Date of Birth - 29th March 1923
Lancashire born Geoff Duke came
to prominence after winning the 1949 Senior Clubmans
TT and the Senior Manx Grand Prix. He was snapped
up for the Norton works team for the 1950 TT,
finishing second in the Junior and shattering
the lap and race records on winning the Senior!
He took three more victories for Norton before
changing to Gilera in 1953. In 1955 he won the
Senior, and was declared the first rider to lap
at 100mph, but this was corrected two laps later
to 99.97mph. His final race was the 1959 Junior
when he finished fourth on a Norton. Duke, a six-times
TT winner and six-times World Champion took the
sport to a whole new level with his professionalism.
He was the first rider to wear revolutionary one-piece
leathers, was crowned Sportsman of the Year in
1951, awarded the RAC Seagrave Trophy and, in
recognition of his services to motorcycling, was
awarded the O.B.E. in 1953.
At the start of his motorcycle
racing career, Duke was unable to challenge the
AJS Porcupine 500 and Velocette 350 of his competitors
on his outdated Norton International. The McCandless
brothers designed a new frame for Norton, the
Featherbed, and it was a vastly superior machine.
All that was needed was a rider to make the most
of it. In 1950, the 500cc World Champion was the
Italian Umberto Masetti on a Gilera. The next
year Geoff Duke won both the 350 cc and 500 cc
classes. This was due partly to the excellence
of the new Norton frame, but above all to Duke's
extraordinary skill and his ability to adapt his
riding style to the single-cylinder machine.
In 1952, Masetti triumphed in
the 500 cc category on his powerful Gilera, while
Duke made the 350 cc class his own. The smaller
categpries were dopminated until the end of the
1905s by the Italians Bruno Ruffo - who won titles
riding Mondial (125 cc) and Guzzi (250 cc) machines
- and Carlo Ubbiali.
Geoff Duke aroused further passions
when he betrayed Norton and switched to its greatest
rival, Gilera in 1953. The englishman then won
three consecutive 500 cc Championships on the
sophisticated four-cylinder Gilera with twin overhead
camsgafts, thus consummating his treason.
Geoff Duke - Career Summary