Greater Shepparton Sports Hall of Fame
Jack Findlay was born in Mooroopna on February 5, 1935.
Growing up living in Northgate St, young Jack (born Cyril) fell in love with motorcycle racing and during his boyhood set his sights on a professional career.
‘‘He was reading the newspaper one day and saw these blokes racing motorbikes and said to himself ‘that’s what I’m going to do’,’’ family friend Noel Heenan said.
When aged 15, he used his father’s drivers licence to gain his motorcycle licence and from there his father’s name Jack stuck.
Findlay raced motorcycles in his youth, falling in love with the sport and by the time he reached the age of 23 he followed his dream to compete internationally.
‘‘Jack went to Europe and never came back,’’ Heenan said.
‘‘He was married when he left and his wife went overseas with him, but they had no money, so she came back home bringing their young son with her.
‘‘He went through some hardships over there, but he had this never-say-die attitude.
‘‘They were the travelling circus ... once they would finish a season, they would immediately start the next.’’
Findlay never faltered in his pursuit and gradually edged towards becoming an established name on Europe’s racing circuits.
‘‘He was originally based in England and would work through the winter at a car factory and in the summer he would race,’’ Heenan said.
‘‘A lot of Australians went to Europe, but they couldn’t handle the pressure. Jack ended up racing 20 seasons over there.’’
While Findlay attended races in his van, his competition would roll up in a Porsche, but he had a brilliance that started to bring results.
‘‘He was proud to race as an Australian and had the image of a kangaroo emblazoned on his racing helmet,’’ Heenan said.
‘‘He always had his helmet with him and he was famous for it, they called him the ‘White Kangaroo’.’’
Riding as a privateer against the might of the factory teams, Findlay’s talent and dogged persistence helped him win three 500cc Grand Prix events in Austria, Northern Island and the Isle of Man.
In 1963, Findlay won 11 international races and he twice won the title of best privateer in the world championship in 1966 and 1968.
‘‘Jack would walk into a room and he was a movie star,’’ Heenan said.
‘‘He had this air about him which included his personality and looks.
‘‘You would never hear a bad word about Jack Findlay ... he was a hero in France.’’
In 1973, he became the only Australian rider to win the Isle of Man senior TT event.
‘‘We’ve had hundreds of Australians ride the Isle of Man and none have won it besides Jack,’’ Heenan said. ‘‘A lot are buried in the cemetery there because it’s so dangerous — there were three deaths this year alone.
‘‘The crowds would just go beserk for him.’’
His success brought him fame and the movie Continental Circus featured Jack Findlay as himself in a film about the extremes of Grand Prix Racing.
‘‘He didn’t come home much, I probably only saw him five or six times, but we would just sit there and talk to him,’’ Heenan said.
‘‘He had this presence that drew people to him and he was our hero.
‘‘So many of his friends got killed racing, but somehow he overcame all of that and continued racing.’’
After retiring, Findlay stayed in France and became a test rider for the Michelin company, playing a key role in the development of its slick tyres. He then became a director of the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme, the governing body of motorcycle racing.
‘‘His role was to look at fuel, make sure no-one was cheating and look at the eligibility of a bike,’’ Heenan said.
Findlay eventually became sick with emphysema and died aged 72.
‘‘He had never smoked in his life, but doctors said all the years spent developing engines in tiny rooms with weird fuels contributed to his death,’’ Heenan said.
Jack Findlay showed what can be achieved if you have a dream, take risks and are prepared to work hard to earn the results you desire.