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 Arthur Wheeler 1917 - 2001

1952 Junior TT. Arthur with his pre-war
MkVIII KTT Velocette (1952 84ff)

Arthur Wheeler, the grand old man of road racing, passed away quite suddenly on 9th June 2001.
Just a few weeks short of his 85th birthday - and still extremely active - Arthur had contracted septicaemia a short while after breaking an arm. He had been in good health until shortly before is death, indeed he had spent the early part of this year touring Australia with former Formula 3 champion John Kidson.

A quite phenomenal competitor, Arthur’s racing career spanned seven decades and several continents - but the vast majority of road miles were on one bike, his faithful 250 Moto Guzzi single. His first connection with the Isle of Man came just prior to World War Two in the 1937 Manx Grand Prix when he rode a 350cc Velocette in the Junior. He retired in that race but came back after the war to contest the Junior and Senior on the same Velo, finishing 11th and 10th respectively.

Two further assaults on the MGP were to follow, with a sixth in the ‘47 Junior and a fifth in the 1948 Senior being his best results. Manx riders were allowed to enter the Clubmans TT, Arthur retired from the 1947 Lightweight Clubman, but finished 7th in the 1948 Junior Clubman on a KSS Velocette.

Moving up to the TT proper, the motorcycle dealer from Epsom in Surrey won countless replicas. He was fifth in the 1951 Lightweight TT (third in the Ulster GP the same year); fourth in the 1953 TT and again two years later on the Clypse circuit in a race won by Bill Lomas on the MV.

1962 Lightweight TT. Arthur swings his ex-works 250 Guzzi
through Quarter Bridge (1962 310ff)

A regular on the Continental Circus, as it was known, Arthur also scored numerous top six finishes in major GPs. He was fourth at Assen in 1952 and sixth in Germany the same year; fourth at the 1954 Ulster, sixth in Holland, fourth in Germany and first in Italy on the famous Monza circuit. That year he finished fourth in the world championship behind the factory NSU trio of Werner Haas, Rupert Hollaus and Herman Peter Muller. He had a fifth at the Nurburgring the following year; third in the 1956 Ulster behind Luigi Taveri and Sammy Miller; fourth at Belgium in 1957 and fifth at Assen towards the end of his professional career.

One of his last TTs was the 1962 Lightweight in which he finished just off the podium in fourth place in the race won by Derek Minter on the Honda. In the same year he won the 250 class of the Argentine GP, and finished third in the World Championship behind Jim Redman and Bob McIntyre on Honda 4s. Then, after a 20 year gap, Arthur returned to the Mountain Course to contest the Classic Manx Grand Prix on the same faithful ex-works Guzzi. He rode nine races between 1983 and 1989 with a fifth in ‘83 and a sixth in ‘88 - when aged 72! During the same period he also rode the Pre-TT Classic and Southern 100 classic races, making three return trips to the Island each summer.

1987 Classic TT, and a classic line through Glentrammon
(1987 MGP 9361c ff)

For many years Arthur rode sidecar trials in the winter, winning numerous awards on his Triumph outfit. He stayed with Kevin and Vanessa Cubbon of Onchan for much of the latter years.

They were the first on the Island to hear of Arthur’s death and Vanessa was one of a number of callers to sum Arthur up in two words - Perfect Gentleman

John Watterson
Isle of Man Newspapers

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