RACER ON THE ROAD

Si­mon Wil­son thought he was buy­ing a stan­dard Bon­nie, but it turned out to be a 1966 500-mile race win­ner. We vis­ited him to have a go on it

Classic Bike (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS: MICK DUCK­WORTH PHOTOGRAPHY: GARY MARGERUM & BRIAN HOLDER

Imag­ine buy­ing a Bon­nie, then dis­cov­er­ing it was ac­tu­ally a sig­nif­i­cant race win­ner...

What a stroke of luck! Back in 1990 life­long biker Si­mon Wil­son saw a 1966 Tri­umph Bon­neville T120 he liked the look of in a Bletch­ley dealer’s show­room. He took a test ride and bought it for less than the £2500 ask­ing price, trad­ing a Honda Re­vere. Si­mon later dis­cov­ered that not only was GTR 51D one of only 15 Bon­neville T120 Thrux­ton Pro­duc­tion rac­ers built at the Meriden fac­tory in 1966, it was also the win­ner of that year’s 500-mile Brands Hatch Grand Prix d’en­durance. As a re­sult, he cur­rently has it in­sured for close to £40,000.

As bought, the Tri­umph looked like a stan­dard Bon­nie, lack­ing the rac­ing ver­sion’s fit­ments such as the tuned ex­haust sys­tem and sin­gle seat.

“The first thing that caught my eye when I got it home were the let­ters CR (for Close Ra­tio) on the gear­box,” Si­mon ex­plains. “Then I no­ticed nuts and bolts drilled for lock­ing wire, which sug­gested rac­ing.” A for­tu­itously-timed Thrux­ton Bon­neville fea­ture in CB en­cour­aged him to delve fur­ther into the bike’s his­tory, as­sisted by

DVLA, Meriden his­to­rian Harry Wool­ridge and the Bon­neville Thrux­ton Reg­is­ter started by Hugh Dickson. Si­mon gath­ered ev­i­dence to es­tab­lish that his Bon­nie, num­bered DU40865, was the first of a May 1966 Thrux­ton build, sup­plied to Southamp­ton dealer Law­ton & Wil­son. Pro­pri­etor Syd Law­ton had pre­pared ev­ery win­ner of the Southamp­ton MCC’S an­nual 500-mile race for dealer-en­tered street bikes since 1962. It was tra­di­tion­ally held on the Thrux­ton cir­cuit, but a de­te­ri­o­rat­ing track sur­face forced a move to Cas­tle Combe for 1965, when Dave De­gens and Syd’s son Barry Law­ton won on a first-year Bon­neville Thrux­ton. On re­lo­ca­tion to Brands Hatch in 1966 De­gens, part­nered by Rex Butcher (his co-rider when they won the Barcelona 24 Hour marathon on a Dresda Tri­ton in 1965), took a fifth suc­ces­sive win for Law­ton on GTR 51D.

Si­mon found video of the race clearly show­ing his bike’s rear num­ber plate, elim­i­nat­ing a pos­si­bil­ity that GTR 52D, an iden­ti­cal Thrux­ton sup­plied to Law­ton & Wil­son at the same time, was the win­ner. More proof was found in signs of dam­age to the un­der­side of the

LEFT: Si­mon Wil­son with GTR 51D – his 1966 Tri­umph Bon­neville T120 Thrux­ton racer LEFT: Rex Butcher at the Brands Grand Prix d’en­durance in 1966 – the team won by 10.4 sec­onds

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