James Albert Redman
Ray Amm started it Gary Hocking furthered it and James Albert 'Jim' Redman, of Bulawayo continued the proud record for Rhodesia in world motor cycling.
An up-and-coming star when Hocking was dominating the world championship, Redman so impressed talent scouts from the Japanese Honda firm that he was offered a works ride. There was no stopping him on the multi-cylinder Japanese four-stroke machines in the early 1960s. His dominance, particularly in the 350 cc class, was almost total.
The Redman-Honda combination began in 1960 at a time when the Japanese firm sought entry to the world market for their products. It was a time when British manufacturers dominated the market. Five years later the Japanese company had proved a point and it was in no small way due to the skilled riding of Redman.
By the end of 1965, Redman had carried off six world championships and three Junior Tourist Trophy titles for Honda.
His rise to the top began in 1962 when he captured both the 250 cc and 350 cc world championships a feat he repeated the following year when he capped a great performance by also winning the Junior Isle of Man TT (up to 350 cc).
World 350 cc championships fell to Redman in 1964 and '65, and in both years he also won the Junior TT. His 1965 Junior TT win was a history-making affair when he became the first man to achieve a hat-trick of doubles in successive years. The Junior TT is composed of two races — a 250 cc and a 350 cc event Redman won both races in 1963, '64 and '65. His 1965 350 cc win was also unique in that he was the first rider to achieve victory in the class at an average speed of over 100 mph.
By 1964 Redman was a household name in Rhodesia and gave all the local riders who competed at the Marlborough circuit at Salisbury and the Kumalo track at Bulawayo, something to aim for.
Additional honours which came Redman's way in 1964 were an MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours list and in November, he was elected Rhodesian Sportsman of the Year after having been a finalist in 1962 and '63.
At the time, Redman was in Tokyo carrying out tests for the Honda factory but an old friend, Rhodesian champion motor-racing driver Jimmy de Villiers, accepted the John Hopley Memorial Trophy on Redman's behalf. His MBE was awarded for 'his services to his country in sport'.
Redman's achievements in the 350 cc class were made all the more remarkable by the fact that at no time did he have a team-mate to back him up until Honda recruited Alan Shepherd late in 1964. At the time, Redman was beginning to show an interest in turning to four wheels and Honda were experimenting with a racing car. The Rhodesian hoped Shepherd would take over the motor cycling
He was thirty years old at the time and by his own admission he felt he was in a rut and getting bored with the routine of visiting the same countries every year and racing on the same circuits.
"It's not nice to slide down the hill again after hitting the top," Redman said in an interview at Durban in 1964. "But a car driver can go on longer than a motor cycle rider. I don't know why. It just seems so."
But he did carry on the following year to claim his sixth and last world championship. It was a dramatic year. The Rhodesian crashed in the Ulster Grand Prix and broke a collar-bone. He returned to South Africa shortly after the accident to embark on a get-fit-quick programme in the hope of preventing his Italian rival, Giacomo Agostini, from snatching the championship for MV Augusta..
Redman missed the Finnish Grand Prix but cabled Honda that he would be fit to ride in the Italian event at Monza. Honda replied saying they had no bike available for him and Redman then cancelled his travel arrangements. Honda mechanics arriving at Monza found that a bike had been flown from Japan to Milan for Redman, but by then it was too late.
The mix-up let Agostini through to win the Italian Grand Prix and Redman's fourth successive 350 cc world championship hung in the balance. Both riders had thirty-two points and there was only one race left — the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka in October.
Fate was kind to the Rhodesian after the earlier blows. Agostini was forced to withdraw from the race with engine trouble after eleven laps and Redman went on to finish second to Britain's Mike Hailwood and claim the championship.
That fourth world title made Redman and Hailwood the only riders to claim four successive championships since 1949. Hailwood won his championships in the 500 cc class in the same years as Redman. Agostini went on to win in five successive years in the 500 cc championship from 1966-1970.
The Redman domination came to an end in 1966. His grip on the 350 cc class began to slip when he had to withdraw from the West German event to contest the 500 cc event on a newly designed Honda. Feeling unwell and hampered by a broken throttle cable, he could only finish third in the French 350 cc event and in July he crashed and broke his left forearm in Belgium. At the time he was leading the 500 cc championship.
By August, Redman had not recovered sufficiently to compete in the Ulster Grand Prix and by November he had made up his mind to retire after a farewell appearance in the seventh Rhodesian Grand Prix at Kumalo in his home town of Bulawayo in December.
In mid-1967 Redman was firmly established in retirement in Durban running an agency for the Japanese motor cycle company Yamaha. "I retired," he said, "partly because there was nothing left to win. I felt I was past my peak and from there on could only go down. There was no pressure on me to retire. In a nutshell, the time had come."
The six-times world champion had every right to be happy in a new life away from the tension and danger of the World Grand Prix circuit. He had come a very long way from the young man who, disgruntled with life in London, had emigrated to Rhodesia and landed up at Bulawayo in 1952 with five shillings in his pocket.
During the years in which he raced on the world circuit, Redman had an average of three spills a year, most of them at speeds in excess of 100 mph. When each season started with the TT races on the Isle of Man, he used openly to admit wondering whether he would see the week out.
It took guts to continue after a crash, but guts were something Redman never lacked. After four years of racing in Rhodesia, he made up his mind to follow the paths that Ray Amm and Gary Hocking had taken and in 1958 he went off to Europe. He found it hard but stuck to his task. After marrying a Durban girl, Marlene, he returned to Europe in 1959 and was spurred to greater effort by having a family to support. Then came the offer from Honda and he never looked back.
The MBE which he was awarded in 1964 was actually only presented to him in 1972. Every time a date was set for the presentation by the Queen, Redman was elsewhere for a big race. The decoration and papers were eventually sent to Rhodesia but were mislaid after UDI. Eight years later, Redman was tracked down in Durban and received the award from the British Consul-General after it had been found in Salisbury.
In 1974, Redman, who had become a senior director with a South African chemical company, bought a country resort hotel at Mooi River in Natal, and was as much established in the business world as he had been in motor cycle racing.
Redman's world championships 250 cc:
Redman's world championships 350 cc
1962, 1963, 1964, 1965.
Redman's TT junior titles: 250 cc:
1963, 1964, 1965.
Redman's TT junior titles: 350 cc:
1963, 1964, 1965.
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