Jack’s workhorse winner
After winning the 1973 Isle of Man Senior TT for Suzuki and enduring a painful season developing the new four-cylinder RG500 in 1974, Jack Findlay may have felt he had at last found a permanent works ride with the Japanese company. Although he was Suzuki’s best-placed rider in both the 500 (fifth) and FIM Formula 750 (third), he was not offered a contract for 1975. It hurt, but there was no time to sit around moping. Jack was a professional rider with a living to earn.
With some assistance from Melbourne Holden dealer Reg Hunt, Jack obtained a Yamaha TZ750 from Kel Carruthers in the USA, shipped it to Italy, and over the European winter prepared it in the workshop of brake manufacturer Daniele Fontana. In line with the thinking that had gone into several specials before this, the pair modified the frame to take longer travel rear shock absorbers and gradually increased the engine’s power from 95 hp to 125 hp.
As well as competing in the FIM F750 series, the Yamaha did double duty in the 500 GP class with 250 Yamaha barrels and heads fitted. Generally it was uncompetitive against the Suzukis in the 500 class, although he scored third places in the Belgian and Finnish GPs. In the 750 class, Jack battled all season with Barry Sheene’s works TR750 Suzuki, and pipped the Briton by a single point for the title.
Somewhat reluctantly, he switched back to an RG500 Suzuki for 1976, again with assistance from Hunt, but retained the Yamaha for the 750 class. It was a lean year, with second placing in the British round of the F750 Championship his best result.
At the end of that year, the Yamaha was sent to Melbourne as part of the sponsorship deal, and Hunt retained it in its original form for nearly 30 years until it was acquired by Cairns enthusiast Ian Hopkins.
The Yamaha is just as it was last raced and features several differences from standard models. Most visible are the brake callipers and magnesium hubs made by Fontana, but the frame has been substantially altered and the expansion chambers are hand-made items, again by Fontana. It is still finished in Findlay’s distinctive blue and white colours.
Fittingly, the Yamaha’s first public appearance for over a quarter of a century was at Jack’s home town of Mooroopna in central Victoria. On July 29, 2006, a ceremony was held to unveil a statue of Jack aboard his TT-winning Suzuki. The bronze stands in the reserve in the centre of town, which is to be renamed Jack Findlay Park in honour of its most famous sportsman.
The statue is the result of eight years work and fund raising by a group of local enthusiasts who were determined that Jack’s achievements be given the recognition they deserve. On the day, more than 1,000 people crammed into the park for a moving ceremony hosted by local motor sport legend Bryan Thompson.
Unfortunately, Jack Findlay himself was unable to attend. He had developed a lung disease which would eventually take his life in May 2007. However his sister Joan and brother Robert represented the family and performed the unveiling – a fitting tribute to one of Australia’s greatest-ever motorcycle racers, and a true gentleman.