Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Vale Keith Heckles and the last time Velocette won a TT…..1967

When I set out to do this blog, Keith Heckles featured in it because he finished second in the 1967 IOM 500cc class of the Production TT.....I was preparing a blog of the last time Velocette won a TT...... however Keith passed away on 28th January 2010, aged 75 year old.
So a short tribute to him from several people, featured on the Manx Grand Prix Community website...the URL is...

1967 Manx Grand Prix lap record holder, Keith Heckles has died. Keith passed away peacefully at his home in Liverpool. He was 75 years old.
A past vice chairman of the Riders' Association, Keith's best finish in the MGP was second. Moving on to the TT, he famously started with Giacomo Agostini on two occasions.
Keith's funeral will take place on Tuesday 2nd February, 10.30am at Springwood Crematorium, Garston, Liverpool. Donations in lieu of flowers to the TTRA.

Mike Steel (right) and Keith Heckles with the Junior Beart Norton on which Keith finished second in the 1966 Junior MGP. Photo from Manx GP community website.

Keith during the 1967 Production TT.
Photo courtesy ...Bill Snelling, IOM.


As the name of this blog indicates, 1967 was the last time Velocette won a TT, they were first and second in the 500cc class of the Production TT..... during their active racing efforts up until the early 1950's, a 500cc win, then the Senior TT, eluded them.... ironic that they finally won in a 500cc class.....
The following is the article I did in the current Australian Velocette OC magazine, Fish Tail Down Under ...number FTDU350.....
I acknowledge Mortons Motorcycle Media for the MotorCycling and The MotorCycle items and Motorcyclist Illustrated for the colour photo of the winner Neil Kelly....
Left click on image in the blog to enlarge....

The last time Velocette won a TT…..1967

Taken from “MotorCycling”, June 17, 1967.

Acknowledgement is made to Morton’s Motorcycle Media, copyright holders.

“Heading a Velocette one-two, Manxman Neil Kelly won the 500cc class at an average speed of 89.89mph.”

As the 500s keyed themselves up to start five minutes after the unlimited class got away and the 250s waited to get away after another five minute interval, John Hartle had snatched the 750cc lead inside a couple of miles. And from then on, with clear roads in front of him all the way, he was never headed.

Fastest man of the 500 class by over four mph with a practice lap of 25 minutes 23 seconds ( 89.18mph), Percy Tait started a firm favourite in the 14 strong 500cc race.

But as other riders kicked their engines into life, Graham Penny pressed the starter button on his 444cc Honda and got away at the head of the field, closely followed by Hugh Evans (BSA A50) and Tony Dunnell (305 Honda).

Tait left with the pack, as Bob Biscardine, Neil Kelly and Arthur Lavington all struggled to coax their reluctant Velocette “Thruxton Venoms” to life.

Yet by the time they reached Ballacraine, Kelly lay third on the Reg Orpin machine behind leader Keith Heckles with the Geoff Dodkin “Thruxton Venom” and Penny – and barely a second between each of them.

But there was no sign of Tait, and the leaders were through Ramsay, 24 miles out, before the Ballaugh Bridge commentator reported that Percy had gone over the famous jump “touring”. So it looked as though Triumph had next to no chance of pulling off a 500 and 750cc double, even with Hartle already so far ahead in the big class.

On the gruelling 1400 ft. climb from Ramsey to the Bungalow, Kelly wrested the lead from Heckles and started to pull away- the Peel rider upsetting the form book since he had not once figured on the 500cc leader board in practice.

Interesting this…my information was that they used standard Venom Thruxton engines in practice, but were given special squish head engines from Veloce Ltd for the race…these with another 4½BHP…Bertie Goodman told this to me in a letter. .Ed

But, despite his good start, Evans was already out of the race- with a hole in the BSA’s crankcase at Quarry Bends.

Lapping at 88.29mph, Kelly started his second circuit eight seconds in front of Heckles with Penny third, ahead of Dave Nixon (Triumph T100) and Norman Hanks (BSA A50), hotly challenged by Alan Peck on another T100.

Seventh came Ron Baylee on his Triumph 5TA, then Declan Doyle (Norton 88SS) and Biscardine.

Lavington retired at the pits with suspected suspension trouble. And, last of all, was Tait in fourteenth place, and already behind 11 of the 250cc runners who had started five minutes in arrears.

But after fitting a new plug, he set off in pursuit.

And what a pursuit! For Percy flashed through “MotorCyclings’s” “Highlander” time trap to clock the fastest 500cc maximum of the day at 122.9mph. But, less than a mile later on, he overdid it at Appledene and crashed, sustaining abrasions for which he was taken to Noble Hospital after the race.

At the end of the lap, the only leader board change was that Peck had snatched fifth place from Hanks by a fifth of a second. But Penny lost third place within yards of starting the last lap when he stopped for petrol as Nixon flashed by.

Putting in his best time of the race with a lap at 91.01mph, Kelly pulled still further ahead on the final circuit to win by just 8 seconds from Heckles –both ahead of the eighth 750.”

Neil Kelly in Parliament Square on the winning Velocette Venom Thruxton.

Page from the IOM TT program for the 1967 races...

MotorCycling's speed trap results....

The MotorCycle's
speed trap results...

A bronze TT Replica.......

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