior scrap between Mike Hailwood on a Honda and MV Agusta’s Giacomo Agostini is rightly revered as one of the best TT races ever
H as there ever been such savage spectacle, such sensational, soul-shattering speed as in this 1967 Senior TT?” Those words introduced the Motor
Cycle News report of an event many have since labelled the greatest TT race of all time. But really you can’t compare situations that occurred in different times and in different circumstances. In the case of the ’67 Senior, for example, the battle for the lead between Giacomo Agostini on the three-cylinder MV Agusta and Mike Hailwood on the four-cylinder Honda RC181 ended with more than a lap to go, when Ago’s chain broke at Windy Corner. But the context of the race and the intensity of the action certainly marks the ’67 Senior as among the most heart-stopping of TT spectacles. For most of the eight years from 1958-65, the TT had been used to seeing a factory MV triumph by minutes over riders on singlecylinder Manx Nortons and Matchless G50s. Only in 1961 had an MV not won, when Gary Hocking retired with a sticking throttle and Hailwood took the chequered flag on a Manx.
In the smaller classes the action was much more dramatic, as Japan entered Grand Prix competition for the first time. The result was the greatest explosion of technical innovation of all time, which saw V4 (Yamaha) and square-four (Suzuki) two-strokes, a 14-speed 50cc twin (Suzuki) and, from Honda, a 125 and 250 five-cylinder and 297cc sixes.
Honda then decided to go for the big prize: the 500cc World Championship. Based on their previous approach – a chase for higher revs via more cylinders – a five or a six was expected. But Honda went conventional and produced a transverse four, as MV and Gilera had previously done. On the new RC181, Hailwood won the 1966 Senior TT easily from Agostini, who was in only his second year on the Mountain Circuit.
By 1967, however, Agostini had the self-confidence and the tiger in his tank. Pundits were predicting another Hailwood Senior TT victory, but on the first lap Ago outpaced Hailwood on every section of the 37.73 miles. Eight miles out, at Ballaugh, he led by five seconds. By Ramsey his lead was nine seconds, and at the end of the lap it was 11.8. The Italian, who was celebrating his 25th birthday on that sunny June day, had pulverised Hailwood’s 1966 lap record by 15.4 seconds. See right for how the race unfolded...
Williams 101.32mph Blanchard 101.14mph Spencer 100.14mph Uphill 100.02mph BELOW: Hailwood with father Stan (right) before the ’67 Senior TT