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The only twin that wins

The AJS Porcupine won the inaugural 500cc world championship, the only time a twin cylinder motorcycle has won the top flight 500 / MotoGP world title. Swipe left for more photos. The Duke of Edinburgh started the Senior TT, the opening round of the blue riband 500cc class, which saw a tie for the lead at the end of the first lap between the AJS Porcupine of Les Graham and his team-mate Ted Frend. Unbelievably, they were being chased by Bob Foster’s Moto Guzzi Bicilindrica, almost identical to the bike Stanley Woods won the 1935 race with. Frend crashed at Glen Helen on lap four, allowing Foster to lead the race. Two laps from the finish Foster’s challenge ended when his Guzzi’s clutch failed at Sulby, which moved Graham back into the lead from Norton’s Harold Daniell. Graham’s luck looked to be holding as he started the last lap with a 90 second lead, before the news came through that he was pushing the AJS at Hillberry. Jock West ran alongside him shouting encouragement, Graham pushing in the final two miles for 10th place. The magneto drive had failed, a too regular occurrence due to the rigid gear drive that ran it. Eventually it would be replaced by a more forgiving chain drive. So things could only get better – and they did. Graham recovered to take victory in Switzerland on Berne’s gruelling Bremgarten circuit - the Porcupine’s first grand prix win - and won again at the penultimate round, the Ulster Grand Prix. Graham had finished second to Nello Pagani’s Gilera four at Assen, Holland, but was forced to retire with a split fuel tank at Spa Francorchamps, a race won by teammate Bill Doran. Only a rider’s three best results counted that year, however, so even before the season finale Italian “Nations” Grand Prix at Monza, Graham had done enough to claim the first ever 500cc world championship title. The photos are the follow up E95, easily recognised by the cylinders being angled up compared to the almost flat layout of the original E90. “Porcupine” was a press nickname, reflecting the unusual cooling fin layout. Photo courtesy Bonhams, and TT Pacemakers for the image of Dave Roper parading the bike. More in my Classic TT Racers book, available on Amazon or your local book shop to order

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