Monday, June 17, 2024
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from TT race hero to champion sheep breeder

One of British motorcycling’s great characters, Percy Tait, has died aged 90. A hard rider with an impish sense of humour, Percy was a development and test rider at the old Meriden Triumph factory for more than 20 years. Alongside the day job he had an exceptionally long career as one of the country’s top road racers.

Joining Triumph from the Army’s Royal Signals display team in 1950, Percy was soon promoted from the assembly line to be tester for the factory’s experimental department. As well as covering many thousands of road miles and hammering around the MIRA proving grounds, Percy had a role in development, notably in prototyping the legendary Bonneville twin in the 1950s and improving it through the 1960s.

Winning his first race in 1951 at Silverstone on a 250cc Triumph prepared by his boss Frank Baker, Percy rode many makes but was best known for his Triumph heroics. He finished second to Giacomo Agostini’s MV in the 1969 Belgian GP on a 500cc twin and anyone who followed racing in the 1970s will remember Percy racing against and beating younger riders on 750cc Triumph triples he had helped develop.

In 1971 he was MCN Superbike Champion and British 750cc champion as well as being co-winner of the 24 hour Bol d’Or with Ray Pickrell and the 500-mile Thruxton GP d’Endurance with Dave Croxford.

One of the best riders to have never won an IoM TT, Percy finished second in the 1975 Classic TT on the Yamaha TZ750 he called Leaping Lena, after its steering damper broke on lap one. Serious injuries from a 1976 TT incident ended his racing.

Percy ran multiple Suzuki car dealerships until 2002, when he concentrated on his lifelong love of stock breeding. Based at his Worcestershire farm, Percy was a champion sheep breeder, specialising in the Bleu De Main and Blue-faced Leicester.

The date of Percy Tait’s funeral has not yet been announced.  

Percy is pictured with Gene Romero at the 2008 TR3OC Beezumph Rally


Triumph posted the following on Facebook:

Motorcycling legend, Percy Tait, has sadly passed away, at 90 years old. Racing the infamous ‘Slippery Sam’ in the Bol d’Or 24-hour, completing numerous Isle of Man TT races and most notably racing in the 500cc 1969 Belgian Grand Prix on a Triumph Daytona, coming second to Giacomo Agostini.

After joining Triumph at the age of 21, Tait completed over a million miles in testing as Triumph’s main test rider, where he played a key part in the development of the triple trident and began his racing career on a Triumph T70 in 1951.

Our deepest condolences to Percy Tait‘s family and friends at this difficult time.


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