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

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