“On the last lap Bill takes a chance. With Rogliardo edging alongside as they enter the ultra-fast Malmédy bend, Beevers leaves his braking late to keep his opponent at bay but drifts slightly off-line and gets onto the marbles. The bike spins out of control allowing the Frenchman to sneak through to bag second place. Worse, the centrifugal force of the gyrating outfit throws Bill off leaving John heading for potential disaster with a trackside post looming up...”
A book of anecdotes, reminiscences and fascinating adventures based on John Chisnall’s experiences over two decades of motorcycle racing at the Isle of Man TT and major European and British tracks.
Our sole intention in writing this book is to amuse, to entertain and to tweak the strings of nostalgia.
And The Wheels Went Round by John Chisnall and Anthony Davies.
I have just finished a biography of Dick Seaman who raced cars successfully before WWII, eventually driving for Mercedes. He came from a very wealthy family and was able to indulge his passion for speed by spending the equivalent of millions in today’s values.
John Chisnall’s story is a complete contrast to Dick Seaman’s but is just as entertaining to anyone interested in the background to racing anything with an engine. Born into a modest but loving family a couple of years before WWII, John was brought up by his mother who worked tirelessly to provide for her children after her husband was called up but she always managed to read to them each evening "on all sorts of subjects". John dedicates the book to his parents.
He started on two wheels like most of us riding a pushbike and moved on to a 1932 GTP which he used to ride to his pocket money job across fields and farm tracks with a short burst on the public highway. He fell foul of the local Bobby and admits his lippy attitude resulted in appearances before the beak. Fines which seem modest these days were probably crippling to a skint teenager. You really could do quite a lot with 12/6d (62.5p) in the 1950s. The mention of a GTP might have you thinking this is all about racing Velos but it isn’t. John and his co-author Tony Davis describe his career as a sidecar passenger from the 1950s through to the '70s as he developed his skills and became one of the top exponents of this most dangerous of occupations.
He describes sidecar racing in the Continental Circus with the greats of the day like Max Deubel, Florian Camathias and Georg Auerbacher and there are whole chapters about particular characters and their antics on and off the circuits. The ‘Circus’ has been romanticised over the years and John sets the record straight. Most of the circuits were public roads simply closed off for the race period and fatal accidents were commonplace amongst all of the racing classes, both solo and sidecar. The fights with the organisers to get paid properly when the races were pulling in tens of thousands of paying spectators; how the sidecar driver always got the kudos with his passenger getting a lower cut of the money. And of course the endless travelling.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it again straight away. Never having followed sidecar racing, I had reservations before I started reading. Well it’s only 150 pages I thought, let’s get it over and done with! How wrong I was; I couldn’t put it down. This is one of the best motorcycling books I’ve ever read and John and his partner Tony Davis have done a cracking job. The pictures are great too and capture the changing face of Britain over the past fifty or so years.
I urge you to get hold of a copy now.
Jim PlantVelocette Owners Club
Brought up in a poor family in an agricultural environment, John could never have imagined that he would become an international motorcycle racer and travel the continent, rubbing shoulders with the idols of the sport. In 1957 he achieved his ambition of riding in the TT and continued competitive motorcycling for the next twenty years. He retains a keen interest in the sport and is an active member of the Vintage Motorcycle Club, the Velocette Owners Club and the TT Riders Association.
Co-author Tony first took an interest in motorcycle racing watching John's exploits riding grass-track with Derek Yorke and other local stars. Little did he know then that he would one day be joining them. He too raced with some success and in 1968 rode in the Isle of Man TT. He now lives in France and writes as a hobby.
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