Top 10 sporting Triumph motorcycles from Thruxton to Daytona to Speed Triple

As we wait patiently for the Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR to herald the British brand's return to the faired arena, we delve into its sporting archive

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When the last of the limited run Triumph Daytona 765 Moto2 sportsbikes rolled off the line in 2020, we had no idea long we’d have to wait to see another faired motorcycle bearing the Triumph moniker appear.

It turns out we don’t have to wait very long at all as this week will see the wraps come off the half-faired, ‘sports’ RR version of its 1200 Speed Triple

While not strictly a sportsbike in the traditional sense - but really, what constitutes as ‘traditional’ these days anyway - it has definitely gotten us a little misty-eyed over Triumph’s archive of sporty little numbers.

So, without further ado, here’s our 10 best faired Triumph sportsters, in chronological order, to give us some idea of what we can expect…

Triumph Bonneville T120R Thruxton [1964-1967]

Although the original 1959 T120 Bonneville was Triumph’s sportiest bike so far it was never intended for racing. Instead that honour goes to the limited edition, homologation special ‘Thruxton’. 

By the early 1960s, the Thruxton 500 production-based endurance race was firmly established as one of the most prestigious events on the UK calendar being won for three successive years to 1964 by Norton’s 500 ‘Domiracer’. Triumph’s response was a limited-run (just 52 examples were built originally for homologation purposes), tuned, hand-built version based on Triumph’s winner of the 1961 event, which produced 54bhp (against the stock Bonnie’s 46) and which became known as the Thruxton. 

Fitted with a fairing, it won the race three years running (although ironically the race had then been moved to Castle Coombe and then Brands Hatch), during which time further examples were built, and also won the reintroduced Production TT in 1967 and again in 1969, by which time production had ceased and Triumph had turned its attention to its Trident triple.

Triumph T100 Daytona [1967-1974]

Up to 1970 the then biggest motorcycle race in the world, the Daytona 200, ran on a formula allowing 500cc ohv machines but 750cc side-valves which favoured home-grown Harley-Davidson. 

However, in 1966, Triumph entered a special, faired, tuned version of its 500cc T100 Tiger as developed by Doug Hele and promptly won first time out with rider Buddy Elmore. 

That victory led in 1967 to a production street version (without a fairing) dubbed the T100R ‘Daytona’, a second victory with Gary Nixon, Harley return to victory with an updated machine in 1968 and 1969 and, at the end of that year, a new formula for 750cc ohv machines which ushered in a new generation of Formula 750 production based racers. 

The 500 Daytona, meanwhile, remained in production until 1974 and was the name chosen for Hinckley Triumph’s all-new family of faired sportsbikes from 1991.

Triumph ‘Slippery Sam’ [1970]

‘Slippery Sam’ was a Triumph works-built, faired racer based on the Trident 750 targetted at production class racing, including most endurance events. 

The new Formula 750 (F750) class, meanwhile, as used as Daytona among others, allowed pure racing chassis and prompted Triumph’s Rob North-framed F750 racers (below). 

It gained the ‘Slippery Sam’ nickname at the 1970 Bol d’Or 24-hour event, when an oil leak covered the bike and is most famous for winning five consecutive Production TT 750cc events between 1971 and 1975. 

In 2003 the bike was destroyed in the fire at the National Motorcycle Museum but it was completely rebuilt and went back on display within a year.

Triumph F750 ‘Beezumphs’ [1970-71]

Although the 1968 three-cylinder Triumph Trident 750 and its ‘sister bike’, the BSA Rocket3, were never the commercial successes hoped for, being overtaken by the new breed of Japanese fours, the faired, works F750 racing versions, created with special Rob North chassis to promote the bikes, had significant success and remain some of the most celebrated sporting Triumphs (and BSAs) of all. 

With the adoption of the new F750 formula at Daytona for 1970, BSA/Triumph, prompted by its US importers, launched an assault on the race with six bikes (four Triumphs and two BSAs) using special Rob North frames and riders including Mike Hailwood. 

After being pipped by Dick Mann aboard Honda’s new CB750, the team returned even bigger in 1971 with an improved ‘low-boy’ version of the North frame, re-hired Mann and swept the board. 

Mann was actually aboard a BSA version, but Gene Romero grabbed second on a Triumph and the bikes prompted the first Transatlantic Trophy that year and went on to earn a deserved place in motorcycling history.

Triumph Daytona 750/1000 (and later 900/1200) [1991]

When John Bloor’s revived Hinckley-based Triumph unveiled its all-new, six-bike range at the Cologne Show in the autumn of 1990, they blew the motorcycling world away. 

This wasn’t because the actual bikes were world-beaters – they weren’t – but because, after 20 years of British bikes being a laughing stock they were once again credible, modern, reliable and mass-produced. A whole generation had never seen anything like it. 

The six modular bikes were all essentially the same: 750 and 900 three-cylinder Trident roadsters, 900 and four-cylinder 1200 Trophy tourers and 750 and four cylinder 1000 sportster Daytonas. In truth, those first Daytonas, top heavy and basic compared to the EXUPs and ZXRs of the day, were the worst and shortest lived and soon replaced with a more characterful 900 and 1200, and even then they weren’t great. 

But today, the latter two especially, have a growing appeal for their timeless, handsome charm – besides, up to that point they were also the fastest faired Triumph sports bikes ever built.

Triumph Speed Triple 900 [1994]

A bit of a cheeky one this, as the first generation ‘Speedie’ was only arguably a sports bike and was also undeniably unfaired, but its success, significance and heritage as ‘grand-pappy’ of the new Speed Triple RR demands its inclusion here. 

Essentially a ‘naked’ Daytona 900, that first Speed Triple was a crucial, ‘seachange’ moment for revived Triumph signifying the moment the Hinckley-based concern started to find its ‘mojo’, emphasizing the character and history of its predominantly three-cylindered bikes. 

It was also, thanks to the Triumph-sponsored one-make ‘Speed Triple Challenge’ race series, undeniably a racer and one which, via an unnecessarily large, triangular front number board, was also more faired than most realise. 

Speed Triples have been following the aggressive spirit and sporting menace of this original ever since, although there is a certain irony that the original Speedie was an unfaired Daytona whereas this new RR is effectively a faired ‘Speedie’… Ho hum…

Triumph Daytona T595/955i Daytona [1997]

After its initial, necessarily conservative models, reborn Hinckley Triumph took a massive step-up in faired sportsbike terms with the T595 Daytona of 1997. Conceived in parallel with a new naked version, the T509 Speed Triple, the T595 was a bold, all-new gamble. 

Where previous bikes had been based on a modular, ‘parts-bin’ premise, the newcomer had an all-new, 107bhp three-cylinder, 955cc engine, bespoke alloy chassis, top spec cycle parts and swoopy styling by Brit John Mockett. 

The result looked good, handled better (albeit in a slightly heavy, ‘grand tourer’ style way) and went good, too. Trouble was, there were some early concerns with cracking frames and it was launched barely months before Yamaha’s revolutionary 150bhp R1. 

The 1999 955i, with fuel injection and other mods, improved things, but the big Daytona never achieved the success anticipated, being deleted in 2004 and being out-lived by the then 1050cc Speed Triple.

Triumph TT600/2003 Daytona 600 [2000]

By the turn of the Millennium Triumph was on a roll. There were the new Daytona/Speed Triple litre bikes, the retro Bonneville was imminent and, with the fully-faired TT600 supersports, it boldly took on Honda’s class-leading, best-selling CBR600F – and almost pulled it off. 

On paper it had it beat. With 108bhp from its transverse four, a fine-handling twin spar aluminium frame and fuel injection long before it was the class norm, it set new standards. 

Unfortunately, its fuelling was erratic to say the least, it lacked the character and individuality Triumph was becoming known for and sales were poor. 

Reinvented and restyled first as the better Daytona 600 in 2003 (which won the Supersport TT in the hands of Bruce Anstey) then as the gruntier 650 from 2004 which ultimately paved the way for…

Triumph Daytona 675 [2006]

The supersports which – finally – put Triumph back among the (faired) sports bike elite. 

Its characterful, flexible and fast 675cc triple set it apart from the Japanese fours, its more slimline chassis delivered brilliant handling, it looked good and it proved a winner on the track, too, notching wins in British supersports but even more significantly winning the Supersport TT in 2014 the hands of Gary Johnson then repeating the feat in 2019 with Peter Hickman. 

Successively updated and even available in higher spec ‘R’ form, the Daytona 675 was Triumph’s most successful road sports bike before finally being deleted in 2019 (Hickman used a bike sourced from the US).

Triumph 1200 Thruxton RS [2020]

Hinckley Triumph originally revived its Thruxton moniker for the dropped-bar, café racer version of its popular Bonneville retro roadster in 2003. 

Then, when an all-new Bonneville family was launched in 2016 it was headlined by a new, higher performance Thruxton variant, this time also available in improved-spec, Ohlins-equipped ‘R’ form. 

Although still a dropped bar ‘naked’, this time round Triumph also offered an accessory frame-mounted, retro-look, half-fairing and, with the arrival of the even hotter Thruxton RS in 2020, complete with 7bhp increase to 103bhp, Brembo M50 monobloc brakes and more, it’s currently the definitive, fairy, sporty – if ‘retro’ – modern Triumph. 

Following on from this it’s not hard to imagine what the new Speed Triple RR will be like!