One of the most interesting and most technically advanced
racing motorcycles made its debut at the 1964 Italian Grand Prix, run at Monza.
This was the Honda six-cylinder 250, which was built to put a stop to the
ever-increasing victories of the rotating-disk-distribution Yamaha.
Honda was a staunch supporter of the four-stroke engine, but
the Japanese company had much experience in two-stroke engines as well. This
time it broke down the displacement into six flanked cylinders. There was little
encumbrance at the sides and the motorcycle held up very well.
Although the six-cylinder Honda 250 did not win the
championship in 1965, it was able to put up such a tough fight against the
two-cylinder Yamaha, which was ridden by Phil Read and Mike Duff, that a year
Yamaha had to produce an updated two-stroke, four-cylinder motorcycle, built
solely to stand up to the competition from the Honda.
Yamaha's move was not enough, however. Honda put a stronger six-cylinder into
the field in 1966, along with a racer who could get all that was humanly
possible—and maybe more—out of the engine.
That man was Mike Hailwood. Standing at the peak of his
career, Hailwood was anxious to show what he could do without the MV Agusta that
he had raced before.
Hailwood won the 1966 world title with his Honda in the 250 class, winning every
race he entered. He won again in 1967, but only after a theoretical tie breaker
with Read and his Yamaha.
In 1967 Honda gave Hailwood a version of the six-cylinder that had been
increased to 297 cc. for racing in the 350 class. The new vehicle's first race
took place at Hockenheim, Germany, and it came in first. It went on to win the
world title that year. At the opening of the 1969 season Honda announced its
official withdrawal from speed racing.
Thus the two versions of the Honda six-cylinder, the 250-cc.
and the 350-cc, like so many other sporting champions, withdrew at the peak of
their achievement. It was a disappointment to racing fans, many of whom went to
races just to see Hailwood and the six-cylinder. Some fans even tape-recorded
the sound of the six-cylinder so they could listen to it at home.
(250); r.p.m. r.p.m .
When the Honda six-cylinder—a real masterpiece—ended its
career, so did "Mike the Bike" Hailwood, one of the finest champions in the
Motorcycle: Honda 250-350 Six-cylinder Manufacturer: Honda Motor Co. Ltd.,
Tokyo Type: Racing Year: 1969
Engine: Honda six-cylinder, flanked, facing forward, four-stroke, with two-shaft
overhead valve distribution, gear-operated, and four valves per cylinder.
Displacement 247.2 cc. (39 mm. x 34.5 mm.—250); 297 cc. (41 mm. x 37.5 mm. —350)
Transmission: Seven-speed block
six-speed block (350) Power: About 60 h.p. at 18,000
(250); about 65 h.p. at 17,000
Maximum speed: Over 150 m.p.h. (250); about 160 m.p.h. (350)
Chassis: Double cradle, tubular, open below. Front and rear, telescopic
Brakes: Front and rear, central drum, double cam