Are you familiar with the name Ray Tauscher? How about Ray Tauser? If neither of those names rings a bell, don’t worry—this 17-minute documentary aims to get you acquainted with the man and his history. He was born in Portland, Oregon in 1905, and eventually died there in 1981 at the age of 76—but in between, he was also an international motorcycle racing champion.
Portland-based documentary filmmaker Ned Thanhouser, along with his photojournalist son Michael, wanted to make sure that Tauscher’s racing glory days weren’t forgotten. That’s why they researched and crafted this short documentary film called Ray Tauscher: America’s Forgotten World Champion Motorcycle Racer.
As the throes of the Great Depression wreaked havoc, the general public wanted what they always want—something entertaining to watch to take their minds off their troubles. In America, motorcycle racing drew some crowds—but nowhere near the kinds of public attention found across Europe and in Australia. By 1929, Tauscher was both racing and gaining plenty of notice at American west coast events. Still, it took British racing impresario Johnnie Hoskins bringing Tauscher across the pond for his talent to truly bloom.
Speedway racing was a different world—and in 1930, the roar of the crowds filled 60 stadiums across the U.K. We’re not just talking small events, either—venues like London’s Wembley Stadium were regularly packed with fans. International press soon had reason to write about Tauscher’s impressive on-track performances—except they changed his name to “Tauser,” and pretty soon, it stuck.
Like packs of contemporaneous racers always have, Tauscher formed lifelong friendships with some of the other guys he raced with. One of these, Australian racer Frank Arthur, went on to play a pivotal role in Tauscher’s nascent international racing career. After moving to Australia to join Arthur’s racing team, Tauscher trained and competed against all of Australia’s best racers at the time. It wasn’t long before this upstart American came in and won the Australian Dirt Track Derby Championship.
From there, he started racking up dirt championships left and right. Australian 6-Lap Speedway Championship? Check. In 1931, U.K., French, Danish, Swedish, and German championships soon followed in quick succession. Tauscher was on a roll—so much so that in 1932, the British Labor Minister kicked him and other international riders out of the country, claiming they were taking hardworking British racers’ jobs.
Even the best and brightest racers can’t compete at the tops of their disciplines forever, and in that, Tauscher was no different. Sidelined for a year in 1932 after a left knee injury, he remained both talented and fast—but eventually retired from racing. The love of the sport never left him, though. Tauscher still competed in select American events before eventually getting married, managing tracks of his own, and mentoring the next generation of racers. He ended up working for the U.S. Postal Service for the majority of his career, as chief financial examiner.
Tauscher’s family remembers him as a kind, modest man, and one who enjoyed hearing others talk about his five-year international championship-winning racing career, but who never liked to boast about it himself. The entire time, though, he kept a scrapbook filled with clippings and other memorabilia, and it’s these important documents that the Thanhouser documentarians relied upon in conducting their research into Tauscher’s career.