Honda’s world dom­i­na­tion

Motorcycle News (UK) - - FEATURE -

Af­ter two years of devel­op­ment, there was a sig­nif­i­cantly up­dated RC166 for 1966 that had both a re­designed frame – at Hail­wood’s re­quest – and im­proved re­li­a­bil­ity thanks to a new oil-cooler and ex­tra finning. The re­sult, al­ready fast but now re­li­able and an ac­cept­able han­dler, would dom­i­nate the sea­son.

Hail­wood blasted to vic­tory at the

first GP in Barcelona be­fore go­ing on to win all 10 races he en­tered. He re­tained the ti­tle aboard an up­dated ver­sion the fol­low­ing year, although the bat­tle with Yamaha’s Phil Read was this time closer.

Nor did it end there. That same year – 1967 – Hail­wood also com­peted in the 350cc GP cat­e­gory aboard an en­larged, 297cc ver­sion called the RC174 and, de­spite giv­ing away 53cc, again swept all be­fore him, wrap­ping up the crown by mid-sea­son and win­ning six of the eight GPS. It’s this bike, of which just two were orig­i­nally built, which is con­sid­ered the ul­ti­mate Honda Six and which was so fast Hail­wood once de­clared: “I could have won on it with one arm tied be­hind my back.”

And then, just as quickly, it was all over. In 1968, fol­low­ing an FIM an­nounce­ment that, from 1969, GP classes would be re­stricted by gears and cylinders to re­duce costs, Honda with­drew from GP mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing

to con­cen­trate on road bikes and F1. Hail­wood, mean­while, re­tired as well af­ter be­ing paid a £50k re­tainer by Honda to not ride for any other team.

And that would have been that for the Six… ex­cept, in truth, it’s never gone away. First, with­out it Honda might never have pro­duced the 1969 CB750K, which changed su­per­bikes for­ever. Sec­ond, the Six led to one of the most de­sir­able road-go­ing Hon­das of all, the also Iri­ma­jiri-de­signed, ‘trib­ute’ CBX1000 of 1978. And third, the Sixes them­selves, re­main the most mag­netic, evoca­tive and as­tound­ing of all ma­chines on the clas­sic cir­cuit. But don’t take our word for it. Just ask Guy.

Tuxworth and Guy mar­vel over the com­plex­ity of the Honda Six en­gine

1964 Honda Sixes at Suzuka

•Mike Hail­wood world cham­pion

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