Britain’s old colonies have always punched above their weight in motorcycle grand prix racing, largely because bikers in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and elsewhere had nothing to read except Britain’s Isle of Man TT-obsessed biking weeklies. Thus most young racers in those parts of the world grew up dreaming of racing at the TT. And once they had made it to the island most of them went on to contest grands prix in Europe, where the rough and tumble of racing in rudimentary events back home made them fierce competitors.
“Our colonial upbringing had a lot to do with it,” says South African Paddy Driver, who finished third to Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini in the 1965 500cc world championship. “We would make dirt tracks out on the veldt, then we’d get permission from the mayor to close the roads in a local town. They’d put up straw bales and design a circuit out of a few street intersections.
“We all came from the same breed; our grandparents were settlers. In the 19th century they were brought out and dumped in the middle of nowhere with a couple of bags of seed, so nothing was ever a problem for us. That’s the racetrack? Okay, we’ll race on it, no problem at all.