A whisker off the ton

FROM OUR ARCHIVES

Even though he was pitted against buffeting winds and determined opposition, Mike Hailwood still managed to snag the top spot in the 1962 500c Ulster GP without breaking a sweat – but the first recorded 100mph lap of the Dundrod circuit managed to just elude the Oxford-born race ace.

Words: MICHAEL BARRACLOUGH Photography: MORTONS ARCHIVE

The clouds of smoke billowing out from behind Mike Hailwood’s MV were certainly an ominous sign, but ‘Mike the Bike’ did not let that faze him as he romped to a sensational victory in the 500c event, lapping every rider in the field apart from Alan Shepherd (Matchless) and the Norton-mounted Phil Read.

A Hailwood victory was a foregone conclusion for many, and his riding in the early stages of the race only served to corroborate that. Mike held first position from the get-go and then proceeded to tear up the Dundrod circuit (plus a handful of records, including a two-year-old lap record set by John Surtees) with nobody offering a half-hearted challenge, let alone a serious one. It was during the final act of the race that Hailwood notched up a 99.99mph lap of the circuit.

‘Mike the Bike’ Hailwood leans through Ireland’s Corner.

Alan Shepherd held second place for the duration, riding a quick and consistent race and ensuring that, though number one may have been out of reach, the number two spot was his and his alone. The battle for third place was much more dramatic, with Phil Read looking dominant in the early stages until Franta Stastny (Jawa) put on a surge of speed from the middle of the field, passing Ron Langston and Fred Stevens (both Norton), and Read fell to 10th place. Only a few laps later the tables had turned again, with Read climbing steadily back towards the frontrunners and managing to retake third, holding it until the end.

Despite Hailwood’s dazzling performance, the Irish crowd only had eyes for Belfast’s own Tommy Robb (Honda), who won a thrilling victory in the 250cc event and also managed a highly commendable second place, again on a Honda, in the 125cc race. In the quarter litre event Robb put just under a minute’s distance between himself and second-placed, like-mounted Jim Redman, resulting in a very popular victory for the 27-year-old Northern Irishman. Redman’s apportioned slice of glory came in the 350cc event, which he won in fine style on his works Honda, thus cementing him as the 350cc Grand Prix World Champion.

The 125cc race was a bounty of thrills as the Honda-mounted trio Luigi Taveri, Robb and Redman came home first, second and third respectively. Taveri and Redman screamed off the mark and in no time at all they had put some distance between themselves and the pack. By the end of the first lap Derek Minter (EMC) had joined the party, dicing with Redman as Taveri clung to the lead just ahead of them. Unfortunately, ‘The Mint’s’ challenge was short-lived as he crashed at the Quarry and broke his finger, forcing his retirement. Out in front, Taveri, Robb and Redman swapped the lead among themselves until they took the chequered flag.

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