Thruxton 500

The first Thruxton endurance event was a 9-hour race and took place in 1955, it was organized by the Southampton and District Motorcycle Club (SDMCC) and took place at the Thruxton Circuit near Andover in Hampshire, 2 more 9 hour races followed in 1956 and 1957.

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 12 Thruxton 500 events that took place between 1958 and 1973, during that period however were 4 races where the 500 miler had to be run at 2 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 3 other meetings but this time at Brands Hatch[3]

In the 1960s the Thruxton 500 race was very important to British motorcycle manufacturers as it was a 500-mile (800 km) 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.

4 other endurance events were held at Thruxton but not under the Thruxton 500 name, 2 Powerbike Internationals in 1974 and 1975 and 2 Grand Prix D' Endurance events in 1976 and 1977.

7 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


As with many World War II 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 roads.

An application was made in 1949 by the Southampton and District Motorcycle Club (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 and 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 and the Western part of the perimeter track was included and the direction was changed to clockwise.

In 1955 the SDMCC held their first motorcycle endurance race at the Thruxton Circuit near Andover in Hampshire, the start of a historic period for SDMCC.

The Clerk of the Course for this first endurance event was the late Neville Goss, the race was for 9 hours and the motorcycles were ridden by a team of two riders per machine. 2 more 9 hour races followed in 1956 and 1957.

9 Hour results.

1955. W.E. Dow, and E.B.Crooks on a 500 BSA at 67.71 mph.[7]

1956. K.W. James and I.Lloyd on a 350 BSA at 72.3 mph.[7]

1957. F.Weber and R. Avery on a 350 BSA at 67.0 mph.[7]

No more 9 hour races, it’s now the start in 1958 of the famous Thruxton 500 races.

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

1958Mike Hailwood, Dan Shorey650 Triumph66.0 mph
1959John Lewis, Bruce Daniels, Tony Godfrey600 BMW R6966.88 mph
1960Ron Langston, Don Chapman650 AJS. 31CSR68.48 mph
1961Tony Godfrey, John Holder650 Triumph T120R67.29 mph
1962Phil Read, Brian Setchell650 Norton76.45 mph
1963Phil Read, Brian Setchell647 Norton68.57 mph
1964Brian Setchell, Derek Woodman650 Norton68.57 mph
1969Percy Tait, Malcolm Uphill650 Triumph84.30 mph
1970Peter Williams, Charley Sanby745 Norton74.80 mph
1971Percy Tait, Dave Croxford744 Triumph84.64 mph
1972Dave Croxford, Mick Grant745 Norton85.00 mph
1973Rex Butcher, Norman White745 Norton82.57 mph

500 mile race results held at alternate circuits

1965Dave Degens, Barry LawtonCastle Combe650 Triumph79.18 mph
1966Dave Degens, Rex ButcherBrands Hatch650 Triumph79.10 mph
1967Percy Tait, Rod GouldBrands Hatch649 Triumph79.15 mph
1968Dave Nixon, Peter ButlerBrands Hatch490 Triumph75.52 mph

Triumph at Thruxton

Former Norton engineer, Doug Hele, joined Triumph as Head of Development in 1964. He started to improve the Bonneville to win at Thruxton (Norton had won the "500" the previous two years)[10] and other circuits. The updated Bonneville was known as the "Thruxton Specification".[11] A few complete machines were produced in 1964,[12][13] and the "Thruxton Bonneville" was exhibited at the Earls Court Motorcycle Show at the end of 1964.[14]

52 Thruxton Bonnevilles were produced in 1965 to allow the bike to meet homologation requirements for production racing.[11][15] About 100 more machines were subsequently manufactured and supplied to selected dealers and riders.[11] Further examples were also built by dealers, with the factory's approval, from factory supplied parts.[15]

The Thruxton Bonneville was successful, winning the 1965, '66 and '67 500 mile races. In 1969 the bike won and took five of the top six places in the race (which had returned to Thruxton that year).[16]

In 2004, the name was resurrected when Triumph Motorcycles Ltd introduced it's retro-styled café racer, the Triumph Thruxton 900.[15] In 2016 the company discontinued this model and introduced the 1,200cc Triumph Thruxton and Triumph Thruxton R models.[17]

Nortons at Thruxton

In 1969 the Norton Motorcycle Company set up a development department at Thruxton circuit to support two racing Norton Commandos to represent the company in the Isle of Man TT races and the Thruxton 500. The Nortons achieved success over five seasons, during which time several improvements and modifications were developed.


  1. Motor Cycle, 10 December 1964. p.987. Goss pulls out. " 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" Accessed 2014-04-01
  2. Motor Cycle, 9 September 1965. Brighton Show Guide. p.365. 'Metropole Mixture'. Triumph stands 6 and 10. "...every 1966 model plus the Dave Degens Bonneville which took Castle Combe 500–mile honours this year;" Accessed 2013-08-17
  3. in 1966, 1967 and 1968. Southampton & District Motor Cycle Club. Official Site. Race Results Retrieved 2013-08-15
  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. "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
  10. "1969 Thruxton 500 mile Grand Prix Official Programme" (PDF). Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  11. "Vintage Mann Magazine" (PDF). September 2015. p. 22. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  12. "Triumph Thruxton Bonneville Replica". Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  13. "Bonneville T120R Thruxton". Triumph Owners' Motor Cycle Club. 26 November 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  14. Falloon, Ian (2015). The Complete Book of Classic and Modern Triumph Motorcycles 1937-Today. Motorbooks. p. 94. ISBN 9780760345450. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  15. Smith, Robert (December 2005). "Origins of the Triumph Thruxton 900 - Classic British Motorcycles - Motorcycle Classics". Motorcycle Classics. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  16. "Sporting History : Results". Southampton and District Motorcycle Club. Archived from the original on 7 January 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  17. "Thruxton Range". Triumph Motorcycles. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
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