Sei that again Joey?
Honda didn’t build the only sixes to race on the Isle of Man, and they didn’t have a monopoly on Joey Dunlop. In 1979 Joey raced a Benelli Sei at the TT, and he wasn’t the first. In1975, seduced by the legend of Renzo Pasolini, a proven TT winner decided Benelli’s new six-cylinder 750 Sei should be his ride in both the Production and Classic races. As a production roadster the Sei escaped the FIM’s ban on sixes, but would have to race with the original six pipe exhaust system. Not that any of this worried the Sei’s rider, Keith Martin. “I relished the idea of racing a bike that sounded like my hero’s, Mike the Bike. Not surprisingly, given the bigger engine and lower revs, the Benelli had a more refined sound than the screaming 250 and 296 Hondas. Two hours and six laps without earplugs in the Classic caused a loss of hearing that lasted till the following morning!” Keith had won the ’74 500 Production TT on a Kawasaki H1 500 triple, and his day job was with Stan Shenton’s Kawasaki dealership, Boyer Kawasaki. This was no ordinary pot-planted showroom - Stan ran the Kawasaki race team, including Mick Grant and Barry Ditchburn’s H2Rs, with Keith subbing for those seventies stars during testing. Until 1973 Kawasakis had come into the UK via Agrati Sales Ltd, who would also import De Tomaso’s Benellis, putting Keith was in the loop. Having led that 1974 race from start to finish Keith’s was definitely a name team managers wanted on their entry forms. Yet surely the most remarkable twist in the Sei’s TT tale came in 1979 when Joey Dunlop, a man forever associated with Honda, chose to race the six cylinder Benelli in the F1 race. Why he entered with Agrati isn’t clear, although Joey had taken fifth on a 500 Quattro in the previous year’s F2 race. Sadly, any hopes of a fairy tale ending stops there - Joey apparently hated the Sei and only managed two laps before it failed. Early Seis weren’t especially reliable, with long crankshafts some say could fail if the triple carburettors weren’t correctly set up. But they are lovely to ride, with far better handling and brakes than contemporary Japanese bikes. Full story in Benzina 6
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