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11th April 2008

‘Hold On’ by Stan Dibben - Buy a copy from Panther Publishing‘Hold On’ by Stan Dibben
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Stan Dibben’s life as a sidecar racer has been lived not just to the full, but right on the edge. His autobiography describes the exploits of a world champion sidecar rider; the man who balances the outfit with his body at 150mph...

There aren't many books written about sidecar racing unfortunately, so when I was given the opportunity to review of Stan Dibben's book, Hold On, I was very pleased. My first impression of Stan is that he is a very modest man. He has a very wicked sense of humour, and this must have helped when things went wrong during his varied life.  

Stan is now 83 years old, and looks like carrying on for a lot longer, judging by the pictures in this book. He is an amazing man, considering the adversities he has had along the way. His father died when he was only an infant, and his poor mother had to bring up the family on her own.

He spent a miserable time at boarding school, and was glad to leave, as he wanted to join the Air Force. This was not to be, and he ended up in the Navy, where his prowess in his electrical ability saw him through this time.

After the war, he joined BSA where he worked on Gold Stars. He also worked for Norton and was the first man to race the Norton Dommie Racer. He also tested bikes at the MIRA test track, so he had plenty of opportunities to try out different models.

This is where he first encountered Eric Oliver (who was World Champion in those days), who required someone for ballast, to test the suspension on his outfit. It came as a bit of a surprise to Stan, when Eric Oliver told everyone that he was having Stan Dibben as his passenger for the next season’s World Championship Series, without asking him! Stan, of course, did just that, as anyone would do if given the opportunity!

This must have been the most exciting and fulfilling part of Stan’s life. He and Eric Oliver rode the first fully streamlined kneeler outfit at the Belgian GP in 1953. He also rode as passenger for Cyril Smith in subsequent years. He rode in solo races too. So he was very versatile. His favourite circuits were the TT and the big Nurburgring. He liked road circuits best of all.

In my opinion, it must have taken a lot of guts to do what Stan did, especially as this was a life-threatening activity for very little money. It is surely a sad state of affairs that he who rides the ‘bit on the side’ does not get as much recognition as he should have had.

The term ‘passenger’ is very misleading, as Stan explains. He calls himself a sidecar rider, and when you read just what riding in the sidecar of a World Champion involves, you will understand why. There is a chapter describing this in great detail, which is most illuminating.


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In 1956 Stan joined the Perry Chain Company, later to become Renolds, and tested their products at the MIRA. Test track. He remained with this firm until his retirement.

Stan was also involved in helping Donald Campbell with Bluebird in Australia. This must have been very hard work having to endure the very hot weather encountered there, as he was helping with the grading of the track amongst other jobs. It was unfortunate that he had to return back to England to go back to work before Bluebird successfully got the Land Speed Record. This part of the book tells us in great detail the trials and tribulations.

‘Hold On’ by Stan Dibben - Buy a copy from Panther Publishing

Not many people know that Stan was a professional trumpet player before, during and after the war. He was also the man who did so much to help the introduction of the NGK spark plugs into Britain. Amongst his other talents, he designed a special castor wheel for shopping trolleys. I shall always think of him when I am out shopping in the supermarket in future. I don’t think they ever introduced these innovations to the trolleys round here, going by the way they steer. Good job I don’t ride my bike like that!

Reviewed by Anne Sturgeon

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‘Hold On’ by Stan Dibben is published by Panther Publishing, ISBN 0955659515, and is a 180-page paperback.

Buy it from Panther Publishing Ltd via this link for £12.95 plus delivery and part of the purchase price will go towards the running costs of RealClassic.co.uk

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