Home Royal News Biker Prince: William shows off his skills in the East Midlands

Biker Prince: William shows off his skills in the East Midlands

by Stephen Taylor

Prince William has been in the East Midlands where he visited the Triumph motorcycle factory in Hinckley and the MIRA Technology Park in Nuneaton, getting the opportunity to take to the wheel of some very fast vehicles.

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At the Triumph factory yesterday, The Duke of Cambridge got the opportunity to test ride one of their latest models, the Tiger 1200. A keen biker himself, the Duke looked comfortable aboard the powerful machine, and has owned two Triumphs himself over the years.

Rigged out in a black helmet and biker’s jacket, the Prince commented at the end of the spin around the factory track: “very nice, but not long enough”.

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Inside the factory, William was shown around by Triumph Chief Executive Nick Bloor, who showed the royal a new paint shop, due to open this spring.

Getting involved, the Duke stuck a Triumph emblem on the engine block of a part-built Tiger 1200.

Triumph celebrated 115 years of motorcycle building last year and now builds around 67,000 bikes a year, which are sold in 57 countries across the world.

During his visit the Royal also opened the Triumph Motorcycles Factory Visitor Experience, a free to enter exhibition showcasing a collection of Triumph’s historic and modern achievements in motorcycle design, engineering, and racing.

On display is the motorbike Steve McQueen is depicted jumping the barbed wire fence in the 1960s war movie, The Great Escape. Touching the bike, the Duke said: “That’s amazing – to actually do the jump on this bike back then was a big risk.”

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Instead of the traditional plaque, The Duke of Cambridge unveiled a commemorative petrol tank, hand-painted with the Union flag and the words ‘HRH The Duke of Cambridge KG KT’ across it. The post-nominal letters reference William’s belonging to the Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle.

Paint shop team leader Tony Hobbs, who had spent 20 hours painstakingly working on the tank said: “I painted it all by hand – it was nerve-racking but well worth it in the end.

“I’ve been heavily involved in the new paint shop so it was hard to fit the time in. It was amazing when he spoke to me, and I love the finished product which will stay in the visitors centre for everybody to see.”

The Duke chatted to design team leader Dave Hall, who he suggested must be a keen biker because of his biker-style beard. Dave, who has been at Triumph for 24 years, said: “I really didn’t know what to say to him, but I think he’s a biker too because I heard he had a Daytona 675.”

Triumph chief commercial officer Paul Stroud said the Duke bought his first bike, a Triumph Daytona 600, when he was 21, which was followed by a 675. Paul said: “One thing that really came out from the tour is that he’s a massive motorbike fan. It’s one of his major passions and he was keen to have a go on one.

“He would have ridden it for much longer if he could have, to be honest. It was fantastic for the Duke to join us to celebrate the launch of the new visitor experience and to introduce him to some of the team,” Stroud said. “As well as a passion for motorcycles he also has a passion for supporting businesses like ours.”

Prince William then moved onto MIRA Technology Park in Nuneaton. The Prince had asked to visit HORIBA MIRA, where he got to see first-hand how the facility provides pioneering engineering, research and test services to the transport industry.

Displayed on the facility’s steering pad were a range of vehicles which had been developed or tested there, including Rolls Royce, Bentley, McLaren and Aston Martin, as well as trucks and military vehicles.

Also on show was a NIMR Rapid Intervention Vehicle developed by MIRA for the UAE Royal Guard. The vehicle has been specially designed for the desert and it is capable of 100mph. Of course, the Duke was part of the RAF for a number of years and will one day head the Armed Forces.

Also on show was a HORIBA MIRA Panama, a remote control unmanned vehicle commissioned by the MoD to perform route proving and clearance in Afghanistan.

William also experienced new technology developed on the site, including driverless vehicles, as well as the high speed and wet weather handling test tracks.

Enjoying his second speed experience of the day, the Duke was taken for a high-speed passenger ride in an Aston Martin DB11 before experiencing the same car on the wet weather track, where he had a go at driving himself.

After that he was taken for a spin on a city track in a driverless car developed by MIRA.

The visit then moved to a reception where the Prince met apprentices, PhD students ex-services personnel and MIRA staff. Dr George Gillespie, CEO of MIRA, welcomed the Prince to the facility and showed him around.

He said: “It was a privilege. He is a very personable and engaged individual and seemed to genuinely enjoy himself.

“He actually asked to come here. That is recognition of what we are doing here and what is going on here is getting out there – when the future King of England says he would like to see what’s going on.

“He really enjoyed driving the Aston Martin on our low friction surface. He said several times he wants to come back. He really enjoyed it and I think he genuinely enjoyed it.

“What I was struck with is how good he is at putting people at ease. It allowed everyone, whether our apprentices or graduates, to really engage with him.”

Madeleine Cheah, a Coventry University PhD student who recently finished her research into cyber security and is now working for MIRA, was one of the people who met the Prince.

She said: “It was great. He was lovely and showed a real interest in all the things we were showing off here and cyber security in particular.”

Photos: Kensington Palace

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