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Ken Kavanagh was the first Australian to win a world championship motorcycle Grand Prix. That career began in 1951 and he won four 350cc GPs (Ulster 1952, Belgium 1954, Holland 1955 and TT 1956). He also won the 1953 500cc Ulster GP at Dundrod and Kavanagh finished third equal in that year’s 500cc world championship when riding a Norton.
He switched to a Moto Guzzi for 1954 and repeated his third place finish in the 500cc points before turning his attention to car racing after his final 350cc victory on the Isle of Man in 1956.
Car racing career
Maserati withdrew its works team from Fla 1 at the end of 1957 and Kavanagh acquired one of its 250Fs with the intention of entering five or six GPs. It proved an ill-fated venture. He travelled to Argentina for the first round of 1958 but Jean Behra raced his car in the GP and finished fifth.
Kavanagh did start the Formule Libre Buenos Aires GP from the back of the grid but retired and was then sixth at Syracuse. His entry for the Monaco GP was refused (although often listed as a non-qualifier) and he was denied his GP debut in Belgium when his con-rod failed during practice.
He crashed the Maserati at Goodwood in the opening non-championship race of 1959 and was not seen in F1 again. A return to bikes that year proved disappointing and Kavanagh stopped racing in 1960. He settled in Bergamo in Northern Italy where he ran a dry-cleaning business.