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Geoff Duke

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Geoff Duke
Geoff Duke (1951)
NationalityUnited Kingdom British
Born(1923-03-29)29 March 1923
St. Helens, Lancashire, England
Died1 May 2015(2015-05-01) (aged 92)
Isle of Man
Motorcycle racing career statistics
Grand Prix motorcycle racing
Active years19501959
First race1950 Isle of Man TT
Last race1959 Nations Grand Prix
First win1950 500 cc Isle of Man TT
Last win1958 500 cc Swedish Grand Prix
Team(s)Benelli, BMW, Gilera, Norton, NSU
Championships350 cc - 1951, 1952
500 cc - 1951, 1953 - 1955
Starts Wins Podiums Poles F. laps Points
89 33 50 N/A 29 359 (371)
Isle of Man TT career
TTs contested9 (19491955, 1958, 1959)
TT wins6
First TT win1949 Clubmans Senior TT
Last TT win1955 Senior TT
TT podiums8

Geoffrey Ernest Duke OBE (29 March 1923 – 1 May 2015), born in St. Helens, Lancashire, was a British multiple motorcycle Grand Prix road racing world champion.[1] He raced several brands of motorcycle: Norton, Gilera, BMW, NSU and Benelli.[2] After retirement from competition, he was a businessman based in the Isle of Man.

Sporting career


After reaching the status of Team Sergeant in the Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team, The White Helmets,[3] Duke was a prominent figure in racing in the 1950s, winning six world championships and six Isle of Man TT races.[1] First entering the Isle of Man Manx Grand Prix in 1948, he retired after four laps of the Junior race. He came to prominence after the 1949 events, finishing second in the Junior race, after remounting due to a spill, and winning the Senior race with a record lap and race-average speeds.[4][5][6] He also won the 1949 Senior Clubmans TT.[7] He signed to the Norton works team for the 1950 TT, finishing second in the Junior TT and breaking both lap and race records in the Senior TT.

Duke en route to victory at the 1951 500cc Dutch TT

After winning three World Championships for Norton, he moved abroad to Italian motorcycle manufacturer, Gilera in 1953.[8] With Gilera, he had a string of three consecutive 500 cc world championships.[1] His support for a riders' strike demanding more start money led the FIM to suspend him for six months, dashing any hopes for a fourth consecutive title.[8][9] For 1953 he joined the sports car racing team of Aston Martin (Feltham, Middlesex) to race the DB3.[10] Teamed with Peter Collins, the pair led the 12 Hours of Sebring until Duke's accident and resulting DNF. In 1955 he was declared the first rider to lap the Isle of Man TT course at 100 mph, though this was later corrected to 99.97.[11] As a consequence the official first 100 mph lap is credited to Bob McIntyre, also on a Gilera, in 1957. Duke was a non-starter because of injury. His final race was the 1959 Nations Grand Prix.

Duke briefly dabbled in Formula One, entering the 1961 German Grand Prix in a private Cooper-Climax.[12] Although forced to withdraw from that event as his car was not yet ready, he did race in the non-championship Kanonloppet at Karlskoga two weeks later.[13]

In 1963, he formed a racing team – Scuderia Duke, with riders Derek Minter and John Hartle – to race the 1957 Gileras against Mike Hailwood riding the MV Agusta.[8]

During 1964, Duke was appointed Competition Manager for Royal Enfield motorcycles, helping to develop their new GP250 clubman's-category volume-production road racer.[14][15][16][17]

For the 1965 International Six Days Trial held on the Isle of Man, Duke was instrumental in helping to devise the 1,000-mile course and sections held on an island measuring approximately 30 miles long by 10 miles wide, particularly using tracks which would be unavailable in mainland UK due to restrictive legislation, a problem which did not arise on self-governing Isle of Man. Additionally, the island had hotels easily able to cater for the visiting teams, followers and spectators with a traditional goodwill and enthusiasm towards motorcycle sport. Duke acted as Clerk of the Course to the ACU, the governing body of motorcycle sport in Great Britain including the Isle of Man, which interacted with the FIM international organisation.[18]

In 1967, Duke acted as entrant for the class-winning Triumph Bonneville ridden by John Hartle in the 750 cc capacity section of the newly introduced for 1967 Production class, which required racing machines to be based on roadsters, complying with controlled specifications using selected adaptations only, available from the manufacturers as part-numbered inventory.[19]

Personal life


Duke was the most famous rider to adopt one-piece leathers - he had enlisted his local tailor, Frank Barker, to make the first of his now famous one-piece race suits. Duke had previously used a one-piece lining under his two-piece leather racing suit, to facilitate easy movement, for which he received "ribald remarks from my team-mates!"[20] He was named Sportsman of the Year in 1951, and was awarded the RAC Segrave Trophy.[21][22]

Duke was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1953 New Year Honours "for services to British Motor-Cycle racing."[23]

He was one of many signatories in a letter to The Times on 17 July 1958 opposing 'the policy of apartheid' in international sport and defending 'the principle of racial equality which is embodied in the Declaration of the Olympic Games'.[24]

Duke's funeral cortege assembled at TT Grandstand

After retiring from racing, Duke became a businessman, initially in the motor trade and later in shipping services to the Isle of Man. In 1978, he was instrumental in setting up the Manx Line that introduced the first roll-on-roll-off ferry service to the island in competition with the 150-year-old Isle of Man Steam Packet Company[25] The FIM named him a Grand Prix "Legend" in 2002.[26]

Highly honoured by the Isle of Man, where he made so many of his world record breaking rides, a point on the mountain section of the TT Course was named after him in 2003. Three sharp bends at the 32nd Milestone between Brandywell and Windy Corner now carry the title 'Duke's'.[27]

He died, aged 92, at his home on the Isle of Man on 1 May 2015 after being ill for some time.[28] Duke's funeral cortege assembled at TT Grandstand, Glencrutchery Road, Douglas, Isle of Man on 10 May, prior to a last lap of the Snaefell Mountain Course, followed by a private family funeral service.[29][30]

World Championship results

Position 1 2 3 4 5 6
Points 8 6 4 3 2 1

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap. An empty black cell indicates that the class did not compete at that particular championship round.)

Year Class Motorcycle 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Rank Points
350 cc Norton 2 3 2 3 1 2nd 24 (28)
500 cc Norton 1 Ret Ret 4 1 1 2nd 27
350 cc Norton Ret 1 1 Ret 1 1 1 1st 32 (40)
500 cc Norton Ret 1 1 1 5 1 4 1st 35 (37)
350 cc Norton 1 1 1 1 1st 32
500 cc Norton Ret Ret 2 2 7th 12
500 cc Gilera Ret 1 Ret 1 2 1 1 1st 38
500 cc Gilera Ret 2 C 1 1 1 1 1 1st 40 (46)
500 cc Gilera Ret 1 1 1 Ret 1 3 1st 36
500 cc Gilera Ret Ret Ret 1 7th 8
350 cc Gilera Ret Ret - 0
500 cc Gilera 3 2 4th 10
350 cc Norton Ret Ret 5 Ret 1 4 3 3rd 17
500 cc BMW Ret Ret 4 Ret 3rd 13
Norton 1 5 7
250 cc NSU Ret 10th 5
Benelli 6 3 10
350 cc Norton 4 4 3 Ret 5th 10
500 cc Norton 9 3 3 3 4th 12

See also





  • All Grand Prix results are taken from Walker, pp. 248–252
  1. ^ a b c "Geoff Duke". Motogp.com. 29 March 1923. Archived from the original on 16 March 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  2. ^ Gouinguenet, Hervé (15 October 2015). Pilotes légendaires de la Moto. edi8. ISBN 9791030100938. Retrieved 4 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "Picture special: MCN meets veterans from the White Helmets army display team". MCN. 18 September 2007. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  4. ^ Motor Cycle, 5 November 1964, p.797. Help Club accessed 31 January 2015
  5. ^ "Race Results - Manx Grand Prix Official Website". Manxgrandprix.org. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  6. ^ "Race Results - Manx Grand Prix Official Website". Manxgrandprix.org. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  7. ^ "Race Results - Isle of Man TT Official Website". Iomtt.com. 29 March 1929. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  8. ^ a b c "Geoff Duke | MotoGP". Crash.Net. 29 March 1923. Archived from the original on 30 June 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  9. ^ "Geoff Duke Must Finish Six Months' Suspension". The Bulletin. 18 August 1956. p. 8. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  10. ^ "Aston Martin And The Last 100 Years - Aston Martin News Details". Hwmastonmartin.co.uk. 15 January 1913. Archived from the original on 23 May 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  11. ^ "Geoff Duke - Competitors - Isle of Man TT Official Website". Iomtt.com. 29 March 1929. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  12. ^ "Germany 1961 - Race entrants • STATS F1". www.statsf1.com. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  13. ^ "VII Kanonloppet • STATS F1". www.statsf1.com. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  14. ^ Motor Cycle, 3 September 1964. p.486 Lightweights stir it up during Manx Grand Prix practising. "New from stem to stern, the model is in the care of Geoff Duke who is helping Royal Enfields with the racing design". [image caption]: "Manxman Dennis Craine chats with Royal Enfield's Jack Booker and Geoff Duke.". Accessed 2015-07-02
  15. ^ Motor Cycle, 19 November 1964. 'Earls Court Show Guide'. p.847 "Geoff Duke demonstrates the riding position of the new Royal Enfield racer..."Accessed 2013-08-18
  16. ^ Motor Cycle, 9 September 1965. p.371 SLIM and LOW by David Dixon. Track test at Oulton Park of RE GP with Racing Manager Geoff Duke. Accessed 2013-08-18
  17. ^ Royal Enfield 250GP at Bonhams Retrieved 2013-08-18
  18. ^ Motor Cycle 28 January 1965 pp.104-107 Manx Recce. Peter Fraser weighs up the venue for this year's ISDT. Accessed 2015-06-12
  19. ^ Motor Cycle 15 June 1967 pp.808-811 Diamond TT edition, race report. Production machine race. Super speeds on roadsters. [image caption] "John Hartle pilots the big Geoff Duke-entered Triumph through the right-hander at Quarter Bridge". Accessed 25 June 2015
  20. ^ Duke, Geoff. In Pursuit of Perfection (1988). Osprey, London. ISBN 0-85045-838-2
  21. ^ "The Segrave Trophy". Royalautomobileclub.co.uk. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  22. ^ "1950's Motorcycle Racing Star Geoff Duke Passes at 92". ultimatemotorcycling.com. 4 May 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  23. ^ UK list: "No. 39732". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1952. p. 13.
  24. ^ Brown, Geoff and Hogsbjerg, Christian. Apartheid is not a Game: Remembering the Stop the Seventy Tour campaign. London: Redwords, 2020, p. 16 ISBN 9781912926589
  25. ^ John Moss. "Ricky hatton, Andrew Freddy Flintoff, Paula Radcliffe, Geoff Duke, Stanley Matthews & David Lloyd - British Sportsmen and Sportswomen from the Northwest region". Manchester2002-uk.com. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  26. ^ "· MotoGP Legends". Motogp.com. Archived from the original on 28 October 2011. Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  27. ^ Isle of Man TT Official site Retrieved 2015-06-12
  28. ^ Miller, Robin (2 May 2015). "Grand Prix and TT legend Geoff Duke has died". Bikesportnews.com. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  29. ^ Isle of Man TT champion Geoff Duke's coffin to take final lap BBC Sport, 10 May 2015, Retrieved 2015-07-07
  30. ^ TT legend Geoff Duke makes last lap of Mountain Course Archived 8 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine Yorkshire Evening Post, 10 May 2015, Retrieved 2015-07-07