1961 brings the great breakthrough for Honda. Next
to Tom Phillis, Jim Redman, Kunimitsu Takahashi, Shimazaki and M.
Tanaguchi, Luigi Taveri is contracted. Furthermore machines are
lent to Bob McIntyre and to a young, talented rider by the
name of Mike Hailwood. The bikes have been improved again, and the
combination of riding talent and fast, reliable machines brings
Honda the individual and the manufacturers' world titles in both
the 125 and 250 cc class.
In the 125 cc it's Tom Phillis who can just win
ahead of Ernst Degner (MZ), with Taveri third. I said "just", because,
although Honda wins 8 out of the 11 races, there are no team orders
and the winner in nearly every race different, while Ernst Degner
keeps on collecting points. Phillis wins the first GP in Spain,
with Degner second, Degner wins in Germany, Phillis retires, Phillis
wins in France with Degner second, Hailwood wins the TT of Man,
Phillis the Dutch TT, Belgium is for Taveri, with Degner fourth,
in East-Germany it's Degner with Phillis second and Takahashi third,
the Ulster GP is for Takahashi with Degner second and Phillis third,
Monza is for Degner followed by Tanaka (Honda), Taveri, Phillis
and Redman, Sweden is won by Taveri, before Takahashi and Redman,
Phillis comes in as sixth – Degner leads the title chase with two
points more than Phillis, and Argentina must bring the decision.
However, Degner decides after Sweden to defect from East-Germany
to the west, and has to find another machine to compete. He gets
an EMC, but the bike arrives too late in Argentina and the title
goes to Phillis.
In the 250 cc class Mike Hailwood wins the title,
with Phillis second and Redman third – a total Honda domination.
The only GP not won by Honda is Spain, where Gary Hocking wins on
an MV. However, for that race, the first of the season, the new
bikes were not yet ready, and hybrid machines (about which more
later) with the old RC161 engines are used.
If Honda appreciated the fact that Hailwood won
against their works riders, they really knew how to hide it – after
Mike Hailwood's wins in the 125 cc and 250 cc classes on Man, their
only reaction was to present Stan Hailwood with a bill for £ 200.-
for transporting the bikes from Japan….
The RC144 was an experiment by Honda, and one of the few racers
that was not a success.
It had a long stroke engine with a bore and stroke of 42 x 45
mm, with the cylinders inclined under 10 degrees, and with two valves
per cylinder. The engine had wet sump lubrication and a six-speed
Claimed output was 22 bhp at 13,000 rpm. It was only raced once,
in the German GP. One still exists in the Honda collection hall.
Honda themselves call it an "unfortunate" bike.
1961 125cc RC144
The bike that is used in all other races during the season is
the improved version of the RC143, the 2RC143.
Gone is the spine frame to make way for an open, double loop
frame, with a tube arrangement around the steering head like the
Norton Featherbed frame.
The engine is identical with the RC143, but the Kei-hin carburettors
are now concentrics with cylindrical slides.
Compression ratio is still 10.5 : 1. Six-speed gearbox. Power
output is 23 bhp at 14,000 rpm. Dry weight is 97 kg.
1961 125cc 2RC143
As with the 2RC143, the spine frame is gone, and the new frame
is also of the open, double loop type. The frame tubes do not have
the same diameter everywhere; where they join the steering head,
they taper out to a larger diameter for increased strength and rigidity.
The engine is further developed and although compression ratio
(10.5 : 1), valve angles (36 degrees inlet, 40 degrees exhaust)
and bore and stroke (44 x 41 mm) are still the same, it now delivers,
according to Honda, over 40 bhp at 14,000 rpm. Mostsources at the
time claim 45 bhp. In view of the difference in speed with its predecessor,
the RC161, the latter figure must be true. The cylinders are inclined
30 degrees, and the engine is 80 mm narrower, and to improve aerodynamics
no longer hasthe wet sump – the oil is now carried in a tank under
This latter move is in the first instance not a great success,
the bikes suffer from overheating. Some interesting data: diameter
of the inlet valve head is 19.5 mm, exhaust valve head is 17.5 mm,
shaft diameter of both valves is 4.5 mm. Lift of the valves is 5.8
mm for the inlet and 4.5 mm for the exhaust valves.
Tokahashi (100) beat Redman (107) to victory on the RC162 at the 1961 West German GP
1961 250cc RC162
This shows the form of the cams.
Ignition timing is 52 to 55 degrees BTDC, fixed. Total weight of the bike dry is now 105 kg, race ready 120 kg;
top speed is approximately 235 km/h.
Hybrids As mentioned before, the first GP of the season was raced with
hybrid 250 cc fours. When the racing season opened, the new RC162
engine were not yet ready, but the frames were. So Honda built a
number of hybrids with the new frames but the old engines, and sent
their works riders to the Italian and Spanish spring races to get
used to the handling of the bikes. When the new engines were ready,
complete new RC162's were sent to Europe, and the hybrids were given
to some selected Honda importers to be used by promising young talent
in national races. One of those young men was Kel Carruthers. One
hybrid ended up in Switzerland and is now in the possession of a