MOTORCYCLE HERO: JIM REDMAN
HONDA'S GRAND PRIX VICTORY TRENDSETTER
Grand Prix motorcycle racing started in 1949, but it wasn't until the '60s that Honda, now the world's most successful racing manufacturer, really came onto the scene. And if there's one rider in particular who Honda has to thank for setting this foundation for world domination, it's Jim Redman.
James Albert Redman MBE was born in West Hampstead, London on 8th November 1931. His emigration to Rhodesia came 21 years later, soon accompanied by his three siblings – all of whom, by this time, were orphaned.
Redman's father had committed suicide in 1949 after his involvement in WW2, as a driver of ammunition lorries in north Africa. His mother died of a cerebral haemorrhage just 27 days later. Redman and his one-year-older sister, Jackie, had to fight to keep their remaining family together, as authorities wanted to take their 11-year-old twin brother and sister to an orphanage.
A race to the top
After this tragic and heartbreaking start, Redman began to focus on his racing career by gaining experience on his home (now Rhodesia) tracks. He became affiliated with John Love, a Rhodesian racer, who would impart his knowledge to him in exchange for Redman's help maintaining Love's bikes. Redman rode his first bike race in 1954, coming seventh on Love's 500cc Triumph Grand Prix twin. In 1957, and on an AJS 7R single, he won the 350cc South African Championship.
By 1960, Redman had moved back to Europe in search of Grand Prix success. He managed to gain factory rides in selected races with Honda during part of the season and was regularly scoring top-six places. By 1961, he had secured a contract with Honda as a works rider and, just one year later, he had won his first two World Championships (in the 250cc and 350cc classes).
The speed at which Redman raced to the top was astonishing. By now he was easily one of Honda's best riders. He had also gained incredible influence within the team and in 1963, after threatening to quit in dismay at then Honda manager, Roy Armstrong's tactics, was appointed new Team Manager and Captain.
He quickly became one of the sport's best-paid riders - his salary in '61 was £3,500 and was £15,000 by '65 (the equivalent today of around £72,000 and £270,000 respectively). He won both the 250cc and 350cc World Championships again in 1963, and would win the 350cc in '64 and '65 also, giving him four consecutive years of World Championship success.
'We grew to live with it'
But all this success hadn't come at an easy price. In the early years of the Grand Prix, racing was extremely dangerous. The riders' outfits didn't provide the sort of protection that they do today, and medical facilities left a lot to be desired. Many racers died during Redman's career, and this was something he later claimed he and his colleagues 'grew to live with'.
1962 was a particularly catastrophic year. Five racers were contending for the 350cc title: Mike Hailwood, Tom Phillis, Bob McIntyre, Gary Hocking, and Redman himself. By the end of the season, three of them were dead. Redman later reported asking Hailwood 'what shall we do – stop?', to which Hailwood replied 'No, make a will'.
'Everyone should experience the euphoria of victory'
Had Redman had stopped, he wouldn't have achieved his extraordinary feat in 1964, in being the first rider ever to have claimed three Grand Prix victories in one day (in the 150cc, 250cc and 350cc classes). He wasn't even supposed to be riding in the 150cc class but was standing in for an injured rider, Luigi. He was told he was too tall and heavy to ride such a bike and wasn't expected to get anywhere in the race. Still, he won it, and the other two races, all the while setting new race and lap records, naturally. Funnily enough, Mike Hailwood is the only other rider to have ever achieved this hat-trick, which he did in 1967. Redman has since stated that this was the best day of his life. He was awarded MBE for his achievement.
Redman claims that his strategy in racing has always been to win, and at the slowest speed possible, only going all-out when he really had to; there was no bonus for fastest lap records, but a huge bonus for riding as safely as possible when possible: life.
The incident that ended it all
Redman's career came to an end in 1966, when he was injured racing his RC181 at the Belgium Grand Prix. After being thrown off his bike, breaking his left arm and right leg, he landed in water, apparently having to tell the frantic paramedics to slow down while he explained that he would need to be lifted by his remaining good arm and leg.
The ambulance was taking a long time to arrive, and Redman was refused a helicopter because it was deemed too costly an option. He eventually got picked up by an ambulance which, rather than take him to a hospital as it should have done, took him to the pit. Someone had wrapped a big jacket around Redman once he was out of the water, and he claimed that this is what saved his life. The entire incident, which soon ended his career, aged 35, goes to show the brutality of racing in the '60s and perhaps makes us realise just how professionally such accidents are handled today.
Redman carries on...
Since his retirement, Redman has published two books: Wheels of Fortune (1966) and Six Times World Motorcycle Champion – The Autobiography (2013). Although he'd had other successful business ventures, his passion for racing remained, and in 1995 he took part in and won, the Daytona Speedway race. He once again took up a career in racing, this time as a classic racer and demonstration rider.
Redman still rides today, aged almost 85. He travels a lot, attends many festivals and race days, and has been married three times, claiming that his love for both the female form and bikes is the reason he's remained fit and healthy throughout his life.
Jim Redman Victories
Isle of Man TT: 6 (1963 (Lightweight & Junior races), 1964 (Lightweight & Junior Races), 1965 (Lightweight & Junior races))
Grand Prix Wins: 45
Grand Prix World Championships: 6 (1962 (250cc & 350cc), 1963 (250cc & 350cc), 1964 (350cc), 1965 (350cc))
Others from the Motorcycle Heroes Series:
20/05/16 Mick Doohan will always be my hero
20/05/16 Mike (the bike ) Hailwood a close second Jim Redman
20/05/16 Evel Knievel n Randy Mammola
20/05/16 Mr sheene for me
20/05/16 Ooh I forgot....MCGUINESS.....DUNLOP....HASLAM....FOGARTY.....KOCHINSKI....CADALORA....MANG.....FAST FREDDIE.....
20/05/16 READ.....AGO.....SHWANTZ....RAINEY....ROBERTS.....GARDENER....LAWSON....THE LIST GOES ON...WHO COULD CHOOSE....
20/05/16 John Surtees. Show us your medals. Ok, you were world champion on two wheels AND four 😳 Why he's not knighted is beyond me, yet Bradley Wiggins is, SMH
21/05/16 Wayne Rainey
21/05/16 Mike Hailwood. and Jarno Saarinen
23/05/16 Glad the late great Jarno had a mention....
23/05/16 No doubt he would have been a multiple champion
21/05/16 All Heroes in my eyes...
21/05/16 Amazing story...
21/05/16 Hizzy for me
21/05/16 & Joey
21/05/16 Jarno N0 1
21/05/16 troy bayliss,
21/05/16 That EZ that would be Mr B Sheen
21/05/16 ME ....
21/05/16 Joey Dunlop. And Big Sam with that 998 suzuki or Owney Ryan a Norton
21/05/16 Joey Dunlop & my hubbies is Bob Mc Intyre ( first to do 100 mph lap of TT course & he sat on his bike on the start line before he did it
21/05/16 Valentino Rossi is the GOAT.
21/05/16 Sheen for me
21/05/16 John Surtees, Phil Read, Hailwood, Sheene, Rob Haslam, Kevin Schwantz Niall Mackenzie, Fogarty, Chris Walker, Micheal Rutter, Rossi, Neil Hodgeson, James Toseland Ian Hutchinson & Guy Martin to name a few.
21/05/16 So many names so many legends.
21/05/16 Mike Hailwood top of the tree then to many to mention after that.
21/05/16 Barry Sheene, more recently Troy Bayliss
21/05/16 KING Kenny Roberts
21/05/16 Stanley woods.
21/05/16 Our Joey
21/05/16 Greatest sportsman ever in my view... so humble
21/05/16 Hailwood and Redman who did so much for motorcycle racing and Honda. I met Jim Redman at Suzuka 2012, lovely guy!
21/05/16 I'm sure these were the two who did book signings the summer of 1966 when I had my summer job in the Lexicon/Marina bookshops, Douglas.
21/05/16 Lucky you
21/05/16 I was serving behind the counter and said riders were surrounded by fans at each do. I can only picture Mike Hailwood's day, not Jim Redman's, but I did get a signed postcard from each. My wages didn't run to the books. Lol. I met Jim Redman last year.
21/05/16 Happy memories, eh?
22/05/16 I saw Jim at Oulton park long after he had given up two wheels, and took my breath away as he nailed Lodge corner at the same place on the grass on every lap. My hero's are of course Mr Duke and Mr Hailwood and the bike kicker Jiachomo ! xxx Being a Manxman colours my choice a little bit LoL
22/05/16 Brilliant rider, makes you wonder what he would achieve with today's bikes
22/05/16 Mike the Bike
22/05/16 Ian Hutchinson is the man. 5 solo TT wins in one year, horrific accident and told his leg needs to come off, years of rehab and struggle then back on a heavily modified bike winning races. Absolute legend
22/05/16 Met Jim at Silverstone a couple of years ago, he was walking around the paddock obviously still loving the atmosphere. He was chatting to people and stopped to talk to us he was great really nice guy and no slouch when it came to riding a bike.
22/05/16 I watched John Cooper in the seventies, you could have put a penny on his line lap after lap, tidiest rider ever
22/05/16 Moon eyes Cooper, I remember him beating the works machines.
22/05/16 Marcelllino Luckie,the Bin man who rode for Aprillia,utter hero!!!
22/05/16 John Hartle and Dick Creith could both win on less competitive machines if it was raining, later Ray McCullough and Joey
22/05/16 Mike the bike , and Joey Dunlop.
22/05/16 Mike the bike Hailwood
22/05/16 Joey...anyone who dodges the lamp posts really...but Dunlop was the best
22/05/16 Barry sheen was always my hero
22/05/16 Mike Hailwood, every time. His comeback at the TT will never be equalled.
22/05/16 Bob Mack, first 100 mph lap I O M 1957 on a Gilera
22/05/16 So many Mike, jarno, ago, Geoff, Barry, valintino, bill, Phill, joey, the list goes on, be easier to pick top 100,
22/05/16 Barry Sheene was a superstar and is a legend.
22/05/16 Wolfgang Kallough
22/05/16 I was so upset when he died in 2007, as I expected to see him again among the returning heroes that year. Amazing man
22/05/16 Not going to give anything away but he was just as influential in the modern era as he was in the past
22/05/16 Bob McIntyre is mine
22/05/16 Cal Raybourn and Alex George!
22/05/16 Steve mcqueen
22/05/16 Badger Goss (Dorset)
22/05/16 Jarno Sarranin
22/05/16 Mike the bike
23/05/16 Mike Hailwood and Barry Sheen
23/05/16 Mike the bike Hailwood
23/05/16 J Dunlop
23/05/16 Bob Mac
23/05/16 John Surtees, 2 & 4 wheel champ
23/05/16 dave bickers dirt track brilliant.
23/05/16 Hailstones, David Jefferies and Jimmy Guthrie
23/05/16 For me has to be sheen and roberts
23/05/16 Barry sheene for ever
23/05/16 Mike Hailwood and Jarno Saarinen but everyone who knows me will know there was only one Rob
23/05/16 To be honest I have so many friends who've 'crossed the rainbow bridge' Kenny, Ray, Mark, Joey, Robert, just to name a few!
23/05/16 One of the nicest world champions I have ever met
23/05/16 David Jeffries. Legend. RIP
23/05/16 Billy Ivy, Graham Noyce, Sammy Miller, Mike Edwards, Pat Heron, etc etc
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