Happy 90th Birthday to Geoff Duke.
Geoff Duke dominated motorcycle racing in the 1950s, winning six world championships and six Isle of Man TT races. Duke came to prominence after winning the 1949 Senior Clubmans TT and the Senior Manx Grand Prix and was to become the very first post-war motorcycling ‘superstar’, popularly known amongst the racing fraternity simply as ‘the Duke’. He was signed up 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.
After winning three World Championships for Norton, he moved abroad to Italian motorcycle manufacturer, Gilera in 1953. With Gilera, he had a string of three consecutive 500 cc world championships. 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. For 1953 he joined the sports car racing team of Aston Martin (Feltham-Middlesex) to race the DB3. 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. 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. In 1963, he formed Scuderia Duke with Gilera to race the 1957 Gileras against the might of MV Agusta.
Duke was the first rider to wear one-piece leathers – he had enlisted his local tailor to make the first of his now famous one-piece race suits. He was named Sportsman of the Year in 1951, awarded the RAC Segrave Trophy and, in recognition of his services to motorcycling, was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1953.
Highly honoured by the Isle of Man, where he made so many of his world record breaking rides, a point on the Mountain Course has been named after him. Three sharp bends at the 32nd Milestone between Brandywell and Windy Corner now carry the title ‘Duke’s’. The FIM named him a Grand Prix “Legend” in 2002. 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 Manxline company that introduced the first roll-on-roll-off ferry service to the IOM in competition with the 150-year-old IOM Steam Packet Co. His son Peter founded Duke Video, a successful publisher specialising in motorsport videos.
Music by: Thomas Bergersen – Remember Me