Thruxton 500

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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.

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These earlier 9-hour races resulted in the birth of the famous Thruxton 500 miler, the first taking place in 1958 and the last in 1973.

The Thruxton 500 was an endurance race for production based road machines, covering 500 miles and ridden by a team of two riders per machine.

There were twelve Thruxton 500 events between 1958 and 1973. During that period, there were four races where the 500 miler had to be run at two different circuits because of poor track conditions at Thruxton. [1] The first rearranged 500 miler race was at Castle Combe [2] in 1965 followed by three other meetings at Brands Hatch in 1966, 1967 and 1968. [3]

In the 1960s, the Thruxton 500 race was very important to British motorcycle manufacturers as a test of their bikes which provided public exposure. A win, or second and third places in the Thruxton 500, offered advertising opportunities and boosted sales, resulting in keen competition around Thruxton’s fast, flowing and demanding track.

Four other endurance events were held at Thruxton but not under the Thruxton 500 name. There were two Powerbike Internationals in 1974 and 1975 and two Grand Prix D'Endurance events in 1976 and 1977.

Seven other endurance events were organized by the SDMMC at different circuits around the UK.

Similar events were the Bemsee-organised Hutchinson 100 [4] at Silverstone and the 'Motor Cycle' 500 at Brands Hatch in 1966 where Mike Hailwood demonstrated a Honda CB450 Black Bomber fitted with a sports fairing. [5] It was unable to compete in the 500cc category, the FIM deeming it was not classified as a production machine as it had two overhead camshafts. [6]

Only one motorcycle race a year is now held at Thruxton, a round of the British Superbike Championship

History

As with many Second World War airfields, RAF Thruxton found a new role in the 1950s as a motorcycle racing circuit. Declared surplus to RAF requirements in 1946, the early track included both the runways and perimeter track.

An application was made in 1949 by the SDMCC to the Auto Cycle Union for approval of the circuit for motorcycle racing, with the result that an official track inspection took place on New Year's Day 1950. It was attended by Syd Lawton, Arthur Wheeler, Cyril Quantrill and a number of members of the SDMCC. The track certificate was granted and the first Thruxton motorcycle event took place on Easter Monday 1950, organised by the SDMCC.

The Bristol Motorcycle and Light Car Club organized a race event on 4 August 1952.

In 1953, the east/west runway was cut out, the western part of the perimeter track was included, and the direction was changed to clockwise.

The clerk of the course for the first endurance event was the late Neville Goss.

9 Hour results

Motorcycle racing continued on the bumpy wartime tarmac (which was slowly breaking) until 1965, when plans were agreed for a new track. The new layout ignored the original runways and followed the perimeter road with an added chicane and three tight corners in succession (named Campbell, Cobb and Segrave) which became referred to as the complex.

In 1968 the British Automobile Racing Club took over the track and the longer circuit was used.

Racing at Thruxton became famous for the endurance events for production motorcycles, and the Thruxton 500 in particular. The machines were supposed to be the same as could be bought, but most factories of the time invested in a racing team that invariably developed the motorcycles as much as possible.

The Triumph factory first showed their Thruxton Bonneville – a hand-built, extra-specification race-styled machine at the 1964 Earls Court Show, [8] with very-limited production in 1965. [9]

500 mile race results at Thruxton circuit

YearRidersMotorcycleNotes
1958 Mike Hailwood, Dan Shorey 650 Triumph66.0 mph
1959 John Lewis, Bruce Daniels 600 BMW R69 66.88 mph
1960 Ron Langston, Don Chapman 650 AJS. 31CSR68.48 mph
1961 Tony Godfrey, John Holder 650 Triumph T120R 67.29 mph
1962 Phil Read, Brian Setchell 650 Norton76.45 mph
1963 Phil Read, Brian Setchell 647 Norton68.57 mph
1964 Brian Setchell, Derek Woodman 650 Norton68.57 mph
1969 Percy Tait, Malcolm Uphill 650 Triumph84.30 mph
1970 Peter Williams, Charley Sanby 745 Norton74.80 mph
1971 Percy Tait, Dave Croxford 744 Triumph84.64 mph
1972 Dave Croxford, Mick Grant 745 Norton85.00 mph
1973 Rex Butcher, Norman White 745 Norton82.57 mph

500 mile race results held at alternate circuits

YearRidersCircuitMotorcycleNotes
1965Dave Degens, Barry Lawton Castle Combe 650 Triumph79.18 mph
1966Dave Degens, Rex Butcher Brands Hatch 650 Triumph79.10 mph
1967 Percy Tait, Rod Gould Brands Hatch 649 Triumph79.15 mph
1968Dave Nixon, Peter Butler Brands Hatch 490 Triumph75.52 mph

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References

  1. "Goss pulls out", Motor Cycle , 10 December 1964. p.987. "...news of the retirement of Neville Goss as secretary. Neville has, however, agreed to remain racing secretary and will continue to guide the 500-miler...he mentioned that arrangements had not been finalised regarding the future of the Thruxton circuit—especially the re-surfacing—but something would have to be done before next season." Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  2. "'Metropole Mixture'. Triumph stands 6 and 10", Motor Cycle, 9 September 1965. Brighton Show Guide. p.365. "...every 1966 model plus the Dave Degens Bonneville which took Castle Combe 500–mile honours this year." Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  3. Race Results [ permanent dead link ] Southampton & District Motor Cycle Club websiteite. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  4. Motor Cycle, 19 August 1965. p.2a. BSA Triumph full-page advertisement "BSA WIN Hutchinson '100'. 1st Mike Hailwood 650cc BSA Lightning, 2nd Phil Read 650cc Triumph Bonneville, 3rd Percy Tait 650cc Triumph Bonneville." Accessed 2013-08-16
  5. Motor Cycle, 7 July 1966. p.22/23 Scratcher's Marathon. Motor Cycle's 500—mile race. "A plane was specially chartered to fly riders back from the previous day's Dutch Grand Prix. One who took advantage of this was Mike Hailwood and here [pictured] he brakes as he completes demonstration laps on a Honda CB450 before racing begins" Accessed 2013-08-16
  6. Motor Cycle, 19 May 1966, p.664 Racing Line by David Dixon. "The Honda CB450 is not yet regarded as a 'production' machine...the CSI decided not to change the rules—under which machines with two overhead camshafts are barred—as it would be 'unfair to make a chance in mid season'.". Accessed 2013-08-21
  7. 1 2 3 "Sporting and Racing History" (PDF). p. 10. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  8. Motor Cycle, 19 November 1964. 'Earls Court Show Guide'. p.861. [image: with Avon race-type fairing, drops, r/sets and racing seat] Caption:"Triumph production racer, the new Thruxton Bonneville" Triumph Range price list. "Bonneville 120 - £326 13s 3d, Thruxton Bonneville £357 9s 3d" Accessed 2013-08-17
  9. Motor Cycle, 29 April 1965. 'Blackpool Show Guide'. Front cover - Thruxton Bonneville with Avon race-type fairing. 'Blackpool Bonanza'. p.556. Triumph - Stands 30 and 34. "Pride of place on Stand 30 goes to the 649cc Thruxton Bonneville production racer." Accessed 2013-08-17