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2011-02-09 07:51

Dave Fall

LIVING LEGEND: It’s hard to believe that Jim Redman will be 80 in 2011 - but it’s true! This six-times World motorcycling champion is seen here signing autographs at the recent Killarney 50 Golden Racing Years meet.

Western Cape motorsport enthusiasts were certainly well catered for at Killarney recently for the 50 Golden Racing Years Meeting. With such a heady mixture of classic cars and bikes on display, it was great to see some of the original riders and drivers on display too!

There’s little doubt that Killarney has to be one of the more spectator-friendly race venues in the country. Try getting anywhere near the pits say, in Silverstone, Assen or Le Mans — I’ve pushed my luck there on more than one occasion and was damn near ejected from the circuit on the spot.


Working my way through the Killarney paddock at the weekend, it was great to see the likes of celebrated overseas riders such as Jim Redman and Mick Grant — Jim,  a six-time motorcycle world champion with Honda, was busy signing autographs and had me wondering if the man ever slows down.

Jim’s 80 years old this year and yet there was this super-fit champ about to don his leathers and ride a lap or two of Killarney. Apart from the above-mentioned wins, Jim also managed to win six Isle of Man TTs for Honda, along with a feat that could but never will be equalled: because back in 1964 Jim won three Dutch GPs on the same day in the 125 cc, 250 cc and 350 cc class. Little wonder then that he went on to manage the Honda racing team for quite some while …


Which brings me around to another anniversary, if it can be called that. It’s 20 years ago that Soichiro Honda passed away. Surely the most significant name in the history of post-war motorcycling since he first started tinkering with bikes. Born in 1906 in a village 50 miles from Tokyo, Mr Honda created a company whose name today is linked with cars, motorcycles, mopeds, stationary engines, compressors and even aeroplanes.

He had visited the Isle of Man in the mid-fifties to watch “the greatest motorcycle races in the world,” and vowed to return and win with his own brand of motorcycle. A man of his word he did just that in 1959 taking the 125 cc manufacturer’s award. Two short years later in 1961, a young British rider by the name of Mike Hailwood had averaged 88.23 mph (141 km/h) to take both man and machine to their first TT victories.

The fun was just starting for this now much-recognised marque from the Land of the Rising Sun because just three hours later Honda and Hailwood achieved victory number two — Honda were one, two, three, four and five in the capable hands of runner-up Tom Phyllis, Jim Redman and two Japanese riders, Takahashi and Taniguchi, aboard 250 cc machines.


Less than 30 years later Honda had achieved the magical accolade of 50 TT wins — and yet the 100 milestone took just nine years to capture! I mentioned Mick Grant earlier, and sure enough he, too, won gold with Honda in the 1980 F1 TT, if I’m not mistaken.

Mick moved on to take charge of opposition outfit Heron Suzuki … but I’ll save that story for another day!

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