A Racing Pensioner’s Dream Becomes Reality ( by Phil Read)


To finalize the celebrations of Yamaha’s 50th Anniversary this year I was given the honour, and trust, to ride their factory GP M1 race machine for two laps at the Imola 200 Revival. On Friday before this event the Yamaha Classic Racing Team and I were invited by Yamaha teams boss, Marco Riva, to the impressive racing head-quarters next to the famous Monza Autodrome, the venue of their first world title in 1964.

Since receiving this exciting invitation some weeks before I hadn’t slept well when dreaming of its 240bhp and the fool I would look if I crashed or looped it when powering this rocket-ship out from the chicane in front of the pits!!

When entering our Yamaha pit I was even more impressed to find it fitted out as in the GP’s with a blue carpeted floor and four smart factory mechanics.

Wow, I thought, this is being taken very seriously to allow this old fart to ride their prized GP machine.

After a few laps on my 1968 championship winning 250 Yamaha, the RD05A 4 cylinder machine, built and maintained by ”the” Ferry Brouwer, owner of the great Yamaha Classic Racing Team, during which time my old team-mate, Agostini, had warmed up the M1′s slick tires, I was handed this latest world title winning machine on which to do my worst.

As I’d just been told that the wheelie and traction controls were unconnected I was even more worried as I short-shifted down the pit road to keep the front  wheel on the tarmac as the torque was dilivered in a relenless surge. After a touch or two of the front brake to get its feeling I opened the throttle out onto this famous track to feel its arm-stretching acceleration. Too frightened to redline this bellowing engine I shifted up at 15.500rpm, the limit being at 18.500rpm, I was rocketed at a speed up to the tight Tosa bend in a way I had never before experienced, trying to tame this most valuable and fastest machine I had ever ridden and stay out of the gravel. There was little engine braking due to the selective slipper clutch but the most powerful, one finger, front brake did all I needed slow and hit this bends apex in good shape to accelerate up the hill, only daring to short-shift to keep the  front wheel just pawing the air.

I now greatly admire the professional racers who can use full throttle on these most powerful factory bikes.

As I flew down to the Aqua Minerale corners I realized my mistake by earlier removing my knee sliders as slick tires the M1 on had an amazing angle of grip.  But no one was expecting me to brake records but to only underline Yamaha’s glorious 50 years of GP racing, in which I was involved during their first five full seasons of GP racing .

The M1 rocketed me from the Rivazza down to the tricky chicane at the end of my first lap right by the pits and past most fans and Yamaha officials. I thought I had overshot it as I had never before arrived there so fast. When straightened up on line I pulled the brake lever with two fingers and changing down with my left foot, I’ve always had a right gear-shifter, I decided I could make this tight chicane with some curb hopping to not look slow and unimpressive, the M1 wheeled out in good shape onto the straight. I was exhausted with fear and exalted with pleasure as I returned at speed back into the pits to the cheers of my fans and smiles of relief on the Yamaha mechanics faces. My last flying lap will always be branded in my memory. Thank you Yamaha.

Phil Read. october 2011.