AGO V HAIL­WOOD 1967

NEVER-SEEN-BE­FORE PICS: Re­live an amaz­ing race that wowed the world

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Stu­art Barker MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

Even now, half a cen­tury af­ter the event, it would be hard to imagine a more per­fect sce­nario for a mo­tor­cy­cle race.

Bri­tain’s Mike Hail­wood and the suave Ital­ian Gi­a­como Agos­tini were by far and away the finest mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ers of their era and, with hind­sight, are now ac­knowl­edged as two of the great­est of all time. Their ma­chines, the Honda 500-4 and MV Agusta 500-3, were the fastest and most ad­vanced in the world in their day and have be­come two of the most revered mo­tor­cy­cles in his­tory.

In 1967, the Se­nior TT was the sin­gle great­est mo­tor­cy­cle race on the cal­en­dar and it counted as the Bri­tish round of the 500cc Grand Prix world cham­pi­onship – the fore­run­ner of to­day’s Mo­togp. The weather on June 16 was ab­so­lutely scorch­ing and over 100,000 fans had flocked to the Isle of Man to wit­ness this clash of the ti­tans. Ev­ery­thing was in place for what proved to be not only the great­est TT of all time, but also one of the most thrilling mo­tor­cy­cle races ever seen.

By 1967, Hail­wood had al­ready won 11 TT races and was an eight-time world cham­pion across three classes (250cc, 350cc and 500cc). He was 27 years old. Agos­tini made his TT de­but in 1965 and had, as yet, only scored a sin­gle vic­tory; in the 1966 Ju­nior race. But he was the reign­ing 500cc cham­pion of the world, hav­ing taken the ti­tle from Hail­wood, and rep­re­sented the com­ing force in in­ter­na­tional mo­tor­cy­cle racing. On the day he would square up against Hail­wood over six laps and 226 miles of the bru­tally pun­ish­ing TT Moun­tain Course in the Di­a­mond Jubilee Se­nior TT, he would turn 25 years old. Among all other things, Se­nior race day was Agos­tini’s birth­day.

Ago’s glo­ri­ously exotic three-cylin­der 500cc MV Agusta was renowned for its sublime han­dling – a ma­jor ad­van­tage through the 300-plus corners that make up the no­to­ri­ously bumpy TT course. Hail­wood’s Honda was faster, con­sid­er­ably faster, but it han­dled, in Mike’s own words, ‘like a camel.’ As much as any­thing else, the 1967 Se­nior TT would be a con­test be­tween brute speed and silky-smooth han­dling.

Agos­tini would go on to win a stag­ger­ing 15 world championships and be­come the most suc­cess­ful mo­tor-

cy­cle racer of all time (to put that in per­spec­tive, the great Valentino Rossi ‘only’ has nine ti­tles) but he doesn’t hes­i­tate when asked what was the most im­por­tant race of his long and il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer. In his 2004 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Fif­teen­times, the Ital­ian wrote: “There have been plenty of im­por­tant races in my ca­reer. But there is one into which I put body and soul, one where I per­formed to the limit. Even now, I some­times dream about it. It was one of the most dif­fi­cult cir­cuits against one of the tough­est op­po­nents in the world. It was the 1967 Tourist Tro­phy.”

The calm be­fore the storm

The stage was set for a clash of epic pro­por­tions and Hail­wood had no fin­ger­nails left to chew as he sat in his ho­tel room, an hour be­fore the

race was due to start. He had pol­ished his gog­gles un­til the glass was al­most worn through, seek­ing any way to di­vert his thoughts and pass the last few ag­o­nis­ing mo­ments be­fore head­ing up to the start line on Glen­crutch­ery Road for his 1.30pm ap­point­ment with des­tiny. “Look at me,” he said to his friend and Dai­lymir­ror jour­nal­ist, Ted Ma­cauley, as he gazed in the mir­ror. “I look a hun­dred years old. That’s what racing does to you.”

A poor sleeper at the best of times, Hail­wood had spent much of the pre­vi­ous night read­ing and lis­ten­ing to mu­sic on the lit­tle por­ta­ble ra­dio that went every­where with him. Now, as he read­ied him­self for ac­tion, he yawned con­stantly and made end­less trips to the bath­room. It wasn’t fear for his life that made Hail­wood so ner­vous – al­though that would have been per­fectly un­der­stand­able as he was about to tackle the world’s most danger­ous race track – it was fear of los­ing. Agos­tini had won the open­ing round of the 500cc world cham­pi­onship at Hock­en­heim in Ger­many while Hail­wood failed to score due to a bro­ken crank­shaft, so the Ital­ian was lead­ing

‘I look a hun­dred years old. That’s what racing does to you’ MIKE HAIL­WOOD

Hail­wood’s Honda had the speed but it han­dled like a camel

Glorious throw­back to the era of suits and ties at the Isle of Man TT races

Hail­wood and Ago: great friends, fierce ri­vals

Wear­ing their thin one-piece suits, rid­ers line up along the Glen­crutch­ery Road

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