Rider Of The Week is a segment that focuses on famous motorbiker riders and what they’ve achieved through their life. One of the greatest British riders of all time is Phil Read, nicknamed the Prince of Speed. Notable accomplishments include being the first man to win world championships in the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc classes.
Read was born in Luton and worked as an apprentice fitter at industrial machinery manufacturer, Brown and Green. The first bike he owned was a Velocette KSS 350cc, which he liked to race around on. According to Read, when he was almost hit by a car at 17 it convinced him to race on closed circuits because it was the only way he could enjoy riding to the fullest.
In 1956, Read bought his first race bike, a Duke BSA Goldstar and won the Junior Manx Grand Prix in 1960 by riding a Manx Norton. He went on to be a two-time winner of the Thruxton 500 endurance race in 1962 and 1963.
Read continued to show his skill, competing in the Isle of Man TT and claiming third place. He also came second to Mike Hailwood in the Belgium GP 500cc race. This began a friendly rivalry with Hailwood, as the two would compete against each other many times throughout their career.
During the mid-1960s, Read rode for Yamaha and gave them their first world title by winning the 250cc class. In 1967, he raced against Hailwood on a six-cylinder Honda, only for the two of them to end up tied. Ultimately, Hailwood took the crown due to having five wins to Read’s four.
In 1968, Read caused controversy by going against Yamaha’s decision for him to focus on winning the 125cc title. He disobeyed team orders and raced against his teammate Bill Ivy for the 250cc championship and won based on elapsed times. As a result, Yahama never offered him another ride.
It wouldn’t be until 1971 that Read raced full time again by competing in the Grand Prix circuit. He rode with the MV Agusta team in the 350cc World Championship. Read won the 350cc and 500cc titles and he successfully defended his crown in 1974.
Read had his final race at the Isle of Man TT in 1982 at the age of 43.
At 78, Read is the oldest surviving 500cc/MotoGP World Champion. He currently lives in Canterbury, Kent and spends his summers visiting race tracks around Europe. Read has had one of the most decorated careers of any rider, and he’s earned his place as a legend of the sport.