Percy Tait (9 October 1929 – 17 November 2019)was an English professional motorcycle road racer and senior road tester for Triumph motorcycles, where he was estimated to have covered over a million miles of road testing. He later became a farmer specialising in award-winning rare breeds of sheep.
Tait gained useful knowledge of motorcycle handling during his National Service, when he was a member of the Royal Corps of Signals White Helmets Motorcycle Display Team.
Tait joined Triumph at the age of 21 in 1950 on the assembly line but was soon promoted to the Experimental Department and was encouraged to go road racing by his manager Frank Baker. Tait joined the Triumph works team and worked under Doug Hele on Triumph's chassis development programme through the early 1960s. He became the main test rider for the development of the three cylinder motorcycles which meant clocking up high mileages in all weathers and grueling sessions at MIRA and in wind tunnels. Triumph engineer Brian Jones was watching the Thruxton 500 endurance race for production motorcycles and saw Tait come into the pits after an hour on the track and plunge his blistered hands into a bucket of water. Following this Jones worked with Hele on improvements to the chassis which resulted in an Isle of Man TT victory.Testing could also be dangerous work and he broke his collarbone when he was thrown off a prototype Triumph when the gearbox seized at the 1968 Isle of Man TT.
In the 1969 Belgian Grand Prix, on the Spa-Francorchamps racetrack in the Ardennes, Tait was riding Triumph's entry for the 500 cc race – a version of the Triumph Daytona developed by Doug Hele. Tait travelled with the mechanics Arthur Jakeman and Jack Shemans in an old Ford Transit van, in which the three of them also had to sleep. He led the world champion Giacomo Agostini for three laps to finish second to the MV Agusta at an average speed of 116 mph. Also in 1969, he teamed with Malcolm Uphill to win the Thruxton 500 endurance race.
'Slippery Sam' was one of three similar motorcycles Triumph built for the 1970 Production TT, one of which, ridden by Malcolm Uphill, won the race at 97.71 mph. The Slippery Sam name was acquired during the 1970 Bol d'Or 24 Hour Race in France when a faulty oil pump covered Tait with engine oil. In 1971 Tait and Ray Pickrell won the Bol d'Or 24-hour endurance race on a Triumph triple.
In 1975 Tait was hired as a consultant by Yamaha to inprove the handling of their XS650 machine. His subtle improvements were judged to make a significant improvement.
Tait was hired by Suzuki in 1976 to help develop their 500 cc Grand Prix bike for Barry Sheene.[ citation needed ] In 1976, Tait won the 750 class at the North West 200 race. He continued racing two-strokes and 'Slippery Sam' in his late forties but gave up racing after a serious crash on the 'Son of Sam' production racer in the 1976 Production TT.
Tait set up a successful Suzuki dealership business after the Meriden factory closed until 2002.
Tait went on to become a champion sheep breeder, winning England's Royal Show, the Royal Welsh Show and Scotland's Royal Highland Show with his Blue Demaine and champion Rouge Shearling ewes.His Worcestershire farm is home to the Knighton Flock.
Stanley Michael Bailey Hailwood, was a British professional motorcycle racer and racing driver. He is regarded by many as one of the greatest racers of all time. He competed in the Grand Prix motorcycle world championships from 1958 to 1967 and in Formula One between 1963 and 1974. Hailwood was known as "Mike The Bike" because of his natural riding ability on motorcycles with a range of engine capacities.
Phillip William Read, is an English former professional motorcycle racer. He competed in Grand Prix motorcycle racing from 1961 to 1976. Read is notable for being the first competitor to win world championships in the 125 cc, 250 cc and 500 cc classes. Although he was often overshadowed by his contemporary, Mike Hailwood, he won seven FIM Grand Prix road racing world championships. In 2013, Read was named an FIM Legend for his motorcycling achievements.
Mick Grant is an English former professional motorcycle road racer and TT rider. A works-supported rider for Norton, Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki, he is a seven-time winner of the Isle of Man TT motorcycle race on various makes, including 'Slippery Sam', a three-cylinder Triumph Trident. The son of a coal miner, the soft-spoken, down-to-earth Yorkshireman from Wakefield, was a sharp contrast to the brash, playboy image presented by Londoner Barry Sheene during the 1970s.
Thomas Edward Phillis was an Australian professional Grand Prix motorcycle road racer. He won the 1961 125cc motorcycle road racing World Championship and was the first person to lap the Isle of Man TT mountain circuit at over 100 mph on a pushrod engined motorcycle. He was also the first person to win a World Championship motorcycle race on a Japanese machine.
Douglas Lionel Hele was a pioneering British motorcycle engineer with Triumph and other firms: BSA, Douglas and Norton. He was born in Birmingham in 1919 and died in Hagley, Worcestershire on 2 November 2001.
Alex George is a Scottish former professional motorcycle road racer. He competed in the Grand Prix world championships in 1970 and then from 1973 to 1979. George was a street circuit specialist and was a three-time winner at the Isle of Man TT. His best year in world championship competition came in 1975 when he finished in seventh place in the 500 cc Grand Prix world championship.
Malcolm Ernest Uphill was a Welsh professional motorcycle racer. He competed in British national-level short-circuit and in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Uphill was the first competitor in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races to achieve a 100 mph average lap speed on a production motorcycle.
The Thruxton 500 was a motorcycle endurance race for production based road machines, covering 500 miles and ridden by a team of two riders per machine. The first event was a 9-hour race which took place in 1955, organized by the Southampton and District Motorcycle Club (SDMCC) at the Thruxton Circuit near Andover in Hampshire. Two more 9-hour races followed in 1956 and 1957.
The Velocette Thruxton was a sporting motorcycle produced by Velocette between 1965 and 1971. Revealed at the 1964 Earls Court Show, it was the final development of Velocette's antiquated pushrod single, the Venom.
The featherbed frame was a motorcycle frame invented by the McCandless brothers and offered to the British Norton motorcycle company to improve the performance of their racing motorcycles in 1950. It was considered revolutionary at the time, and the best handling frame that a racer could have. Later adopted for Norton production motorcycles, it was also widely used by builders of custom hybrids such as the Triton, becoming legendary and remaining influential to this day.
The Triumph Bonneville T120 is a motorcycle originally made by Triumph Engineering from 1959 to 1975. It was the first model of the Bonneville series, which was continued by Triumph Motorcycles Ltd. The T120 was discontinued in favour of the larger 750 cc T140 in the early 1970s.
Brian Jones was a motorcycle designer and engineer born in Gloucester, United Kingdom in 1928. Notable for his contribution to the original design of the Triumph Bonneville, he died in Coventry, on 4 March 2001.
Colin Jordan Seeley was a British motorcycle retailer who later became a motorcycle sidecar racer, motorcycle designer, constructor and retailer of accessories. In 1992 he was involved in running the Norton Rotary race team.
Slippery Sam is a British production class racing motorcycle from the early 1970s that used a carefully prepared version of the 750 cc Triumph Trident ohv (pushrod) three-cylinder engine. The "Slippery Sam" name was acquired during the 1970 Bol d'Or, a 24-hour race for production-based machines held in France, when engine difficulties and escaping oil covered the bike of Triumph employee Percy Tait and co-rider Steve Jolly who managed to finish in fifth place to winners Paul Smart and Tom Dickie on another works Trident.
Mead & Tomkinson was a motorcycle and car dealership in Hereford and Tewkesbury, Gloucester, England. Three of the Tomkinsons, sons Chris and Patrick, and their father, Mike, successfully built and fielded racing motorcycles. They concentrated on the Isle of Man TT and on 24-hour and 8-hour endurance races at Spa, Barcelona, Thruxton and the Le Mans Bol d'Or. One of their riders was Neil Tuxworth.
The Dunlop K81 TT100 is a motorcycle tyre thought to be an "obligatory" performance upgrade and a tyre of choice with sporting street motorcyclists during the late 1960s and 1970s due to their shape and relatively sticky compound.
Raymond Pickrell was an English short-circuit motorcycle road racer who won four Isle of Man TT motorcycle races.
The 1971 Anglo-American Match Races was the inaugural running of the Anglo-American Match Races, an annual series of motorcycle races between the United Kingdom and America which were held from 1971 to 1988 and again in 1991. The match was held 9-12 April 1971 with rounds at Brands Hatch, Mallory Park and Oulton Park. The event was heavily sponsored by BSA/Triumph. They also supplied the 750 cc racing triples that the riders competed on. The motorcycles were to AMA/F750 specification. Most of the competitors were work BSA/Triumph works riders.
Dave Potter was an English motorcycle racer who won the British Superbike Championship twice. Potter crashed during a race at Oulton Park on 31 August 1981 and suffered head injuries from which he died in hospital 17 days later.
The BSA/Triumph racing triples were three cylinder 750 cc racing motorcycles manufactured by BSA/Triumph and raced with factory support from 1969-1974. There were road racing, production racing, endurance racing and flat track variants. The machines were based on the road-going BSA Rocket 3/Triumph Trident.