Percy Tait, one of the great characters of British road racing in the late sixties and early seventies, died last weekend at the age of 90.
Not only a great character but a great rider known to racing fans for helping put Triumph on the racing map. But also equally well known in the farming community for his prize winning sheep at agricultural shows all over the country.
Born on a farm within shouting distance of Meriden, he joined the Triumph assembly line when he was 21 and then to the experimental department where he was encouraged to go road racing. He graduated to Doug Hele’s racing department working on frame development while at the same time being the main test rider covering a 1000 miles a week, some times doing his daily mileage before breakfast and then working on the farm.
His talent as a racer was soon recognised and in that great era for Triumph he raced alongside and competed with the likes of Paul Smart, Gary Nixon and Ray Pickrell with whom he won the 1971 Bol d’Or 24 race.
But perhaps his greatest achievment was finishing second to Giacomo Agostini on his three cylinder MV in the 1969 Belgian GP. His 500cc Triumph Daytona averaged 116mph. He and mechanics Arthur Jakeman and Jack Shemans travelled to Spa in a Ford Transit van where they slept together with the bike. Those were the days.
Later he helped Suzuki develop their 500cc Grand Prix bike for Barry Sheene but continued to race until his late forties, helping develop the legendary Triumph three “Slippery Sam” but then retiring when he crashed “Son of Sam” at the 1976 TT.
Then he became a dealer for Suzuki while still turning out for the occasional parades at circuits like the TT.
But success as a farmer and sheep breeder continued with wins at the Royal Show, the Royal Welsh Show and the Scottish Highland Show with rare breeds from his Worcestershire farm.