SIX ED­U­CA­TION

Classic Bike (UK) - - Best Tt Ever? -

In 1964 Yamaha’s RD56 disc-valve twin was beat­ing Honda’s four in the 250 class. Honda’s re­sponse was to de­sign one of the bold­est gam­bles in the his­tory of Grand Prix rac­ing – a six­cylin­der across-the-frame four-stroke. But Honda’s engi­neer­ing ge­nius made the six a win­ner. When fac­tory rider Jim Redman went to Ja­pan to test it in 1964, his re­ac­tion was: “‘How the f*** do you ride this thing?’ I jumped on it and went down the road; it was in a tiny frame barely big­ger than the 125.”

Four­teen days later, the bike was on its way to the Ital­ian Grand Prix. With no time to ar­range con­ven­tional air freight, the team bought five seats on a pas­sen­ger flight from Ja­pan and car­ried the bike as hand lug­gage. Redman was ea­ger to de­but the bike in Italy, de­spite its un­sorted han­dling. “There’s only five cor­ners at Monza – I can do this,” he told Honda. “I’ll blast them so fast on the straights, and take it easy in the cor­ners.” At Monza Honda re­moved the two outer mega­phones and outer carbs, and kept the bike un­der wraps to keep the op­po­si­tion guess­ing un­til the fi­nal sec­onds be­fore prac­tice. When the cov­ers were re­moved and the en­gine fired up, the pad­dock was stunned.

Al­most in­evitably, given the lack of de­vel­op­ment time, the six ran into prob­lems at Monza; it over­heated and Redman fin­ished third. He did, how­ever, win the fi­nal GP of the year at Suzuka, and the sixes went on to win four world ti­tles in 1966-67. Honda named the orig­i­nal 250 six an RC164 (the same code as the four­cylin­der bike). But Redman didn’t like the han­dling of the orig­i­nal bike, so a mod­i­fied chas­sis was fit­ted for Suzuka and the bike was re­named the RC165. Ian­nucci be­lieves his bike (frame num­ber 1005, en­gine num­ber RC165 E102) is this orig­i­nal pro­to­type.

Stu­art Gra­ham took over the bike in early 1966 un­til he was given an RC166 later in the sea­son. The Honda mu­seum in Ja­pan has a dis­play RC165 en­gine, but Ian­nucci be­lieves ththi­ith l lf

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