LONDON (Reuters) - British motorcycle great Geoff Duke has died at the age of 92 on the Isle of Man, the sport's spiritual home where the six times world champion raced to six TT victories in the 1950s.
The man known as 'The Duke' in an era when British bike manufacturers and riders led the world, retired from the championship in 1959 after 33 grand prix victories. One of Britain's top sports personalities in the post-war period, he was voted Sportsman of the year in 1951 and also entered motorcycling legend as the first rider to compete in one-piece leathers.
"Really sad to hear the passing of Geoff Duke. A true hero in our sport," said current British MotoGP rider Cal Crutchlow, a fellow Manx resident, on Twitter as news of his death in Douglas on Friday became known.
Duke's son Peter told bikesportnews.com that the former champion had died peacefully after a long illness. Italy's 15 times world champion Giacomo Agostini was saddened at the passing of one of his boyhood idols.
"He was a very good rider. I started to race after he had already stopped but I read about him, his victories. People called him 'the Iron Duke'," he told BT Sport at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez.
"I met him sometimes at some circuits...he did a lot for motorcycling."
Born in St Helens in north-west England, Duke served as a motorcycle despatch rider during World War Two and then took up road racing.
He won the 1950 Senior TT on a Norton, setting records along the way, and took three world championships before switching to the Italian Gilera factory and winning three more.
Duke won two 350cc titles with Norton in 1951 and 1952 while his other four were in 500cc -- one with Norton in 1951 and the rest with Gilera in 1953, 1954 and 1955.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Mitch Phillips)