John Austin Nurse, known to everyone as Austin, was born in Nottingham on 4th March 1911 and married Min Walkerdine in about 1932, having two children, Brian and Shirley. During the war years Austin worked at Bingley Hall in Birmingham testing and inspecting tanks for the War Office. He stayed in Birmingham after the war and built up a successful garage business, Sibley’s Garage, in Balsall Heath.
Austin started racing motorcycles on a “dirt track” in the early 1930’s but it wasn’t until 1950 that he started racing 500’s with a JAP engined Cooper Mk IV. In September he achieved third place in the first heat of the Junior Race at Brands Hatch.
Approaching the Esses at Shelsley Walsh, September 1951
He continued with the Mk IV through 1951 before switching to a Mk V for 1952 and '53 achieving a number of creditable performances including second to Don Parker at Boreham in May '52, winning at Silverstone later in the month and taking the handicap race at Brands Hatch in June.
In April 1953 he was third to Les Leston and Don Parker at Brough in April, third again at Castle Combe in the same month and third again at Davidstow in May. Austin was offered membership of the BRDC in 1952 and in 1953 raced an HWM – Alta in Formula 2 races at Crystal Palace, Castle Combe, Silverstone and Thruxton circuits.
In 1954 he moved on to racing a Lotus “Empire Special” for the season.
Austin married his second wife, Carmel in 1955 and had a son, David in 1958. He continued motor racing until the mid sixties driving cars from Lotus, Turner, Lister and Riley on circuits, hill climbs and sprints in the UK, he also took part in the RAC and Alpine Rallies. In 1966 Austin sold his garage business and retired to Jersey, where he died in November 1984.
Our thanks to David Nurse for his assistance with this article and for making the Guy Griffiths photos available.