Why we’re going to the Isle of Man (in the cold)
Brrrr. It’s cold outside and there was a frost on the Globetrotting Multistrada this morning. Lets hope its warmer tomorrow when we leave for the Isle of Man, though I’ll be taking the precaution of wearing an electrically heated waistcoat. As well as being cold, our time on the Island will be short and hectic so before we set off it might be worth saying why we’re actually making the journey up the M6, and then across the Irish Sea.
Before Valentino Rossi there was another standout contender for the title ‘Greatest of all Time’; Mike Hailwood. The Englishman won nine world championships in the 1960s, 76 Grand Prix and 14 TT’s, and in winning the 1978 F1 TT he pulled off one of the most spectacular and unlikely racing comebacks of all time, and he did it on a Ducati. So that’s why we’re going to the Isle of Man. But actually Mike’s history with Ducati began much earlier.
He’d started racing as a 17-year-old in 1957, competing at the TT for the first time the following year. His first race on a Ducati was the 125cc Dutch TT at Assen on 28 June 1958 (though there may have been earlier national events in the UK). He finished 10th. At Silverstone on 13 September he got his first Ducati win.
In 1959 he scored national wins on the 125cc Ducati, and on 250cc NSU and 350cc and 500cc Nortons. On 3 June he was third at the Isle of Man Ultra Lightweight TT (that’s the 125 race), and then on 8 August at the Ulster Grand Prix he won the 125 race on his Desmo single. It was the first of his 76 GP wins (and Ducati’s fourth). There were more 125 and 250cc wins for Hailwood and Ducati in 1959 and 60, though none in GP’s. Mike achieved most of his success in the 1960s aboard Hondas and MV Agustas before retiring from Grand Prix racing at the end of 1967.
From 1968 Mike focussed on racing cars, though he made the occasional non-championship outing on bikes. He even tested the distinctive 500cc GP Ducati in August 1971 at Silverstone, but didn’t actually race it.
A big smash at the German GP in 1974 (he was driving a McLaren) ended his car racing career. But in October 1977 he was back on a bike, just for fun. He rode a 750cc Ducati in a six-hour endurance race in Australia, partnering Jim Scaysbrook.
The following year he made a sensational return to the Isle of Man. Aged 38, eleven years after his last TT, and with his injured leg most people didn’t give him a chance, but plenty of people went to the Island to cheer him on anyway. He was always a favourite with race fans.
Riding a Ducati V-twin entered by Manchester bike dealer Sports Motor Cycles in the six lap, 226 mile Formula One race he pulled off one of the most extraordinary wins in TT’s long history. His average speed over two hours was 108.5mph. It was a staggering achievement.
How important was this for Ducati? It was huge. They even named a production bike after their charismatic rider. It was the most important single race win since Paul Smart won the 1972 Imola 200, but probably bigger even than that. Maybe even their biggest ever. Certainly until World Superbike success began.
So that’s why we’re taking the Globetrotting Multi to the Isle of Man. To celebrate Mike’s 1978 TT win with a lap of the course and then raise a glass. We’ll be there on Thursday evening.
The sad footnote to the story is that Hailwood died 35 years ago in a road car accident that also took his young daughter.