Circus Life - Australian Motorcycle Racers In Europe In The 1950s

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  • Circus Life: Australian Motorcycle Racers In Europe In The 1950s By Don Cox
  • Circus Life: Australian Motorcycle Racers In Europe In The 1950s By Don Cox
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From the co-author of Australian Motorcycle Heroes 1949-1989 and the author of The Aussies & 2 NZ Blokes

Foreword by Australia’s 1969 world 250 champion Kel Carruthers Hard-cover 480-page book with more than 300 photographs, the majority previously unpublished Background on 40 Australians who raced in Europe from 1948 to 1960

The Story:

Which sport saw the first Australians compete behind the Iron Curtain? In the 1950s which profession allowed a welder from Prahran and a toolmaker from Belfield to earn 15 times their regular weekly wage?

Welcome to the gypsy world of the Continental Circus private entrants – warts and all – with the joys, camaraderie, heartache, laughs and low acts. It was a time when rider usually had to be truck driver, mechanic, cook and start-money negotiator as well. And management help? You wish! In the 1950s, it was considered un-Australian to push your own barrow.

Travel with the young men criss-crossing a still rebuilding Europe, racing for a living – some on the road with their mates, others with their new brides. Drift a Manx Norton flat out with Bob Brown at Spa-Francorchamps. Learn the Isle of Man Mountain section with Maurie Quincey. Take on race organisers over starting money with Jack Ahearn and Keith Campbell. Cure an electrical problem with your teeth and mend a broken gear linkage with fencing wire. Cross the mine fields into East Germany, where one wrong move could put you in a gulag. Experience the highs, lows and scary hospitals – stories even the men who lived them reckon people would not believe.

The product of eight years’ research and writing, Circus Life goes far deeper than the typical ‘who won what and when’. It puts you on the grid at long forgotten public-road circuits like St Wendel and Hedemora; in the van trundling across Europe in high summer and behind the Iron Curtain on the oil-stained roads of Brno.

Book Details:

Publisher Code: 9780646534251

Author:  Don Cox
Published: 2012
Pages: 480
Dimension: 245x320mm
Hard Bound, colour and b/w illustrations

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5 Reviews

  • 5
    Circus Life - Australian Motorcycle Racers In Europe In The 1950s

    Posted by John L. on 9th Aug 2017

    An excellent, well-researched account of the Australians who raced on the European motorcycle circuit in the 1950s, some becoming our first ever world champions at any motor sport events (Keith Campbell, Tom Phyllis). I particularly like the style of the book, the fleshing out of the locations and events taking place before, during and after the races. The book provides many humorous anecdotes and amusing stories about these men, their wifes, girlfriends and colleagues, and the about the bikes. Most of all its about the incredibly tough nature of making a living from race entrance fees and prize monies, and survival in a highly dangerous racing world. These guys really were like the early US test pilots of the 50s portrayed in Wolfe's "The Right Stuff" as so many of them didn't make it back alive. An excellent and beautifully illustrated with historical photographs.

  • 5
    Super Fast Shipping

    Posted by Novella B. on 14th Apr 2016

    Arrived in excellent condition! Would definitely recommend.

  • 5
    Circus Life Book Foreward

    Posted by Kel Carruthers (Murrieta, California) on 28th Feb 2013

    Don Cox has done a masterful job in authoring and co-authoring two previous books on the Aussie riders and engineers competing in the Grand Prix World Championship, and I feel privileged to be asked to write the foreword on his newest book: a work covering those riders who undertook the not-so-easy task of racing in Europe in the 1950s. As a youngster in the early '50s I knew most of these riders, and later in that era I was able to compete with them on Australian circuits. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to be able to do as they did and fulfill the dream of competing in Europe. Surprisingly, in a period in Australia when to travel between capital cities to race was not lightly undertaken, the decision by many to take up the mighty challenge of heading to another continent to compete on the circuits of Europe was probably easy to make. After all, how could any competitive road racer not want to compete at the Isle of Man and on the other classic circuits of Europe? And so off they went — our very best, some more skilled than others, but all wanting to do the Aussie thing of giving it a go. The lucky ones had a mate to help them. The really lucky ones had a supportive wife to celebrate the successes and share the disappointments. Australian sportsmen have always been willing to take on the world, and our riders had the ability and determination to do just that. However, they were soon to discover the truth in what Jack Ahearn, one of our best-ever riders, has so often said: riding the motorcycle was the easy part. That was never truer than in the 1950s, and it's something that continued through the '60s and '70s. What they found out was that the dreaded Pacific and Hume Highways were not so bad after all and, in a world before the Internet, negotiating for a start and for start money was a difficult and frustrating affair. After finally reaching an agreement with the event organisers and making their way through the various country borders and their border officials, they then had to face some very difficult circuits. Australia is fortunate to have Phillip Island — one of the premier circuits on the current world championship schedule. How ironic is it that in that period of Grand Prix racing, where circuits could measure anything from eight to 37 miles, a circuit such as Phillip Island would have been regarded as being a nice little short circuit. Regardless of whether it was a Grand Prix circuit, a local through-the-town or countryside circuit, those tracks always had two things in common; they were always dangerous and always difficult to learn. In this book, Don gives the reader a sense of what it was really like to race in Europe back then. While many of our friends achieved great success, it's unfortunate that all too many of them never returned home. Successful or not, I can assure the reader of one thing; they all had the time of their lives.

  • 4
    Circus Life Book

    Posted by Thomas J on 28th Feb 2013

    Quantity for sure :) over three kilos. Anyway good book.

  • 5
    Touching Book on Australian Heroes.

    Posted by Damien on 26th Jan 2013

    Amazing reading from Don Cox, brought back a lot of memories. Quality and quantity!!!

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