When Bike Swaps Go Bad. No 7: Mike Hailwood

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1965 MV Agusta to 1966 Honda RC181

ike Hailwood quit MV as triple 500 champion at the end of 1965 and won titles in 1966 on his return to Honda… but only in the 250 and 350 classes.

Maybe it’s not right to call his 500 campaign a failure: between him and team-mate Jim Redman, Honda did win the manufacturers’ title for the first time in the premier class. But nor was it successful. Honda’s six-cylinder 250 was a jewel – the four-cylinder 500 was a brute: powerful enough to tie its primitive chassis into knots. 

Mike threw the rear shocks into the snake-infested lake at Suzuka to convince the factory to use British units; and had a chassis made in Britain. Honda wouldn’t let him race it.

In spite of it all, over two years Mike matched Agostini’s MV Agusta win rate, but each time lost the title. 

His bike career came to a halt at the end of the year – Honda’s ill-starred venture into F1 triggered a financial crisis, and at the end of 1967 it pulled out of racing on two and four wheels.

Words Michael Scott  Photos 2Snap Gold and Goose

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