Meetings 1971 - 1990

TT 1978

Few people will ever forget the 1978 races - but for contrasting reasons.

Mike Hailwood's return brought record crowds to the Island and, of course, he did not let them down, winning the TT Formula One race on the booming Ducati. At the opposite end of the scale the appalling accidents that led to the deaths of Mac Hobson, Kenny Birch and Ernst Trachsel in the first sidecar race and the serious accident to Pat Hennen in the Senior produced massive shock waves throughout the racing world.

Mike's return was one of the supreme sporting dramas. He'd retired from both car and bike racing and was living in New Zealand when he decided that he needed something to occupy his time. That did not mean fishing or golf, but a return to the scene of his greatest triumphs nearly two decades previously.

Everybody wanted him to win the TT Formula One race, but secretly felt he had little chance. Mike had different ideas and roared away from the start to lead at the end of the first circuit after his fastest-ever TT lap: 109.87mph.

The crowds went wild as he slowly closed on his old rival Phil Read on the roads. They cheered even louder when he passed the Honda Britain rider and Read retired with engine problems on the fifth lap at the 11th Milestone.

Those privileged people who were on the Island will never forget Mike's last lap. At every vantage point the crowd gave him the reception his return deserved. As he crossed the line more than one person, including Mike, wiped away a few tears. It was one of those special moments that only witnessing a truly great sportsman in action can provide.

Unfortunately Mike's three other races on the Martini Yamahas were not so successful. In the Senior his steering damper broke at Ramsey and he limped home in 28th place. Tom Herron led from start to finish on a Suzuki, but was chased hard by Pat Hennen on a similar machine. The American had set a new lap record of 113.83mph when he crashed at Bishopscourt on the last lap. He was critically injured and was never able to race again.

Hennen's new record had lasted only four days when Mick Grant produced a brilliant display in the six-lap Classic. Riding the Kawasaki, he imposed his authority on the race and on his second lap became the fastest rider around the Mountain Circuit with a speed of 114.33mph. John Williams was second, with Alex George third after a race-long battle with Phil Read. Mike retired on the first lap with engine trouble.

Mike also hit problems in the five-lap 250cc Junior and eventually finished 12th. Chas Mortimer led all the way, with Charlie Williams taking second after a great duel with Herron.

Alan Jackson retained his TT Formula Two title with a comfortable win on his Honda, while Bill Smith made up for his previous year's disappointment by clinching the Formula Three crown for Honda.

Monday afternoon's sidecar race brought the blackest moment in the history of the TT. Less than a minute from the start Mac Hobson and passenger Kenny Birch were killed when they crashed their Yamaha outfit near the top of Bray Hill. A few minutes later Swiss driver Ernst Trachsel was killed when he crashed at the bottom of Bray Hill and the Island mourned in numbed silence.

Unaware of the tragedy, Rolf Biland and Kenny Williams raised the lap record to 103.81mph, but broke down on the last lap, handing victory to Dick Greasley. Rolf Steinhausen won the second leg from Mick Boddice, with Jock Taylor third. Taylor and passenger Kenny Arthur took overall victory.

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