Thursday, June 6, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, June 6, 1962


  Australia's Tom Phillis is killed on the Snaefell Mountain Course at the 1962 Isle of Man TT.



   In a career that began in 1953, mostly with Norton and AJS, Tom Phillis started racing with the goal of being a World Champion Grand Prix rider and about 437 million miles away Soichiro Honda had his eyes set on his motorcycle's being successful on the world's Road Racing stage. 

  Phillis wrote a personal letter to Mr. Honda late in 1959, a letter by a relatively unknown Australian racer to the founder a Japanese motorcycle company.

  Tom Phillis, who at the time was a private entrant on the Continental Circus with only two years’ experience, but in 1959 he’d recorded three International race victories.   Soichiro Honda, who’d taken his Honda Motor Company from a $3000 venture in 1948 to an annual production of 750,000 machines – 20 per cent of the world’s total production, read the letter and was impressed enough to offer Tom a factory-backed ride.  Phillis’ reward for ignoring the skeptics and playing a hunch that Honda machines would improve rapidly.  

  Honda's reward for giving a 25 year-old Australian the nod would be Honda's first win in a World Championship Grand Prix at Montjuich Park in Spain, and later that year, their first 125cc F.I.M. World Championship at Argentina in 1961.

 Thomas Edward Phillis died aboard a Honda on Snaefell Mountain Course at the 1962 Isle of Man TT 350cc Class. 

 The defending 500 cc world champion, Gary Hocking, was so affected by the death of his friend that he immediately retired from competitive motorcycling.

  He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at the TT race course startline. 

Meehan, 01962-0