Saturday, 30 June 2012

Continental Circus

I came across a mention of the film 'Continental Circus' on the Mechamotors blog and thought I'd see if I could find out more about it. There's a small entry on IMDB that mentions that the film was made by Jérôme Laperrousaz, was released in 1972, and is 120 minutes long.
I had a look on YouTube and parts of the film are available there. These total about 45 minutes, so are less than half the film. It centres around Australian rider Jack Findlay and his French wife Dominique as Jack competes in the 1970 Grand Prix Championship. Jack was a 'privateer' without any factory support, so it's amazing to see how well he does on his Seeley against the likes of Agostini on his factory MV.
(Would I be right in thinking that his Seeley would have had a Matchless engine?)
As the film was made by a French film maker, any dialogue not in French is subtitled, but it's not too hard to follow. Note that Jack and Dominique sometimes converse in English and sometimes in French.
It's an insight of the end of an era in racing when bikes had no sponsors' names on their fairings and a talented privateer could compete with the factory teams. However, it was also an era when safety was given a low priority, and riders in thin, unarmoured leathers and 'pudding bowl' helmets could hit unguarded trackside objects, and there seemed to be a lack of marshals in attendance.

The film doesn't appear to be available on DVD at the moment, only VHS, if anyone buys it please let us know what the rest of it is like (or even post it on YouTube). There is also a picture book.

YouTube clips:

Part 1 – An introduction and a run down of riders killed racing during that era, followed by some footage of the horrendous crashes riders experienced. The reaction of Santiago Herrero's wife when he (presumably) crashes says it all.

Part 2 – Isle of Man TT

Part 3 – Assen, Netherlands

Part 4 – Spa, Belgium

Part 5 – Sachsenring, East Germany

Part 6 – Brno, Czechoslovakia

Part 7 – Imola, Italy

Also, it may interest mr combo, or any other hippies out there, that the soundtrack was by Gong and is available here.

The following season, Jack switched to Suzuki TR500s, and a sculpture of him was erected in his hometown of Mooroopna, Victoria.

Sadly, Jack passed away in 2007.


  1. Interesting and sad to hear of Santiago Herrero. Thanks for adding a bit more to my (scant) knowledge of Spanish sporting heroes.

  2. Like so many others, Herrero's life was tragically short. Until the late 70s/early 80s, riders (and racing car drivers) were treated like a 'commodity' by teams and track owners - get killed or injured, there's always someone else who'll take your place. I can remember people like Barry Sheene and Jackie Stewart being denigrated for campaigning for track safety, and being accused of being 'soft' because they didn't want to die. There was a shocking programme on the BBC a few months ago about car racing in the 70s. Drivers were left to burn to death in their cars unless other drivers stopped to help, and Jackie Stewart was once trapped in his car for 25 minutes before an ambulance was allowed to rescue him. Sometimes the 'good old days' weren't so good after all!

  3. Found the BBC documentary on car racing: