A look at the 1961 TT


In 1961 Mike ‘the Bike’ Hailwood became the first competitor in the history of the Isle of Man TT to win three races in a week. Hailwood’s wins in the 125cc Lightweight and 250cc Lightweight (both on Hondas) and the Senior (riding a Norton) were the talk of the TT, though there were plenty of other things going on which drew interest as well.

Words: MICHAEL BARRACLOUGH & JAMES ROBINSON Photographs: MORTONS ARCHIVE

Italian marque MV Agusta – usually worth a bet during TT week – did not win a single race during the 1961 TT, which at first glance seems rather unusual as MV had previously seen fantastic riders like John Surtees and John Hartle ride their 500cc racers and such luminaries as Carlo Ubbiali and Luigi Taveri ride their smaller capacity machines.

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The fact of the matter was the MV contingent was grossly under-represented due to their recent withdrawal from Grand Prix racing, though the factory did supply Rhodesian Gary Hocking with a couple of machines – entered on a private basis – to ‘carry the flag’ in some small capacity in lieu of a bona fide works team.

After the 1961 Senior TT – third-man Tom Phillis (Norton Domiracer), winner Mike Hailwood and runner-up Bob McIntyre, both Manx Norton. Norton’s 1907 Twin-cylinder TT class winner Rem Fowler sports the deerstalker.

The best MV Agusta could manage was second place in the Junior TT (courtesy of Gary Hocking) though they were beaten by Norton-mounted Phil Read.

Hocking had screamed into the lead and left Mike Hailwood (AJS) and Phil Read jostling behind him.

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After a lengthy pit-stop Hocking lost his lead to Hailwood (who, if circumstances had been different, could well have made it four wins in a week) but the remarkable Phil Read was able to surge ahead of him and start causing problems for Hailwood at the head of the pack.

Fate cruelly denied Hailwood a victory by way of a broken gudgeon pin, and Read soared gleefully into the lead with Gary Hocking following behind him. They crossed the chequered flag in that order.

Former Brooklands ace Bill Lacey was the man behind Hailwood’s special Manx engine.

The Lightweight races (125cc and 250cc) were all about Honda – so much so, in fact, that the first five finishers in both events were Honda-mounted riders.

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Mike Hailwood led the charge for the Japanese manufacturer, managing a victory in both Lightweight classes, though for the Senior event he stuck to British iron, favouring the faithful Manx Norton ahead of anything else.

A fleet of Nortons (amounting to a total Norton entry of 45 bikes) pitted themselves against the MV Agusta of Gary Hocking in the 500cc Senior.

The Rhodesian race star was up against very stiff competition; Mike the Bike, Bob McIntyre, Tom Phillis and Alistair King were all Norton-mounted and raring to go.

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The reality of the privateer’s lot! Camping on the Island. Note the Press Triumph TR6 paying a visit.

Hocking led the field up until the fifth lap, but had problems with his throttle and was forced to retire.

The Norton armada duly took control of the field, and delighted British fans as the aforementioned foursome romped to a fantastic finish one after the other (led by Mike Hailwood, of course) cementing the last ‘classic era’ Norton victory.

The next time Norton would win a Senior TT would be courtesy of Steve Hislop in 1992, over three decades later.

South African Paddy Driver chats to a group of young enthusiasts in his pit.

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Straight from the plate
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