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Ken Kavanagh

Record type: Motorsport Biographies

Biography: Age 35, Australian Ken Kavanagh has been recognised as a 'racing star for some years, but his rise to fame in the European scene was meteoric. He rode with such success on coming to this side of the world to race in 1951 that Nortons provided him with a works machine in the closing stages, and in 1952 he rode as a member of the firm's official team. The first race in which he was officially Norton-mounted was the 1951 Ulster Grand Prix, in which he gave "The Duke" a real run for his money and finished second to him in both the 350 and 500 c.c. events. He was third in the Junior Dutch T.T. averaging 86.79 m.p.h.

But it was in the Grand Prix des Nations that he showed really just how he could ride. Duke won the 350 race - but Ken was only 0.5 of a second behind him in second place!

In the TT, as a member of the Norton 1952 team, his luck was dead out. In the Junior race he was running fourth on the sixth lap, but retired on the seventh, and in the Senior, when again fourth on the sixth lap, his chain broke near the Bungalow on the last lap and he pushed in to finish 32nd.

He began the 1953 season with a win in the 500 c.c. class at Floreffe, being second in the 350 c.c. race. and followed this by second place again - to Norton team-mate Ray Amm - in the 1954 Junior TT but chain trouble again put him out of the running in the Senior race.

He was third in both 350 c.c. and 500 c.c classes of the Dutch T.T., but his best ride was the 500 c.c. class of the "Ulster," which he won after a grand scrap with Geoff Duke.

Another "second" this time in the 350 c.c. Swiss Grand Prix and then came a surprise - he turned out on a 250 c.c. Guzzi for the Spanish Grand Prix, finishing second to Lorenzetti.

Ken rode in the 1954 Guzzi team with varying fortune; he began the season by winning the 500 c.c. class at Hockenheim at 113 m.p.h. - the highest speed ever recorded on a road-racing circuit at that time - but fate was against him in the TT races, and he retired in all three classes for which he had entered.

Ken was third at 95.16 m.p.h. in the 1955 Senior TT, but he chiefly kept to the 350 c.c. class for other events winning at Solitude and in the Dutch T.T.

In the 1956 Junior TT again on a Guzzi, he was bracketed sixth on the first lap, fourth on the second, third on the next three laps and second on the sixth, only three-fifths seconds behind the leader John Surtees (M.V.). And on the last lap Surtees retired and Ken came home to win by over 4.5 minutes from Derek Ennett (A.J.S.). In the Senior of the following Friday, however, he retired on the second lap.

After the 1956 season Ken took up car racing but now he's back on two wheels. We're very glad to see him!

(TT Special, 8 June 1959, p.22)

Nationality: Australian

Competed in

RacePositionTimeSpeedMachine
1960 Ultra Lightweight TTRDucati
1959 Ultra Lightweight TTRDucati
1959 Junior TTRNorton
1959 Formula 1 500 TT41:11:14.6095.33Norton
1956 Senior TTRGuzzi
1956 Junior TT12:57:29.4089.29Guzzi
1955 Senior TT32:46:32.8095.16Guzzi
1955 Junior TTRGuzzi
1954 Senior TTRGuzzi
1954 Lightweight TTRGuzzi
1954 Junior TTRGuzzi
1953 Senior TTRNorton
1953 Junior TT22:55:14.6090.44Norton
1952 Senior TT323:15:32.0081.05Norton
1952 Junior TTRNorton
1951 Senior TTRNorton
1951 Junior TTRNorton

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