Norton Commando. Peter Williams. 1969.

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32. Peter Williams

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The development of the two-stroke engine was moving forward fast, on many fronts, and it was becoming difficult to extract more power from the Starmaker single to remain competitive in road racing, so from 1969, AJS concentrated on the development of the Starmaker, for the Y4 Scrambler.

Peter Inchley retired from racing and took on the role of Competitions Manager. He had eventually produced 40bhp, from the Starmaker, in its ultimate guise, and had given the early water-cooled Yamaha twins, a good run for their money.  

Now his main interest was with the Norton Team, at Thruxton, and he concentrated on the race development of the Norton Commando, whilst the Starmaker engined AJS Y4 Scrambler was to go on, to perform admirably under Fluff Brown.

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Peter Williams / Norton Villiers Performance Shop Ltd / Thruxton Airfield

But this was a time when Peter Inchley became frustrated, he had to learn to rely on others to do things, which he thought he could do better himself, he had lost his freedom, he was now working in the more restrictive corporate world, of Norton Villiers.

He still took the chance to take the bikes out for testing and development, and after a decade of racing, there was bound to be a few spills. He had been put in the back of an ambulance once with a broken bone, only to fight his way out, past the medics, and walk away whilst feigning perfect health. He also dropped the Norton Commando, at Thruxton, whilst testing with Peter Williams, he was going into the Chicane and he instictively put his hand up to protect his precious pudding basin helmet. The top of his middle left finger was taken clean off, by track abrasion, his remedy, tissue paper, and white masking tap, his work though was to leave a lasting legacy.

By now Peter Williams had come to work with Peter Inchley, and in time he was destined to also become a true champion He was highly regarded by British motorcycle fans, because he too, was a race winner. It may also have been in part, because he chose to stay with a British Motorcycle firm, striving to remain competitive against the onslaught of Japanese manufacturers, which had substantially more power.

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John Player Norton / 1973

His father was Jack Williams, who had been in charge of the AMC race department.

He had told Peter he could go racing, when he could afford to pay for it. Peter first rode an AJS 250cc supplied by Tom Arter and partnered Tony Wood to victory in the 1964 Lightweight Class of the Thruxton 500. This earnt him a ride on Paul Dunstalls’ Domi Racer, at the 1965 IOM TT, however it blew up on the first lap. For 1966, Tom Arter took Peter under his wing, and Peter became one of Britains best short circuit scratchers.

He turned down a factory ride for MZ that year, and for several years in the late 60’s Peter raced Toms G50 powered “special” framed bike. Known as the “Arter” Matchless”, the frame originally started off as a sister frame to a “Surtees” 7R Special, but was remodelled over time in larger diameter Reynolds tubing, and was refined in many other subtle ways.

Peter was already experimenting, by reducing frontal fairing area, and maximising engine cooling with the use of cooling ducts, within the fairing space. By a process of continuous refinement, and exceptional riding ability, Peter was able to keep up with and occasionally beat Agostini, on his works MV.

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Peter Williams / John Player Norton / IOM 1973

The high spot of the 1966 season was his second place to Giacomo Agostini, who was riding a works MV Augusta, Peter was later to come second to Agostini three times in Senior TT’s, he notes dryly, that on the only occasion that he beat Agostini, Agostini fell off!

Peter was second in the Senior TT in 1967 and led the World Championship for five weeks with other second places, but a major crash at the East German GP put him out for the rest of the season. He still managed to finish fourth in the World Championship though.

So Peter was already well known when he joined the Norton Villiers Performance Shop, part time, in 1968.

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Peter Williams / Matchless Arter / 1969

Peter won the 500cc British Championship in 1970, on the Arter Matchless. Whilst he was working for Peter Inchley, at Norton Villiers, he had joined on the understanding, that he would be employed as a rider, as well as in the drawing office, during the day, he worked on the Norton Commando and in the evenings, he worked on the Arter Matchless.

Finally Peter Inchley decided to have one last ride, he left Norton Villiers early in 1971 and returned to racing, in the British 125cc Championships, he came second to Barry Sheene, on an ex-works MZ, the rest is history, he went on to develop the first 500cc water-cooled Suzuki, he was an exceptional development engineer and an extraordinary racing talent.

Frank Perris, then took over Peter Inchley’s legacy at Norton Villiers Performance Shop, and worked to obtain sponsorship from John Player’s for the Norton, and the team went on to develop a full F750 racer, on which, Peter Williams later won the F750 TT, at the Isle of Man.

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AJS Stormer 250cc Y4 & 370cc Y5 Leaflet / 1969

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