Book Review


‘Rebel Read – The Prince of Speed’
Autobiography of eight times world champion, Phil Read MBE
Designed and published original by: Alan Wilson of Redline Books
Available from: Mortons Media Group Ltd, Media Centre, Morton Way, Horncastle, Lincs, LN9 6JR.Limited edition, signed copies available.
Tel: 01507 529529
Hardback, 225 x 285, 288 pages with over 180 photographs
ISBN 9780955527876 – £39.95 (UK)

Phil Read MBE, winner of eight world championships between 1964 and 1977, is Britain’s most successful living motorcycle road racer.

He announced his entry into big-time racing after first winning the Senior Manx Grand Prix in 1960, then with an Isle of Man Junior TT victory in 1961.

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Three years later he took his first world title, also the first for the Japanese Yamaha factory he raced for. Four more Yamaha-mounted titles followed, including one hard-fought as a privateer, plus two in a row in 1973 and 1974 in the blue riband 500cc class with the mighty Italian MV Agusta team.

An eighth world championship came from Read’s courageous ride to victory on wet roads in the 1977 Formula 1 TT race, on a heavy and poor handling 810cc Honda.

Born in Luton in 1939, Read recalls the excitement of being taken to Silverstone for the first time on the back of his father’s Velocette MSS to watch the Hutchinson 100. A year later, 1956, he is riding his own Velocette KSS and starting an engineering apprenticeship.

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The racing bug had bitten hard, however, and with the support of his generous mother, a new 350cc BSA Gold Star was purchased, which saw him on the start of his amazing racing career.

We read of his frustration riding the resurrected but obsolete Gilera fours for Scuderia Duke in 1963; the fantastic 160mph 250cc Yamaha RD05As; the MV Agustas and Benellis; the unwritten and illegal Yamaha team orders and the devious Italian factory politics.

With amazing candour he tells of his success, the big houses, the private plane and the Rolls-Royce, plus the sorrow of his second wife Madeleine’s tragic death and business failures.

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He pulls no punches either when describing Geoff Duke (“arrogant”), Bill Ivy (“egotistical”), Agostini (“insular”) and many others.

In this revealing and superbly illustrated autobiography, the Prince of Speed vividly recalls hectic track battles against riders like Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini, Jim Redman, Bill Ivy and Barry Sheene, all of whom he beat at various times.

‘Rebel Read,’ who was never far from controversy, also frankly describes life in the Grand Prix circus: the glamour, the danger, the money, the politics and the sex. With top quality design by Alan Wilson, this superb book is highly recommended.

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Book reviewed by Jonathan Hill

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