In the main street of the Northern Victorian town of Mooroopna stands a monument to a legend of the motorcycle racing community. Little known to myself and most of the non motorsport community I thought I’d take a look at the man from this small town who rose to fame on the world stage… I give you, Jack Findlay.Jack Findlay entered the world in Mooroopna in 1935 and was named by his parents Cyril John Findlay. Jack grew up in Northgate street a little lees than 100 metres from where his monument stands today.
Stories have it that Jack became interested in motorcycle racing after seeing an article in a newspaper when he was 10 years of age and immediately his passion for motorcycle racing and his desire to become a professional racer was born. Five years later, at the age of 15, young Cyril “borrowed” his fathers drivers licence to obtain a competition licence, and from that point on he became John ‘Jack’ Findlay.
Jack craved action and in particular motorcycle racing – if he was to pursue this passion he knew life in a quite country town was no longer for him, and so he headed to Melbourne where he found work as a bank teller. In 1957 with his wife in tow, Jack headed to England, in particular Birmingham, which at the time was the centre of the motorcycle industry.
Despite no real racing success to his credit, Jack continued to pursue his dream. However in 1961 his wife and child returned to Australia leaving Jack alone to continue to pursue his dream of racing success. He eventually met and entered a long term relationship with a French woman by the name of Nanou who was to become his agent and organised his race appearances.
The 1960’s was a tough time for motorcycle racers, in particular 1969, a year in which 11 top riders lost their lives. If two riders were killed today there would be all sorts of investigations to ensure that it did not happen again, however in 1969 racing was known as a dangerous sport and the riders all knew the risks. It’s no surprise that at that time circuit design and safety was not considered by organisers and riding apparel had little changed in almost half a century.
By that stage Jack had developed into a brave and resilient racer and excelled on big, fast public road circuits such as the Isle of Man. Despite riding his self prepared Matchless which was designed in 1958, Jack managed to finish third in the 1966 500cc world championship and second in 1968.
In the 1970’s Jack received some support from the Suzuki factory and went on to win the 1973 Isle of Man Senior time trial. In 1975 riding a Yamaha he won the formula 750 world championship.
It’s an amazing story of a young man from a small country town in Australia, dreaming big, taking on the world and succeeding. This monument celebrates the life of Jack, and recognizes his achievements mainly as a privateer taking on the might of factory sponsored teams. You may be able to see in the attached photo that Jack had a Kangaroo on his helmet throughout his career.
If you are in Mooroopna, and even have just a passing interest in motorsport, it is worth pulling over and acknowledging the feats of this man from country Victoria.
NB: I wish to acknowledge information gained from monument Australia and the Sydney Morning Herald in helping piece together the story of Jack Findlay.