If you are in your mid-fifties and love motorcycles, you likely grew up with pictures and posters of Ago or Mike-the-Bike pinned on the wall of your bedroom and the Continental Circus was the window to this magic world. Black Leather, Cromwell, Climax or Barufaldi, the 4-stroke as the only decent answer whatever the architecture used from a single to V8, faultless paint job where advertisement was simply not an option…
The paddock looked indeed very different with numerous works involved along with a long list of private pilots (mainly on Manx) which were all very accessible literally as figuratively as there were no fences on the track.
Laperrousaz’s documentary “Continental Circus” released in 1971 tells well this story with a focus on Jack Findlay, one of the latest private to contend in Grand Prix. This is a documentary, so take it for what it is, no fancy story, just the reflect of what motorcycle racing was in 1970, but at least, do not miss the clip #1 out of 7 that I have posted on the timeline in the year “1971”. These were the most Glorious days of what we called today the Classic Motorcycles; however these were also the darkest as the security on race track was so poor that a crash was likely to be the end of the story for the pilot. The first seconds of this movie are pretty hard and are dedicated to all pilots which paid tribute to their passion by their own life.
May 20, 1973 will be one of the most tragic accidents when Jarno Saarinen and Renzo Pasolini lost their lives in the same crash at Monza in the Curva Grande. For many this is also the end of these old days, which coincides as well with the eradication of the European works from the Grand Prix (last was MV Agusta in 1975) and the domination of the Japanese Works with 2 stroke technology and particularly Yamaha which is the first Japanese works to become world Champion in 500cc.
Private pilots like Jack Findlay, which were travelling across Europe with Wife and racing bike in the minivan will eventually either find a team or retire. Today, I realize this is why I lost the interest for Motorcycle Grand Prix: The magic portion of it was gone when the genuine Continental Circus died.
However, how to summarize these glorious years in less than 25 pictures as all pilots deserve to be mentioned, even if they never won anything. The selection was difficult and I hope you will enjoy it. I will open the board to any suggestion and will add the one you would like to see included…. as long as it was before 1975.