Australia’s Motorcycle Chariot Race

Chariots are something from the Roman era, and not something to you associate (or see) these days, or even in the relatively recent past.

But back in 1920s-1930s chariot motorcycle racing was a thing. Yes, for real! And Australia even got in on the act.

I recently saw the photo above, on the History in Pictures Facebook page, and couldn’t believe what I saw.

Two men in Roman style outfits, in chariots, with two motorbikes pulling them along. The caption read “Motorcycle Chariot Race in New South Wales, Australia, 1936”.  I was intrigued, I wanted to know if this was for real, so I headed to Trove.

Sure enough, the motorcycle chariot race did happen. It was one of many events that were held at Sydney Showgrounds for the New South Wales Police Carnival on Saturday, 29 February 1936. With an estimated crowd of 50,000 this was AN EVENT!!

Here’s just some of the articles I found on Trove about it …

9 January 1936, The Sun, p. 21

practicing for the event, 14 February 1936, Sydney Morning Herald p. 14

The Sun, 30 January 1936, p. 36

And to top it off there’s even a short video up on YouTube of the race.

The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) have a great write up about the NSW Police Carnival day, together with a longer video showing more of the events, which is totally worth watching. Check that out here.

And for the record, there was going to be two heats (two laps each), but a third was needed to determine the winner:
Heat 1: Constable J. T. Riley 1, Constable Langham 2. Time, 59 3-5.
Heat 2: Constable Langham 1, Constable Riley 2. Time, 60 2-5.
Heat 3: Constable Riley 1, Constable Langham 2. Time, 1.1¾.

2 March 1936, The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 10.

So from seeing a very cool random vintage photo online, to a history lesson … what’s not to love about history … and motorcycle chariot racing!

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