Honda RC166

Honda RC166 1960s Japanese MotoGP bike

6-cylinder bikes are a rarity on the road. Even more so at the racetrack. Motorcycles like nothing more than straight lines. To the motorbike mindset, corners are burdensome things - involving the manipulation of mass. And, the more mass there is, the less keen on cornering the bike becomes. More cylinders mean more mass - which means more 'meandering' through the twisty bits. According to the laws of physics, as normally applied, that is. The Honda RC166, however, had other ideas. Having half a dozen cylinders slung across its meagre frame did not phase it an iota. Numerous race wins - and, indeed, world championships - were clear testament to that.

The writing was on the wall back in '59. That was the year in which the Japanese arrived at the Isle of Man TT road races. As it turned out, the '59 season brought Honda only modest success. Subsequent visits to the 'Island', though, saw them decimate all-comers. The Sixties were a heyday for Honda. In '66, Mike Hailwood won 10 out of 12 GPs - on the 250 RC166. On top of that, he took the 350 title - on a bored-out 297cc bike. The following year, he did the same again!

Given that it was supporting a 'six-pack', the RC166 was remarkably slim. Certainly, its fuel-tank was vintage-style slender. À propos of its petite proportions, the RC166 had been designed with 'flickability' in mind. And, a dry weight of just 264lb did that no harm at all. Along with squat dimensions, the RC166 brought raw power to the table. 24 small valves - 4 per cylinder - helped create 18,000rpm. 60bhp was the highly desirable result. Combined with its skinny physique, that was more than enough to get the job done. Especially, with a rider like Mike Hailwood in the saddle! To motorsport's cognoscenti, the exhaust note from the bike's 'six-pot' engine was close to symphonic! For many a fan, shots of 'Mike the Bike' Hailwood straddling an RC166 - on his way to yet another GP win - are as good as it gets. Hurrah for Honda ... bike racing had moved up a gear!

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