On October 6, 2022, Phil Read, MBE, died in his sleep at his home in Canterbury, England. Regarded by many as the greatest British motorcycle racer of all time, he won a total of seven world championship titles across multiple classes, as well as eight Isle of Man TTs over the course of his career. He was 83 years old.
Read won both his and Yamaha’s first world championship title in 1964, and went on to win an additional three other world titles with the Yamaha factory team before adding a fourth Yamaha victory as a privateer. He was also the first privateer to win a world championship title, as well. While he wasn’t the only rider to ever do it, it’s certainly unlikely to ever happen again in the MotoGP championship of the 2020s.
In 1973 and 1974, he went on to win two 500cc world championship titles racing for the MV Agusta factory team—including the last world title that the Italian marque would ever win. Read also won the Isle of Man TT eight separate times.
In 1977, Read also won the first-ever FIM-sanctioned TT F1 race held at the Isle of Man—a fact that rankled some, since he’d been one of the most outspoken critics of the IOMTT’s years-earlier inclusion as a world championship event, over safety concerns. Read was known for his outspoken nature both inside and outside the paddock, but his talent was clear for all to see.
In 1979, Queen Elizabeth II awarded Read a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to British motorsport. In 2002, Dorna awarded Read the status of “MotoGP Legend,” honoring his phenomenal history in the world championship and racing events that led to the eventual formation of the modern championship series.
One of Read’s sons, Phil Read Jr., made the sad announcement of his father’s passing via Instagram. He added that Phil is survived by his sons, Michael, Graham, Phil Jr., and Roki, as well as his daughter Esme. Read Jr. noted additionally that further details about public celebrations of life will be shared in the future.
Sources: Autosport, Australian Motorcycle News