Honda’s world domination
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