"From 1947 to 1955 I was a staunch fan of the Harringay Racers and I well recall the very first appearance of Ole Nygren on his arrival at Harringay from Sweden. His bike was painted orange and manager Wal Phillips had him do 4-5 laps of the track as an introduction for the fan. It was obvious from the first lap that the young blonde Swede was going to be a tremendous favourite with Racers fans, and so it proved to be. In my opinion, the backbone of the Racers team at that time was the great Split Waterman, Jack Biggs, Ron How and Danny Dunton, plus new boy Ole Nygren. I live in Dereham now but never got the change to visit the Firs Stadium in its heyday, but I wish I had. Mind you, I did see Bert Spencer and Billy Bales riding in end of match scratch races at Harringay."
"How crucial, and to the point, about riders' introductions at the start of the meeting. And how ridiculous they have to wear a helmet, aka "head protection". Back in the 60's and 70's, what a treat to be at West Ham and to see the riders faces as they did the pre-meeting introductory lap, Ray Wilson, with his long dark hair flapping in the wind as he took the Custom House circuit for one lap, and all the fans could get a glimpse of their favourites. Today is too sterile, not just speedway wise, but in everything that is done. Slowly, but surely, the rot has set in. Speedway, and life, will never be the same."
"At Edinburgh we have the best center green host in Scott Wilson, Glasgow need Michael Max back and Berwick have Dick Barrie. A man that can talk all night and say nothing. I have followed speedway since 1960 presentation went when the GREAT Ian Hoskins sold up, a true showman."
On to 1974 and Belle Vue welcomed the world to the Zoo. The home pair were PC and DeeJay, though they finished well down the field.
Thanks to Dave Hitchen who has uncovered this picture of Sun Street, former home of the Hanley Potters. Dave says:
"The photograph is of Stoke speedway when it was at Sun Street in Hanley and a really super photo. I think it would be an early photo of the stadium built I think in 1929 and the street in the foreground is Clough Street, in the photo empty of properties but later became quite built up.The Sun street entrance led directly to the car park."
"Grumpy old 'Smarts' is what I will go for. As for the lack of noise from supporters, I think it's because these days they are cheering or otherwise, with their fingers. Oh yes, we used to give many two fingered salutes but today they are 'tweeting' or 'I-podding' or 'facebooking' whatever it is they do with all this modern gadgetry. Anyways, looking forward to chapter 3. This time next year ? Oh yea, '... to the proprietors with the rider that we might be back a little sooner than we intended.' Good joke that, pun like!'"
"Chris Bailey used to live on Lightbowne Road when I was young. I always wonded if his mum or dad still had the house. I used to walk round and stand near Chris' house and see him revving the speedway bike. Where have all them years gone? How is Chris?"
"Interesting article. I was a teenage fan of the Harringay Racers and I had more badges on my jacket than lapel. My two favourite riders were Split Waterman and Jackie Biggs. Split Waterman arranged 3 seats in the main stand at Wembley (behind the Royal box) for my two friends and I to watch the 1950-51 World Championship, the year Jack Young won, Split was second and Jackie Biggs third. Record producer Pete Waterman told me Split was his uncle. I imagine every Rangers fan must have bought the DVD 'Once A Jolly Swagman' which features Dirk Bogarde, Bonar Colleno and Bill Owen, and of course New Cross Speedway...took me back a bit, oh happy days!"
Tracy Holmes tells us about the 1973 final, when even the presence of Ivan Mauger couldn't stop the Kiwis finishing bottom of the pile.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to sponsor the British Youth Championship - formerly the Under 15's) are pleased to announce the 54th edition of their magazine the Voice which is packed full of interest and enjoyment. This issue is a big 24 pages, which will keep your interest for hours!
In this issue David Telfer gives his inevitable views on speedway in general and the best televised meeting to date; Annette Maybach gives her thoughts on the coming season; 'Slider' gives his views on speedway and one track left to visit; Charles Mckay says 'Be careful what you wish for'; Sue Towner reports on the British Youth Championship; Roy Delaney has his cake and eats it; John Hyam on a date to remember and the Atom car; John Chaplin speaks on the British Final 'Ground Force' and Editor Stuart Towner reports on the Ivor Thomas Memorial meeting at Iwade. There is much more than this with many hours of reading.
Available from Friends of Speedway; 117 Church Lane, Chessington, Surrey KT9 2DP.
Please send your cheque for £10 made out to the above for four issues of the Voice to Stuart Towner at the above address or ring 0208-397 6599 for more information.
"Wish I had known it was on. Would have ben there for sure. Oh well I still have great memories of the 60's. Saturday nights at the Royale Wow! Just the best. I have a copy of Ghosts In The Bull Pens. Great photos but full of mistakes. Also purchased the souvenir T Shirt. That was a joke too. The side cars were going the same direction as the solos. Dear Oh me. Who put this crap together. A disgrace to the best sport in the world. "
We never fail to be astonished by just how far Charles McKay will travel to watch some speedway. He was in Russia recently to watch some action at the Togliatti stadium. He reports that some of the workmanship and finishing touches are little lacking, though he was still very impressed with the facilities. The track is some 900Km from Russia and few of the locals speak English, so perhaps only experienced travellers should attempt a trip to this track.
We move on to 1972 and Sweden in the latest in this series of articles by Tracy Holmes. The home nation had two pairs riding in the event.
Speedway author/photographer Jeff Scott was recently interviewed on Talk Radio Europe (Spain's largest English Language radio network) about his new book 'Strictly Shale' and speedway in general. The 15 minute interview is available to listen to on catch-up for a limited time. Click here to listen to Jeff.
Here's what others are saying about the book:
Tribune (27th June) - review "his evocative photographs...poignantly capture, in colour, one of the last authentic working-class sports"
Sir Paul Smith (June) - praise "great book"
Dick Barrie, Berwick programme (5th July) - comment "often marvellously capturing the very spirit of speedway's people and places around Britain"
"Spedeworth International, the landlords at Foxhall Heath, are undertaking this redevelopment work to enhance their claims to staging the major contact world championship for the Formula One stock cars. Spedworth have for many years also staged a two day event - usually the end of June or first weekend of July - which embraces several non-contact car championships, the main one being that for the very expensive National Hot Rods. But I am sure that if speedway was to ask them to make a place for a major event they would accommodate our sport into their operations."
"Extremely disappointing, from a Reading angle no description of the Tilehurst project the riders from Dickie May to Dag Lovaas are ignored yet he rambles on about Halifax and Stoke. All the stuff about Mike Parker and Bill Dore were submitted to this site years ago. Poor effort Reg."
"I visited the track last spring researching my Classic Speedway Venues Past and Present book and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of development/refurbishment taking place. One of the new open grandstands was already in place going in to the third bend and (as the attached picture shows) the extensive terracing on the first and second bends was undergoing refurbishment.
A considerable amount of work was also taking place at Foxhall Heath to provide improved sponsor/catering facilities.
Also attached is an overall pic of Foxhall.
Stock car crowds seem extremely healthy across the country. Last time I was in Brighton the local paper reported a Bank Holiday attendance of 5,500 at Arlington. I was recently in Buxton where the weekly newspaper (which also gives speedway excellent coverage) had a photograph of the original raceway showing a stadium packed all the way around for a composite stock cars/bangers meeting.
I would guess the stock cars attract around ten times as many spectators as the adjacent speedway."
Tracy Holmes continues his series looking back on the history of the World Pairs championship.
Some 'behind the scenes' pictures from Cardiff last weekend courtesy of Graham Cooke. The first picture was taken from the pits gate, where Graham's son was on duty during the meeting. The second is a view taken from the Eurosport gantry / studio above turn 1. It was shot at 3am and, as can be seen, all the steel superstructure has been removed and about 70% of the shale is already back in storage.
You can find out much more about Graham's Cardiff experiences on his consistently interesting Blunsdon Blog.
"That's an amazing collection, I often get Dad's jackets out and think about everything they were involved in, especially the West Ham, Leicester Hunters, World Final and GB/Lions jackets. Even after some 60 years the smell of castrol, methanol and cinders is still there, it's like smelling history!"
"As Ken's youngest sister I grew up when Ken was already a Star so you can imagine how proud I was like everyone else in the family. I remember my Dad polishing Ken's leathers when he was home in Scotland for a meeting.........they were absolutely gleaming and then the whole family went to watch him race in Glasgow. Ken always looked fabulous in his gleaming leathers and boots. My old Dad was always beaming with pride for Ken like the rest of the family but Ken was his son and he adored him. Every week in our home Dad would clean every trophy Ken ever won till they too were gleaming and there were tons of trophy's. He was a great brother and left us far too soon. I miss him every day..............RIP xxx :) xxx "
"Shortage of speedway in London. It's a great shame so many tracks closed over the years in London, now Londoners who still like the sport have Lakeside and Rye House for their "fix". My late Dad and Uncle were great Wimbledon fans, another Uncle and Auntie were Wembley Lions 'nuts'. I was introduced to speedway at Wembley aged seven years old one Thursday evening in 1955, I was overwhelmed with the amount of people present over 60,000 I was informed, the atmosphere was 'electric', the racing, the tractor and the miniature cannon this was the impression that was firmly held in my head. Wembley put on a real show and what a show! Sadly now Londoners have a limited number of tracks or tune in to 'sky' etc., Up the 'Pirates'. "
Nick Lee joins the site as a new contributor. Like many others he's spent the weekend at Somerset and Cardiff. Here are his thoughts, along with some recommendations for podcasts and documentaries you may wish to consider.
The second part of Tracy Holmes' history of the World Pairs Final.
The latest edition of the Old Time Speedway Journal is now available for free download. The main features this time are on Les Wotton and midget cars. If you'd like to download your copy then click here.
"For Peter Underhill - probably the best known and most spectacular legtrail rider at Harringay in the late 1940s-early 1950s was Lloyd 'Cowboy' Goffe, also famed for his brilliantly polished black leathers. A very fine rider indeed - but one who seems to have been - as are so many from the era - a forgotten man. Except here!"
The power represented by Maureen Schooling's tapestries has already been covered here. Now there has emerged a bona fide rival to Bayeux - the Great Tapestry of Scotland.
This astonishing series of tapestries is not only a visual feast and folk-art triumph, but serves as a timely reminder of a nation's history in what could yet become an epoch-defining year.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland has recently been exhibited at the Anchor Mill in Paisley and will be on display again at the Scottish Parliament, 1st July - 13th September, and at New Lanark, 20th October - 22nd November, before finding a permanent home at a location still to be determined in the Borders.
Any Scot, or anyone at all, with a beating heart and an eye for crafted beauty should take the time to see it - it certainly has the power to move!
However, while the Tapestry includes plenty of prominent depictions of various, ahem, monarchs, there appears but one single tiger - the scales of representation somewhat out of kilter there, I'd say, a tenuous link to speedway though that is.
Ok, look! Joking aside, having excluded the actual Monarchs and Tigers (not to mention the Lions, Eagles, Bulls, Rockets, Giants, Devils, Saints and even the most striking of Lightning!) the regrettable truth is that while Scottish sport is generously included, speedway doesn't feature at all in this work.
We can only conclude, therefore, that in the recording and indeed creation of one very colourful history of Scotland, as of 2014 there remains important work still to be done!!
In the meantime, visit the Tapestry anyway: as entitled, it is Great. Furthermore, the more entries in the visitors' book that call for the inclusion of a sport that's regularly heralded by a Fanfare For The Common Man can only be, in my book, a good thing!
So, while those scales of representation may never be perfectly balanced, that in itself is no reason not to stay positive about ultimately achieving a certain inclusivity in The Great Tapestry of Scotland, one in which the followers of all the teams listed above, both past and present, ought to feel a personal interest.
So why not go and sign up in that book? Mention that special team. It's a finely woven history and it's your history too! "
" Mr Hawkins, I'm sorry if I've given misinformation and I'm sure you are correct re the Scottish track from which the great Jack Young moved. Mr Underhill, you could be thinking of Arthur Atkinson who was known to leg trail, alternatively, you could be thinking of Oliver Hart who I think (!) rode for the Bradford Tudors. All best wishes to us older Racers fans."
Paul Goodwin recalls some of the great riders he used to enjoy watching at Custom House in the 1960s.
Best wishes to all those battling to save the Birmingham Brummies. After all the hard work that went into re-opening the club, we can be sure that Brian Buck and his associates will make every effort to keep the track open.
"Not strictly the case. There is still a very real chance that the plans forwarded by Paschal Taggart, which retain the main use of the stadium for greyhounds, will win the day. Unfortunately, it appears that even those plans do not include provision for Speedway, though if Taggart does win there may still be a glimmer of a hope."
"Well remember Reg Fearman from the 1978-79 season in Australia. My dad & I were in the Empire Speedway office at the Sydney Showground (buggered if I know why we were there). Anyway, dad sees Reg - got to be at least a quarter of a century since they had last been in contact. So they start chatting. Reg knows dad & dad know Reg. Gordon Kennett (who was no 2 in the world at that time) hurdles the desk between where these guys were chatting. Unbelievable for a wide eyed teenager as I was at the time. They just ignored the frivolity. Reg answered a question re Peter Craven, which had been nagging my dad for 16 years. Reg was frank and was refreshingly candid about it. That was Reg - straightforward, to the point; and that made made him successful. The sport needs more like him, not only with his forward thinking, but with the passion for the sport to put everything at risk to both be a promoter and entertainer. Look forward to reading his book."
Phliip Dalling reports on a upcoming auto-biography by former rider, promoter and BSPA chairman Reg Fearman. The book will be launched at Cardiff on July 12th.
RETRO Speedway, the company that produces magazines, DVDs and books on the sport's past, would like to hear from any Swindon supporters who have cine footage showing racing here at Blunsdon in the 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s.
If you have cine or video footage filmed at Swindon, or know the whereabouts of any, please contact Susie or Tony McDonald at Retro Speedway on 01708 734 502 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
McDonald explained: "We are putting together a 'Memories of Swindon Speedway' DVD for release later this year. We already have action footage from the first ever meeting here in 1949, plus the Bob Kilby Testimonial and various home and away matches featuring the Robins, but we're hoping that there is more amateur footage out there somewhere, possibly taken by supporters using a cine camera. If so, can they please get in touch.
"In fact, we are keen to hear from anyone who has reasonable quality cine footage from any defunct tracks."
"I sat wide eyed in the stands as a young boy the night Paul Church stunned Mauger and the crowd by hanging off Ivan's back wheel. So inexperienced was Church that it would be like seeing a Development League rider hounding Woffy for a GP win. The night Bob Andrews had his accident we were sat next to his Wife who was talking to my Mum. We were on the same bend but just a bit further round from where it happened and I can still picture the scene and hear her scream as we all witnessed him being rag dolled over the catch fence to land on the concrete terracing."
"Well, some sad news to report on the ongoing saga of Wimbledon. It appears that AFC Wimbledon have now been granted the go-ahead to apply for planning permission for an 11,000 seater stadium on the site of Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium, also Galliard homes are part of the application wishing to build 600 properties. This, sadly, will be the final nail in the coffin of any hope of speedwsy returning to Plough Lane at all, as it appears the owners of the stadium are backing the application too, along with Merton Council. So the roar of the bikes will never be heard again at this once famous venue. The Internationale and the famous Don's teams of the past are now but a distant memory."
"Many years ago[in the sixties] a young American rider named Chuck Jones was injured [I think in Australia] and confined to a wheelchair. Chuck and his Mum visited where I live in East London - both really nice people. Unfortunately we lost touch. If anybody know of his whereabouts or e-mail I would be very grateful. I believe at the time they were friends with Ron Preston. All I know is they lived in California-I believe near Costa Mesa."
The facilities at the Marian Rose Arena in Torun are second to none in the world of speedway these days. The town's speedway wasn't always quite as modern, as these pictures taken by Gillian Marks from outside the stadium in 2006 show.
It was Legends Night at Industry Speedway on Wednesday. Here's a great picture of some of the former favourites who attended:
Bobby "Boogaloo" Schwartz, Tom Burba, Preston Petty, Larry Huffman, Bruce Penhall, Sammy Tanner, Flyin Mike Faria,Rick Miller, Dave Sims, Sonny Nutter, Doug Nicol, Mike Konle, Terry Ike Clanton, Mark Cherry, Kelly Inman, Bruce Flanders, Pam Pinky Bennett, Bob Tocco, Steve Lucero, Billy Meister, Stu Egli, Jan Ballard, Patrick Walton, Jim Fishback, Steve Murray, Dean Foreman, "Dangerous" Dubb Ferrell Mr. Dean York.
The picture was taken by Dorcel Alan Wingo and was sent to us by Ivan Blacka. If you click on the picture you can see a larger version of it.
"I live twixt both the Shay and Belle Vue so it was alternate Saturdays between as both rode on that day at home. Seen many great riders at both venues. I also liked the banked track, one similar was at Exeter. Riders I liked in the 60s -70s included Eric Boocock, Dave Younghusband, Charlie Monk, Kenny Carter, Chris Pusey, Ivan Mauger, Peter Collins, Soren Sjosten and many more but my favourite will always be Peter Craven. Along with many others lucky enough to have seen him in action. Personally I do not think the sport is now as good as it was in 60s and 70s."
"The narrow minded tripe uttered by Mr Gifford smacks of simple jealousy. Jack Millen was a hard riding speedway showman who played to the crowd! Oh to see his likeness in these boring days of our once so loveable sport. He was exciting to watch, had a heart as big as a house and a sense of humour to match. My home track was Middlesbrough, and I once asked him to come ride for us. He laughed and said he was "Mrs Murphy's cat."(Rough translation from kiwi, I think, means he'd go anywhere if there was good enough incentive!) If rider control sent him to us, he'd do his best for us. To Gill - pay no attention to the likes of Mr Gifford. He was never any good himself, so Jack would have been grateful if he refused to ride with him. Means that all the pressure wouldn't be on him to win, because he had a plonker as a partner. I know what it's like to lose a brother. I'm sorry for your loss, but must say, it broke MY heart too,when Jack died. Still have his photo! God bless yer!"
"A tribute to Malcolm Simmons, the very epitome of poetry in motion; One of THE greatest was Simmo, a favourite of mine like Rick Timmo. At the top of his game, he was riding champagne, with a style like cruising a limo!"
"I am Gils eldest son. Sadly my father did die in tragic circumstances taking his own life. I have very little in the way of memorabilia of his riding history, so if you or anybody else could help in pointing me in the right direction it would be greatly appreciated. "
"I'm desperately trying to find out if Fred Fearnley, rider for Droylsden in the 20's was my Great-Uncle. The only info I have of him, (my Great-Uncle) was that he sold Ford cars in the Manchester area later in his life. Any chance that this is the same man? Does anyone know where the Speedway rider Fred Fearnley ended up? Longshot I know, but hey, it's worth a try. Great site by the way, my father used to take me to watch Yarmouth Bloaters speedway at Yarmouth stadium in the late 50's. Got home filthy from the cinders!! Stadium still very active, but just greyhounds and stock car now. Happy days though. Thanks for any help."
"I remember Tom Black riding for the Teesside Tigers. He was brilliant! Always 100% effort. That's what counted for Tigers fans. If Tom had had a little more of the GOOD luck, he would have been up amongst the big names. His luck, sadly, was of the opposite kind, but any serious speedway fan could see the talent! If only.... God bless yer Tom! You'll always be remembered AND welcomed on Teesside!"
"Fred and I grew up in Napier together as kids with motorbikes. He went the way of speedway and I raced sidecars. We both left NZ at the same time to chase our dreams. Him to the UK...and me to Australia. The thing that sticks out in my mind was our times together at Fred's place in the mid 60's. Fred's mum and dad (Alf and Dot) would make us more than welcome when we all turned up at the garage to talk bikes...Dick Gale, Clive Watson, myself and a few others, great times. He was king of Meeanee speedway in those days and a very unassuming local champion he was...Standard Fred...no crap, just straight up and down. "
"The stadium upgrades, which are of course beneficial to the stadium controllers/landlords Spedeworth who target the allocation of more major small oval car championships - epecially the Brisca F1 world championship final. They already host a major annual two day championship each year which includes the National Hot World Championship. Maybe, Spedeworth's good work could also benefit speedway with the allocation of some of the sport's major title events to Foxhall Heath? It certainly looks an impressive stadium based on Ian Presslie's excellent photographic work to highlight improvements and upgrading made there over the past 18 months or so."
"Fantastic as always Tracy. I was about 6 years old back then living in Auckland with Mum/Dad and I still have some great memories of those meetings and the absolutely huge parties afterwards. Thanks for the article."
"Oh what happy memories I have. I started watching Belle Vue in the 1950s. I was always first in the queue on Hyde Road. On the Sunday morning I would go down to the pits and help certain riders to clean their bikes. I got very friendly with George Smith and when we had finished he would drop me home in Besses. I saw some great riders such as Jack Parker, Louis Lawson, Pee Wee Callum, Dent Oliver and many more. Thanks Belle Vue for those great times."
Probably one of the most interesting tracks we've ever featured, this Italian track is now used by the general public for recreation. Pictures and explanation are courtesy of Ian Presslie.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to sponsor the British Youth Championship - formerly the Under 15's) are pleased to announce the 53rd edition of their magazine the Voice which is packed full of interest and enjoyment. This issue is a big 24 pages, which will keep your interest for hours!
In this issue David Telfer gives his inevitable views on speedway in general; Annette Maybach gives her thoughts on the coming season; 'Slider' gives his views on speedway with a Change or Die headline; Charles Mckay looks at GP possible earnings; Sue Towner reports on the impact of Air Fence rules and using youngsters at reserve in the Elite league; Roy Delaney giving the facts about Vic Huxley; John Hyam on the career of Bill Longley; Bert Harkins 'spills the beans' on Bert Harkins; John Chaplin on the new Jack Parker DVD and Editor Stuart Towner reports on the California-in-England track clearance and much more too.
Available from Friends of Speedway ; 117 Church Lane , Chessington, Surrey KT9 2DP. Please send your cheque for £10 made out to the above for four issues of the Voice to Stuart Towner at the above address or ring 0208-397 6599 for more information.
"I still to this day remember where I was when I heard about the terrible tragedy that ended the life of Jack. Indeed I had an article published in the Edinburgh Evening News about it. I was really saddened as I loved every minute of watching Jack riding for the Monarchs. I spoke to him once or twice when he and other riders came round with their helmets for the collection for the riders benevolent fund. A one off never to be forgotten."
"I lived in Mortalke Road in Custom House & went to the track for many years 1947 ---1955. Riders I recall Howdy Byford. The Parker brothers, Lloyd Goff, Bluey Wilkinson. What a great time we had, the bikes needed some riding in those days. JAP was the make."
"Great site, never went myself but my son did on several occasions and told me it was great. I went to most meeings at Exeter in 60s and 70s and sporadically until they closed. I now go to Plymouth when I can."
"I was at work when I saw the Daily Mirror had a large picture of Tommy and the announcement that he had died. I just didn't believe it and phoned Wimbledon, it was Cyril Maidment who told me it was true. I was devastated. I had been going to Wimbledon regularly and Tommy was my Idol, I had watched him win the Golden Helmet and in the league I had only ever seen one person beat Tommy at Plough Lane when he had been in front and that was Peter Collins around the outside. Tommy was poetry in motion. He would have his foot down as he went into the bend but very soon it was up and he did the rest by balance. He was a great guy and happy to talk to anyone. A real gentleman and fantastic rider. I had the honour to meet his parents and Bo, they are all so very nice. Thank you for this extract but it again brought back the sadness. RIP Tommy you're still loved."
"A great Article - Well done - Loads of info. that I had forgotten - brought it all back to me as I used to go to Harringay for speedway and White City for the athletics. I was born in Tottenham in 1938 and am now looking to go and see Rye House Rockets with my son for the first time in centuries! Who was the rider that used to drag his leg and go over on one knee - I am sure I am not imagining it.It is really bugging me! Thanks again for the memories."
"Ian Turner was a briliant rider till his accident when he broke his back on the Lynn track. I was there with my father the night it happened, several months in hospital, on his return he never really regained his racing nerve, quite understandably after a near death experience. Great shame about that accident, wish him well in the future."
"Such wonderful memories. My first visit to West Ham (and speedway) was in May 1964 at the tender age of 9, to watch the Hammers race against Coventry. To say I was transfixed or obsessed from that first race would be an understatement. My friend Colin and I never really missed a meeting, and when the stadium sadly closed to speedway on May 23rd 1972 we paid a visit a couple of weeks after to view the inevitable demolition. The said gateman was still on duty! He let us in to see our beloved stadium being torn to bits, and gave us a sneak tour around what was left of the speedway office and the baths that many a great titan had washed the cinders and shale off over the years. We are shortly coming up to the 42nd anniversary of the closure. RIP West Ham Stadium."
"Nice article Tracy. Andy possibly got the biggest cheer of the night when I announced he was coming out for heat 18. I think more than a few were impressed with his race pace and he has cemented his place in the Speedway GP history books. "
"Thanks for the heads-up on this bet 365 service. Watched the Poole v Swindon match on Good Friday and really enjoyed seeing some live speedway. Couldn't really hear the announcements that well, so I think I missed some of the changes but really enjoyable anyway."
Paul Monroe tells us about a new means of watching speedway live from your armchair.
Motorsport artist Peter Hearsey recently produced this excellent painting of the great Ivan Mauger in action in 1976. Prints (some signed by Ivan himself) are now available from Flat Out Riding. Their website includes recent pictures of Ivan in his workshop.
Alan Thompsett is looking for details/pictures from an Eastbourne Past v Ispwich meeting from 1977 - Can You Help?
Norman Simpson's favourite riders were Graham Warren and Aub Lawson and he'd like to see them added to our Riders to Remember section. Get in touch if you'd like to contribute an article on either of these riders, or any rider at all in fact.
"Jerzy Szczakiel is undisputed champion, but only on the Polish tracks. Probably, his biggest success on the tracks abroad Poland was 7th place (scored 7 points) in European Final '71 at Wembley. In Poland he reached neither title of Individual Polish Champion, nor very prestigious in those time Polish Golden Helmet. In the start of 70's in Poland there were better speedway riders than Szczakiel, for example Zenon Plech and Edward Jancarz. Surely not worse were Pawel Waloszek, Jan Mucha, Andrzej Wyglenda, Antoni Woryna, Henryk Gluecklich and Marek Cieslak. However, that what Jerzy Szczakiel performed at Rybnik'71 and Katowice'73 it weren't achieved by any other Polish speedway rider for many, many years."
"About the heat 19 incident. I don't agree that Plech was lucky. He was knocked off by the Russian while leading on the last lap and should have been awarded Three Points. Now Peter Collins was awarded the win although he was last when the incident occured."
"Lovely article. I can feel the love that Geoff obviously had for Custom House coming through every word. Well written mate! I was never fortunate enough to go to West Ham but the Hammers were a favourite team of mine in the early British League years. I think it was a combination of colours, same as my own Halifax Dukes, the football name association and the riders I so admired; Sverre Harrfeldt, Norman Hunter, Ken McKinlay, Tony Clarke. Not all top rung, I just liked them. Sadly the first time I saw film of racing from Custom House was the report of the very last match with the West Ham Bombers. By the bye, the painting on the roof. Programmes, both speedway and rugby league over the years had Odsal Stadium with two painted stand roofs which changed depending on which brewer was advertising at the time, in other words, the photograph was re-lettered!"
Paul's memories are mainly drawn from watching speedway at Mildenhall and King's Lynn. Ove Fundin is the rider he'd most liked to have seen.
Kathy Farr remembers listening to speedway on the radio in the forties and fifties with her father. She believes this must have been on 'The Home Service'. She wonders if anyone remembers the music that introduced it?
"Phil is getting his cities and tracks confused. If he was on a train to Fremantle, and went pass the site of a former 500+ metre track, then he was travelling from Perth to Fremantle and went pass the site of the former Claremont Showground Speedway. That is several thousand kilometres from Adelaide and Rowley Park."
"I was privileged to see both Dennis Sigalos and Kelly Moran on a regular basis at Hull Vikings. On our home circuit Sigalos was easily faster than Ivan Mauger on numerous occasions and held the track record. Kelly was just incredible. Hull's was a really tight circuit with long straights and Moran was one of the few if not only rider who could get around without putting a foot down. Kelly's brother Shawn wasn't bad either, but poor old John Cook never really settled."
"I remember Bill ('Billy' as he was called in the old days) very well, both as an actor in such classic films as "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and in his later career on the shale. I wish him a quick and full recovery and many years of health."
Philip Dalling reports from the recent social evening that reunited members of Long Eaton's National League winning side.
The latest edition of the Old Time Speedway Journal is now available. Tony Webb recalls his spell as a junior rider at Rye House and John Hyam writes on the mystery of Ron Johnson's two deaths. You can download your free copy from here.
"I have to agree with Tracy. It hacks me off when people have a pop at Jerzy Szczakiel. Anyone who knows anything about speedway will understand his history and that he was anything but a flash in the pan. You don't beat a world class field in two world finals by fluke and to even consider that to be possible is naiive at best. Further, when the greatest of them all, Ivan Mauger, says he was a class act, it's safe to say he was a class act. Ivan knows a thing or two about speedway."
"Garry Middleton. the posting by Bob Stanford was most interesting. As many readers would know I researched the life and times and published the book Garry Middleton Fact or Fiction in 2010. Garry's family helped me, Garry's eldest sister is a neighbor. What Bob has posted is in line with the family's version. the product was used sucessfully by Garrys mother for her Arhritus."
"I have to agree with John Chaplin's comments about ill-informed presenters, Charlie Webster being the case in point. I have no issue with the presenter's gender - Julia Bradbury was excellent - but the lack of knowledge of the sport in Ms Webster's case is truly embarrassing. Even worse, she does not appear to be capable of learning on the job either. Also, can we please get rid of terms artificially imported from other sports -'Pit lane, paddock and straightaway' for example."
"Re: Philip Dalling's comments on the Sky presenters and interviewers. He doesn't mention how inept Charley 'Mumbles' Webster is. I have always queried the necessity for a woman in the pits, especially a woman who knows nothing about speedway. The football people would never send someone - male or female - who knew nothing about the sport or the personalities they were to interview. Sorry if this sounds chauvinistic, but unless someone knows what they are doing they shouldn't be there. It does the sport no good."
"I had in my youth always wanted to see the massive 500 yard plus track and by chance in 2013, found myself on a train from Adelaide to Freemantle which went right past the Showground. Am curious to know if the railway was around when Peter's photo was taken."
"I meet Garry in the early 80's. He had rented a room from my girlfriend at the time who lived in Northridge California. He had formed a Corp. called the Amerasia Corp. The Company imported a product called ADS which was sold for a number of ailments including cancer. As the Company grew and became more succesful he moved his opperation to Nevada where he set up a medical dispencery to treat people. When the AMA got wind of this they did what they could too shut him down by issueing warrents for his arrest. Garry and I became close friends and he lived with me for a short time. Before the trail Garry was able to talk his attorney Patrick Hillings Ex-Congressman to have his passport that was being held by the distric attorney releast. Shortly after Garry left for the UK and never returned too stand trail. I know this for a fact as I had invested in the corp. and was also listed in the law suit."
"I first supported speedway in 1960 at Liverpool. This was the first year of the Provincial league and Liverpool were not a good side and struggled big time when captain and number Brian Craven broke his leg. The promotion made a number of changes around May and June and Dave Dodd was one of them. He joined from Poole when they were looking to make a play for he league title. After a tricky start Dave began to blossom particularly at home and made some high scores. In fact he was involved in one of the best races I ever saw in a second half final with Edinburgh's Willie Templeton but for the life of me I cannot recall if he won! I am sure he did not come back in 1961 to England and do not know if he raced here earlier than 1960."
Stock Car fan Stuart Calvert has started a petition aimed at restoring motorsport to Odsal Stadium in Bradford.
Thanks to all who have asked whether we'd be updating the Programme Generator to reflect the new Elite League race format. We've now added a new version that reflects the changes made, but the old version is still there for those Premier and National League fans out there.
Sad news from John Hyam:
"Audrey Loak, the wife of Wally Loak, passed away peacefully, on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, at their home in Bedford. Wally is best known as the pioneer of audio speedway recordings. He started his work in that direction in 1964. I am sure our thoughts and prayers are with Wally Loak at this sad time. RIP Audrey Loak"
"Televised speedway is a challenge for any TV producer, camera people and the presenters. Sky league and Eurosport GP coverage is excellent. The camera work is especially first rate, it really does bring the sense of speed the daring and the skills of the riders to our screens. Where it needs a rethink is the time spent between the heats. Any supporter will tell you that part of the joy of our sport is the friendly banter that happens on the terrace between races so instead of just talking to the riders why not talk to the fans. Interview a few most will have something to say and will always make a comment on a good race. As a real treat what about inviting some veteran riders to give their views with even some clips from the old days. "
"My memories of Powderhall. It was a very tricky track to master with it's very long straights and it's tight turns with deep dirt. It took at lot of skill to ride that track but once you had mastered it Powderhall was beautiful to ride. I really enjoyed my time riding that track and without it I don't think that I would have learned what I did in such a short time in British Speedway. It was better than most 1st division tracks at that time. The stadium was beautiful."
"We're the NL serious about opening Plymouth, St Austell, Rayleigh or Leicester? All had closed in the preceding year, having been unable to make PL racing pay. Surely there was no possibility of any of them making a go of NL racing. I'm interested in Mike Parkers plans for amalgamation and equalization. Do you Have any details of his equalization proposals?"
"My father was a top Canadian rider for Liverpool in 1959 or 1960. His number was 57 & I was wondering if you have any info on him. I have an old scrapbook with lots of photos from his racing days in England. In fact, I was conceived in England while he was there racing. Hence the name Elizabeth, I guess. "
"Re Jerzy Szczakiel; Hi Peter, I hope you dont mind but I want to comment on your line, "The Pole raced in Katowice like he never did before or after for that matter." Just wanting to remind people or point out to those who dont know that Jerzy won the 1971 World Pairs Final with his partner Andrzej Wyglenda at Rybnik unbeaten. Watch it on You Tube and you can see how he thrashed Ivan Mauger and Barry Briggs in an amazing from the back ride that Peter Collins would have been proud of in the coming years. It's true that his glorious duck at the World Cup Final of 1973 is legendary but these quotes from Ivan Mauger himself, prove that Jerzy was a class act and worthy of the title, Speedway Champion of the World:
"Usually it was easy to predict where the big challengers were coming from but for many speedway followers, Jerzy Szczakiel's 1973 World Title victory was the biggest upset in the history of the sport. All I can say to that is, had anybody seen him at the World Pairs Final in Rybnik a couple of years earlier, when he and Andrzej Wyglenda were unstoppable, they would not have been quite so shell-shocked."
"It is an unfortunate tag for a pleasant, unassuming man who not only was a whole lot better than that reputation suggests, but legitimately earned himself a place in the record books which hundreds of other supposedly better-credentialled riders never achieved."
"Have to admit that I was only going on reports I've read that while not naming the referee, did say he was Polish. I'm happy to stand corrected on that. Szczakiel did deserve to win on the day and didn't need help from the referee (while I do believe Zenon Plech was very fortunate to finish 3rd, that should have been Ole Olsen's). But that day just showed how any of the 16 riders could win the title on that single day. The Pole raced in Katowice like he never did before, or after for that matter. Take the World Team Cup final at Wembley just two weeks later. Last in his first ride, failed to finish his next two and was excluded for breaking the tapes in his 4th. He didn't even get to run his fifth race and as the new World Champion scored a grand total of zero points as Poland came in dead last. Not exactly what they would have expected considering they had the #1 and #3 in the World in the team."
"I've known Bruce since his Cradley days and can confirm that he is indeed as mad as they come! He is however a great guy and I have many memories of Bruce's exploits most of which no one would believe unless they were there. I can also say that Bruce has a handshake best avoided if you need to use your right hand during the next 24 hrs! All in all a great whole hearted rider ,a true Cradey legend and most of all a really good laugh and someone I am proud to say I know."
"To answer the query from 'Nige' re the music played at Hyde Road as the riders reached the tapes for the start, it depends on when he attended the stadium. But I suspect he would recognise 'Theme for the Common Man' which can be heard in various versions on You Tube. Also heard for some years at Hyde Road was the theme from the Olympic Games in Japan in 1964.....Helmut Zacharias' Tokyo Melody....again search You Tube for a rendition!"
"If you mean the old march out tune It's called Blazeaway it's been recorded by many bands (brass & military } it was even played at Liverpool Cathedral at the memorial service for the late Peter Craven. I used to try and teach my mates in the pits Ken Eyre, Wilkie and Soren the rugby words to this great march."
"I can't remember the details of the meeting but I well remember seeing Brian getting a flyer from the gate at Poole with a determined Ove Fundin chasing him but unable to catch him up! The race time was extremely fast and the track record may have been equalled or beaten. Ove always hated to be beaten and told Brian afterwards, with a grin, I'll beat you next time!"
"An enjoyable and thought-provoking read. I too find Sky speedway coverage technically excellent and in general I believe the commentators/presenters are well informed and do a good job. Just two things really irritate me. I could well do without most of the interviews with riders. These can be embarrassingly awful, just as they are in football and other sports, due to a lack of articularcy and, increasingly, a language barrier. Secondly, the intelligence of the viewers is regularly insulted when the commentators rave about 'big crowds'. It is easy enough to focus a camera on a few hundred people huddled together in front of the main stand/clubhouse etc, but the shots of the actual racing cannot disguise the fact that the rest of the stadium is empty. "
"I am 75yo. My father who raced midgets at Olympic Park pre-war started taking me to Maribyrnong Speedway from about 1948. Dad said Bill Rogers was the best rider he had seen but changed his mind when Jackie Biggs returned from England after his first season away. In those days they had handicap raced over 4 laps for solos and Jack was always the back marker. He was often giving starts of three quarters of a lap and still winning. He beat the current at that time world champ Vic Duggan in a match race series and completely thrashed Aub Lawson at the same track. He had the petrol tank under the seat and I believe he was the first to do so. Was I a fan?, ABSOLUTELY. He made speedway solos for me. To see him last in a field of seven in a handicap with a lap to go made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck watching him overtake the whole field. Boy the crowd loved it. I note my son Jim wrote a previous article on this site. I think he was wrong about the cause of Jack's death. My memory of the facts told to me was that Jack fell off and was hit by a novice rider's bike. Probably that is why these days professional riders will not ride against novices and I think that is written into their insurance policies."
"Hi Phil, thank you for your post, yes Mum said it really hit hard for pa that fatal crash and he suffered from it also. I also believe there were rumors that it happened on purpose, however I can say from a psychological perspective, reminiscing on the time I spent with my grandfather and from what my mother recalls, it was not planned or expected. One of my last memories of pa, was when he "thought" he was going to meeting and was all dressed up sitting on the side of his bed when he asked me which sock went on which foot. It would seem his racing days never left him. Apparently the Claremont speedway in WA would not allow pa to race due to the rumors, sadly, however he always remained in contact with his close racing friends. "
A synopsis of a new speedway novel by Michael Hansen, set in 1977 against the backdrop of the new silencer regulations.
Don't forget the upcoming Long Eaton Speedway Reunion, which will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Invaders' National League championship. The event is on 14th March and full details are here.
Tony Webb is working with Gordon May on his memoirs and would love to hear from anyone who has any memories of Gordon. Gordon made the Comet speedway and grasstrack frames and is now 85 years young. Tony can be contacted at email@example.com
"The terrible Accident that took Ken Le Breton, (I knew his family) happened right in front of me at the Sydney Sportsground. I was only a schoolboy at the time, but I'll never forget it, Ken Le Breton was my hero at the time. Also sad for Eddie. "
"Unfortunately unless amalgamation is done under PL terms, it isn't going to work. All we'll have is a re-run of 1995-96 with the ex-EL teams keeping the good riders with the ex-PL teams struggling for riders. There also isn't enough riders to go around at the minute anyway!!! Second problem is the mid season split. The PL tried it in 2011 and basically due to weather problems we had A fixtures not run in time and last minute arranging of B fixtures with some teams having to postpone matches as they couldnt get anyone to race!! No one could publicise fixtures in advance as they didnt have enough notice. That was with 14 teams, I dread to think what would happen with 23-24!! If the first problem could be overcome, a conference system like American sports might be easier with say 4-6 divisions. Therefore fixtures could be arranged before the season starts with play-offs to decide the title without relying on mid season splits. "
"Very good points in this article, but its all been said before, do the promoters take any notice, well the answer is No, The reason its costs money, and no tracks is making any real money. But surely it's time the these in power in our started talking up the sport. speedway on TV, is good to a point, but I feel it's as put no extra new comers to any track. Just look at the next meeting you go to, standing room in all parts. Another large crowd they say every week on TV, and the is little or nobody there. Promoters need to stop fighting each other and Promote the sport."
"Wow! Another great article from John Fray! This progressive and practicle answer to speedway's challenges is so simple. The system that he advocates has been used over many years in Oxford University's College Leagues for Rugby Union and is definitely a winner. In that system the teams can vary so much from season to season that one team can be at the top one season and near the bottom the next purely because of the varying standards of the students who consistently come to and go from the University. At the half way point the top teams swap with the bottom teams from the next league up which ensures an almost level playing field in the secdond part of the season.
There is a similiar system in the rowing competitions except that if you bump the crew in front you move up by swapping places. If you are bottom and fail to bump you swap with the top team from the next league down. This provides 'Head of the River' after a few days of racing. To take it another step, players who play rugby for the University team are not allowed to play for their College teams until the 'Cuppers' comes round. This is the local term for an FA Cup style competition when all College sides enter although there is seeding system. Would this work in speedway? The league system definitely would. The Knockout Cup would need some thinking - Grand Prix stars not in the league but in the cup? Surely worth a try?"
"I have thought hard about John Fray's 'North-South Divide' article, struggling to find a reason to contradict it somewhere. But the reasoning he puts forward are so well-balanced that there is nothing so far as I can see to be contradicted. One must hope that those who guide speedway at the top take time to reflect on the points put forward. More importantly, I feel that the article should be forwarded to the BSPA for them to read, think about what is suggested, and where it is practical go about putting them into place. A well-wriiten, thoughtful article."
"Georg Traunspurger (correct spelling) was the referee (Sedzia in Polish) at the Slaski Stadium, Chorzow, Katowice in 1973. Jerzy Szczakiel deserved to win the World Title on the day, particularly as he and fellow Pole Pawel Waloszek team-rode Mauger into third place in heat 8. The heat 19 incident did rob Grigori Chlynowski (USSR) a place on the podium as he was good enough to beat Szczakiel in heat 15, something Mauger did not manage throughout the meeting. The crowd there was immense, but being a completely open stadium, the atmosphere did not compare to a full-house at a Wembley World Final."
"Alan Molyneux? Was looking at the lad drinking from a can in centre thinking Norman Hunter but he would surely have been riding himself as the pic of Ray Wilson would suggest that being the same era."
"I've only just found this interesting site. I met Fred Strecker and Charlie Shelton a few times in the 1960s and 70s, with Charlie living down Roseberry Avenue, a little cul-de-sac of houses at the side of Nottm Forest ground. He had been a school friend of my father, who was born in 1908. I think that Fred's real family name was Streicher, and it was Anglicised to Strecker in order to avoid anti-German hostility during WW1.
I last met him in the late 1960s when he sold a friend of mine some American side-valve vee-eight engine parts from one of his pensioned-off and derelict stock cars, stored in an overgrown yard in the Lady Bay area of West Bridgford. Charlie Shelton was in the Nottingham papers a good few years ago, when builders working on his house found a live WW2 incendiary bomb jammed in the rafters in the roof-space.
My connection to vintage speedway, which I usually call 'Dirt-Track Racing', is that I owned and restored a 1929 Scott Speedway Model, a 498cc twin-cylinder, water-cooled, two-stroke bike. Frank Varey and Allan Jefferies were VERY successful on Scotts, but no-one else seemed to have the necessary skills to handle the quirky machines. I'm currently restoring a 1929 Isle-of-Man Senior TT works Scott, but that is quite a different story, and off-topic for this site !"
" It was good to see the riders from the past. Really missed the sport. Myself was a junior rider, started 1976 and really enjoyed it.The only sad thing was I was in the race which Stuart Shirley was killed. Great to see Jacko and Finch. Please let me know of any planned reunions."
"Could someone please tell me the theme tune at the start of the races who was it by ? Thank you. PS. I have lovely memories of the old track, one of them was practice nights there when I had my speedway bike at 16 years old and watching the likes of Andy Smith, Chris Morton and Peter Colins . Top days :)"
"I go back prior to 1975. I started out at West Row back in 1972 and was part of the very first team formed by Barry and Bernie Klatt. Are there any photo's that you either have or could get from track action back then? I have a team photo that includes Mike Lee as a 16 yr old"
"Anyone got memories of that 1973 World Final, I " WAS THERE " as they say, as a fanatical speedway fan in 1973 , at the age of 17 , went through my own devices to Katowice that September . Posting this comment after reading week on week great feedback on the nostalgia of years and meetings ( and proper presentation of those meetings of the past) but hugely frustrated and annoyed and angry that current custodians of the sport seem to me do not understand what is required to bring this fantastic sport to a greater audience in any way, shape or form.
Recognition that the world has changed from 1968 ( my 1st Meeting, Newcastle 46, Hackney 32 if memory serves me correct ) to 1973 to today. However, whilst I don't wish for black leathers again, I do wish for someone to take an absolute control without any vested interest, to take the bull by the horns and address once and for all the big picture and provide blueprint going forwards that everyone buys in to that will see us in the years ahead as prominent as we were in 1968/69/70/71/72/73 in the national consciousness. Sorry, but I end on a personal note, the travelling road show /circus that is the GP is a joke and if not addressed will be known as what circuses are now known as ."
"It was interesting to read about Crystal Palace and seeing my fathers name with the others. He raced at New Cross as well. When the war ended and racing started in 1945 he was a pit Marshal at meetings and I used to meet the riders."
"Keen collector of all old stuff about Custom House Stadium. Love reading and researching about the stadium itself. Would love to see such things as the pics of the demolition etc and views under the stands etc! Would love to be contacted! firstname.lastname@example.org"
"Wow! Found myself agreeing with every word written by Dudley Jones re the problems facing speedway right now. Trouble is, the article had so much commonsense contained in it I'm doubtful if the people in charge of the sport will actually pay any attention to it. The monotony of Grands Prix, and watching the same invited riders make it a complete turn off for me, while like he says second halves provided something a little different for spectators and, most important, helped develop junior riders, who these days are extremely fortunate if they can find a junior team in the third tier. The nearest junior track to us in Scotland is several hundred miles away so what chance have we got of developing new talent?"
"There seems to be cofusion about who the referee was for the 1973 World Final at Katowice. Peter Hunter (SpeedwayPlus 2.2.14) states the referee was Polish, as does the Wikipedia entry for the event, however this Polish referee is not named. Contemporary reports have the referee down as Georg Transperger of West Germany. "
"I think you're mixing up Fiora with Sean Courtney in some of these grand old pics. Here's what I think: 1. Correct. 2. Brett Saunders (w), Mark Fiora (r), Roger Lambert (b). 3. Other two riders are Tony Rizzo (r) and Michael Irving (w). 4. John Walmsley looking stylish, Wilcock (w) and I think Sean Courtney (r). 5. Brett Saunders in white. 6. Again I think Sean Courtney behind Jeffrey. 7. Ditto 7 above. 8. It is Tony Rizzo. Paul McHale didn't ride in the meeting, Rizzo took his place in the programme. The meeting took place on Friday 27th July 1984, Stelrad Monarchs running out 44-34 winners."
"2) White Brett Saunders, Blue Tony Rizzo. 3) 3rd Rizzo 4th Michael Irving. 4) 3rd Sean Courtney Out of Shape John Walmsley. 5) White Saunders. 6) Red Sean Courtney. 7) Red Sean Courtney. 8) Tony Rizzo."
"I have some names for the unidentified riders on the Edinburgh v Barrow pics. Pic 2, white is Brett Saunders and blue is Roger Lambert. Pic 3, blue is Tony Rizzo, white is Michael Irving. Pic 4, yellow is John Walmsley, red is not Mark Fiora its Sean Courtney. Pic 5, white is Brett Saunders. Pic 6, not Fiora with no helmet colour, its Sean Courtney again! Pic 7, in red, once again, Sean Courtney. "
"Just found this web site. I was there Wonderful day. (Not sure my wife liked so much) Best memory... Nigel Boocock reading the lesson at the start of proceedings (it was a Sunday) and seeing Frank Varey with his Scott. He seemed to be a lovely man. Still got the programme."
Ray Davidson has uncovered these great old pictures he took at Powderhall in 1984. They are from an Edinburgh Monarchs versus Barrow Blackhawks challenge match. Can you help identify some of the riders?
Details of Tony Webb's new book on A.J.Hunting. Webb promises that several long held speedway myths will be debunked when the book is published on1st March.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to sponsor the British Youth Championship - formerly the Under 15's) are pleased to announce the 52nd edition of their magazine the Voice which is packed full of interest and enjoyment. This issue is a big 28 pages, four more than usual which will keep your interest for hours!
In this issue David Telfer gives his views on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year; the Elite league make-up; Chris Harris back in the GP's and news of SKY Sports. Annette Maybach gives her thoughts on the coming season. 'Slider' gives his views on the new season, and TV coverage. Charles Mckay looks at GP earnings and speedway on TV figures. Sue Towner reports on the impact of Air Fence rules and using youngsters at reserve in the Elite league. Roy Delaney with two historic stories. John Hyam on the career of Mike Tams. Bert Harkins on the Celebration of Speedway Day. Editor Stuart Towner reports on the California-in-England Reunion and much more too.
Available from Friends of Speedway ; 117 Church Lane , Chessington, Surrey KT9 2DP. Please send your cheque for £10 made out to the above for four issues of the Voice to Stuart Towner at the above address or ring 0208-397 6599 for more information.
"Part of the ground occupied by Nelson Stadium has still not been built on to this day. What is more amazing is that the riders numbers painted on the boundary wall can still be clearly seen 40 years after the last meeting."
"Jack, there was no bricks sticking out on the turns. it was concrete that was laid to stop the stockcars from chewing up the track. this is what you saw. The shale just would not (stick) to the concrete, we tried and tried but with no joy. The Nelson track-fence used to get a lot of bad reports. there also was other tracks in the second division that also got bad reports but the home team riders just got on with the job. My late father Derek was the manager under Mike Parker promotions at Nelson. he made his money from the stockcars. but speedway lasted 3 years then they moved to Bradford. Stockcars (helldrivers) still raced there for a few more years but the stadium had to go for the new motorway, the land at this moment is still there empty just the pits wall and the red brick wall down the back straight still remain. The riders numbers on the wall is just about the item left to say that the Nelson Admirals speedway had raced there."
"Remember going to both matches and couldn't believe how we could be as bad at Berwick as we were at Edinburgh!! In saying that, our record at Berwick that year wasnt very good. A few team changes, including bringing in Colin Farquharson, Keith Bloxsome/Jim Beaton and using R/R for Grahame Dawson changed our fortunes. "
"Holds the world record speedway attendance at somewhere between 120,000 and 130,000 for the 1973 World Final. From what I've read and seen, the Polish referee made sure that Jerzy Szczakiel wasn't the only Polish rider on the podium with a ruling from Heat 19 that was pretty disgraceful....."
2014 marks the 30th Anniversary of Dave Perks leading the Long Eaton Invaders to the National League title. Neil Burrows brings us details of an upcoming special evening that will see the team reunite to mark the anniversary.
Legendary photographer Alf Weedon passed away last Sunday at 93 years of age. His funeral will take place on Wednesday 5th February at 1 pm at the North Chapel, City Of London Cemetery, Wanstead.
East London Radio are working on a documentary about the heyday of Speedway in East London - from the 1920s until 1970s. They are looking for fans, riders and officials to contribute. Please contact Ian Chambers - email@example.com
"First meeting end of 1970 season.Thrilled at how the riders stayed on the bike. Parents took us for years home n away. Could see into the pits from stand on turn three. Never forget Ivan Mauger / Peter Collins signing programmes after heat 13, then on to the fairground BOBS / Water Shute. Used to go in school hols on the bus from WIgan.The methanol smell and shale down your shirt, being so close to the action, Fabulous.The record 'Popcorn' welcomed you to another home match. Hyde Road - Bloody Great."
"I, like Richard Tyrrell, would love to see Oxford reopen and I have campaigned for this, despite only having been there once. I agree also regarding the state of speedway. To put it bluntly British speedway sold its soul to a circus. The Grand Prix is definitively not a world championship but a roadshow of effectively invited riders. You might argue that nultiple winners may have some claim to being 'World Champion' but who is to say that there are not very many greater riders outside the sytem, in the wilderness. I have huge respect for Ove Fundin and his views, most recently aired in the excellent Retro Speedawy DVD on Norwich. Ove is in no doubt that the GP circus is a bad thing.
Also, the set up of the sport today with no regular meeting night is a bad thing. See the DVD, Ove speaks more wisely about things than anyone I can think of. I feel very strongly that to give the sport any chance we need regular racenights. Being a speedway supporter is a life style thing, an enjoyable habit When I lived within 50 miles of Ipswich I supported the Witches each week. Thursday was their racenight and only occasionally would they not race that night. I arranged my life to be at Foxhall on Thursdays, in a similar way to countless other supporters of their respective favourites. If out and about in other parts regular race nights would enable the travelleor to turn up at other tracks confident of seeing a meeting. Can you expect a regular fanbase with the present system - no.
We also need local boys in teams, and we need riders who stay more than a season - in short - continuity. If I were in charge I would forget about the GP system, and perhaps bring speedway back to local level, to its roots. Both Olle Nygren and Ove seem opposed to lots of foreigners in our team (which may seem strange). After a few years of 'basic speedway' crowd building GB would emerge stronger on the world stage. Thats more or less what happened in 1964/5. Ove spent more than 10 years with Norwich, and had no desire to ride elsewhere. Indeed, there is very good reson to believe that, if Norwich had not closed (for very little housing money and in the face of gates of 10,000 or so) then he would now have more titles than Mauger.
Many think that abolishing the 'second half' also impacted upon popularity, and I am inclined to agree. There was something to look forward to after the league match, win or lose. The rider of the night contest gave the home team boys the chance to race each other, and the junior and scratch races gave a chance to new talent and local lads. In an age when Eastbourne (Elite League) appear to get similar or maybe less support than a well run third tier team such as Mildenhall, we have serious problems.
I have suggested a separate knock out world final in addition to GP (if we must). Call it the World Knockout Championship if you will, but it would bring back some support and interest. One of my favorite events at Norwich tended to be world championship qualifying rounds which brought lower league racers to The Firs. I am also a F1 supporter, and am not against the GB concept for such sports, because there are not hundreds of F1 drivers driving each week and excluded from GP. "
In what we hope may become a regular feature, we look at the seven riders that made up a team on a particular evening in the sport's history. We start with the seven riders that lined us as the Glasgow Tigers on Sunday 26th March 1978. Similar articles on the same theme more than welcome.
Zdenenk Flajshanz brings us pictures of this ice speedway in Upper Bavaria. He visited in 2009.
This website relies heavily on contributions from speedway fans around the world. Articles and pictures are always welcome - get in touch if you've something suitable for publication.
Terry Hooke is looking for results from a 1957 Cavalcade of Speed at London White City - Can You Help?
We've been contacted by Janet Webb, whose father provided the bike that Jack Woods was riding when he was killed at Palmerston Speedway in 1947. Janet believes the bike may now be in the Palmerston Speedway Museum. Is anyone in that neck of the woods able to confirm and perhaps send a picture? Drop us at a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
"A first class article by John Fray, a man whose letters on the gradual demise of Oxford Stadium, have headlined the letters page of the Oxford Mail in the past few months. Many of us have been desperate to see the stadium survive so that speedway might return but, in the back of our minds, have been doubts about the viability of the present level at which the sport curently operates on a wider scale, and could it now be sustained at Oxford.
There is no doubt that British speedway has suffered dreadfully at the hands of the Grand Prix despite many warnings of future problems in the early 1990s, and it is a shame that the promoters of the day didn't stand and fight. Can you imagine a return of Saturday night speedway at tracks like Swindon, Coventry etc? But we are where we are today. I could never understand why promoters do not promote the sport locally away from race night. When I was young there were always adverts in the local newspapers and on advertising billboards, and the kids around were always talking about speedway. Reading Mr Fray's article, especially the part about attracting bigger crowds, brings to mind the phrase - speculate to accumulate! Who knows - maybe miracles do happen!"
"Western Springs still operates but only for car racing. That is of course until the SGP comes to town for its yearly one night stand. The heart of Solo racing in Auckland is at Rosebank Road. Templeton or Ruapuna as its now known also still operates. They put the bike track inside the car track yonks ago but sometimes the bikes go on the big track. Moore Park is THE place to go for solos in Christchurch. Gisborne and Napier are all go, mainly I believe for cars but solos are still on the programmes. I'm really not that up with the play about things in this lay-down, touch screen I-pod thingy world so someone else better informed may wish to correct me or update me, just don't download me! Would not do me prostate anygood I'm sure!!!"
"I supported Norwich until they closed and I have a photgraph of Aub Lawson riding round the Norwich track on a donkey. I also have several World Final programes from the 50s and 60s all filled in which I attended. Also several photos of old Norwich riders."
"Remember them days well! My brother was the mascot 'Diddy Daniel' so I was brought up on speedway! Still have pretty much all the MK Knights programs from the 80's and Speedway Stars and Mail if anyone is interested. (email@example.com)"
"In answer to the query, it was filmed at New Cross Stadium just off the Old Kent Road in South East London. It was situated right next to Millwall's old ground "The Den". My Nan used to go and watch the New Cross Rangers at 'The Frying Pan' as it was called due to the high banking of the track."
"Just to counter Tracy Holmes's comments on Speedway Ruined My Toffee Apple 1973. The "nobody" comment regarding Jerzy Szczakiel comes from how the speedway press reacted at the time. As Richard Bott says in the Champions Book of Speedway No.5, "I doubt very much whether there was a speedway fanatic back in Britain who wouldn't have queried "Jerzy who?" when the name of the 1973 World Champion was flashed acros Europe." Even Richard Bott managed to overlook Jerzy's World Pairs victory when dismissing his other achievements, or lack of them."
"A couple of responses to Ian Harwood's most enjoyable article on 1973. The answer to Ian's query as to why Exeter fans in the County Ground grandstand had to stand up during racing appears in Classic Speedway Venues Past & Present. The Falcons' landlords at the County Ground made major alterations to the front of the grandstand withoiut having the courtesy to inform the speedway management. Having previously stood to watch speedway at Exeter, I only discovered the problem when I went to a meeting with a family group which needed to sit down. Some chance! At the time the rugby authorities made the changes, it was estimated that nine out of every ten admissions at the County Ground were for speedway. Whilst speedway pulled the crowds rugby union, in the days before it became professional and trendy, attracted two men and a dog. Classic Speedway Venues also covers Loomer Road, with a picture of the extended terracing Ian mentions in his article."
"You had to stand in the County Ground main stand, otherwise you couldn't see parts Of the home straight nor the first and fourth bends. It was built by the rugby club and afforded a fine view of the pitch! After our first visit, we always settled for the back straight terracing."
"Another fun and entertaining read Ian! Hope you dont mind the following; It was the British/Nordic Final at Coventry where Eric Boocock did his startline demonstration. The British Final had been held at Sheffield. And re Ivan Mauger at the World Final. You put "This time he needed a bit of luck and a sympathetic referee, he found neither." uummm actually mate, he got both. His luck came as the same for most of his opponents, Ole Olsen was riding severely handicapped by injury. A fully fit Ole could have taken that Title unbeaten. We all know that. Also, Anders Michanek had a bad day at the office. His other chunk of good luck came when he broke the tapes and got away with it. It was heat 11, the tapes were broken 4 times, twice by Grigory Chlinovski, once by Edward Jancarz and once by Ivan. They all found the referee very sympathetic indeed ! And ok, Jerzy Szczakiel himself had clearly broken the tapes in heat 8 and got away with it. But in the re-run, thrashed Ivan by 8 lengths ! See it for yourself on You-tube. And the Gold Medal run-off ? Ivan was outsmarted, outgated, out manouvered, outridden and outclassed. He says so in his book. Yes, it was THE biggest upset in Speedw ay history but a nobody had won the World Final ? No way !!! Jerzy failed to score in the World League and The World Cup Final, true. But he raced the World Champion Ivan Mauger 4 times that year, and won all 4. Howzat ?!"
"Up on the 1st bend over the top of the fence there was a load of steel girders sticking up from the ground. I may have been wrong to say they kept the fence up sorry on that, but i am sure there were girders over the fence."
Ian Harwood continues his popular series that takes a personal look back at speedway in the seventies. In 1973 ITV started taking a serious interest in the sport and there were a couple of legendary run-offs.
"1967, 3rd June, my neighbour took us back to Meadowbank, I had been before with him, August 1965, but being only 9/10 years old, was too busy making a pest of myself. Now I was wee bit older and wiser. The first thing that hit me was the smell, aroma, the riders starting up their bikes and 3 riders coming over to us stating something about gate 2 having a problem (nieghbour was a starting marshall) - Reidar, Douggie, and George Hunter. I was vey impressed my neighbour knew these people and they knew him, even more so after the racing was finished. Ever since I have been addicted to speedway, there is no other sport as engrossing, long may it continue, Meadowbank so sorely missed, the atmosphere, crowds, mostly the racing and presentation."
"I certainly remember Nelson stadium. In 1968 I went to support Belle Vue Colts at the venue. At that time the Aces second string were riding high, unbeaten and ultimately won the title that year. Travelling confidently we then found that the track was a little (?) different to what we had been used to seeing at Hyde Road! It was many years ago but I can still see the bricks sticking up on the corners now, and the away riders were suitably subdued as a result. Colts went down by 14 points, only Taffy Owen able to cope with the conditions.........he scored 13 pts from 5 rides."
"Only recently got into speedway and being a Boston lad I'm gutted I never got to see any speedway in my local town. We brought the Braves back for it a bit a few years back but it never really hit off. My Dad was a big fan back when this stadium was around, so sad I can't even visit the stadium where it once stood. "
"Very interesting. Jonny Roccio is my Grandfather and Ernie Roccio is my great uncle. As they, and many of their friends have long passed, information has been difficult to obtain about their racing careers. If anyone has any information or photos I would be exptremely appreciative if we could get in contact. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org"
"Wilmslow Hammers 48 Belle Vue 48; SUN 28 April 1962; Hammers in photo and points scored: A Lewis1, J Percival 5, P Lomas (capt) 13, C Brecknell 1, R Holllins 5, M Page7, J Mottershead 9, J Wright 2, A Willcocks 3, M.Lees 2. To make the match more interesting Wilmslow took all outside gates. Harry Marsh did not ride in this meeting, he retired from racing in 1957."
"Cribby was one of my favourite riders at Poole, where I was introduced to the sport by my Dad in about 1961 (gulp!). A true giant, both literally and metaphorically. Irony is that I now live in the land of his birth! Tim Court - I think we went to school together in Wimborne ..."
This circuit is situated in Central Finland, about 350 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle. There are two tracks, the full size track for 500 cc racing and a smaller track inside the larger track, used by juniors using 80 cc bikes.
The track record is 61.56 seconds held by Kai Laukkanen (2005-07-16). There is only one meeting, over a weekend, here each year, around the third week of July each year. It is the Finnish Kaupunki Cup, which seems to be a pairs meeting between Finnish tracks.
Thanks to John Middlemiss for the photographs and this information.
"My Mum & Dad knew Ken as they were keen Leicester Hunters & then Lions speedway fans, then dad started taking me to Blackbird Rd when it reopened again in 68. I then initially met John (Johnnie Mac) McKinley when we both used to belong to Leicester Monarchs cycle speedway. (Found an old pic of John from when I was taking photos for the club at the british cycle speedway final at Leicester in 1979).
I then tried my luck at speedway and Ken gave me some very good tips and advice on training days at Long Eaton. Never saw him ride in his glory days, saw him ride at a Golden Greats meeting in the 80's at Coventry that I went to with my parents. I did only meet Ken a couple of times but will always remember him as a knowledgable speedway man who offered a young wannabe like myself advice in a good way that made you listen and appreciate that he knew what he was talking about. I also remember John ended up working at Jordan motors in Leicester and also went on to ride speedway."
"As a kid in the East End, in the forties and fifties, I used to go to West Ham to the speedway [ and the dogs] every week. Great fan of Eric Chitty and Malcolm Craven, would like to know more about their lives, families, careers, later years, and, sadly, their deaths. Funnily,we now live in Ontario [re Eric Chitty.]. My dad was a huge fan of Bluey Wilkinson [and Mick the Miller, greyhound, pre-war of course]"
"Please can I assure Martin Wilkins that I bear Norman Strachan no malice whatsoever. These are my reflections on my memories from being a child. I have nothing but admiration for anyone that hurls themselves sideways round a speedway track on a motorcycle with no brakes."
"I followed Wimbledon from 1960 until its closure, my favourite rider was Ronnie Moore. I always thought Gary Everitt would come good, such a sad loss to the sport. I miss speedway now, no clubs close to my home in Sutton."
"I was Mike Howe's mechanic, he was signed to Milton Keynes, who went bust then would only loan him. This contract effectively meant that he would have to be purchased or transfered and cost money. He was on loan to Belle Vue and Peterborough that season. Peterborough decided they no longer required his services, then he could not get another ride. I know that he was under pressure from his day job, his parents,and finacially from the costs of racing, the time he was putting in. I guess he had done his part, turned up, nice bikes, rode well, shown promise, commitment and still could not get a ride. I know I am biased but the guy had talent and the politics of a sport and its promoters robbed him of a chance. I know that Lee Coleman broke or cracked his neck in a practice at Peterborough and retired."
"An excellent look back at the late 60's / early 70's. I was a West Ham fan then, and ultimately Hackney, but did lots of away trips with the Hawks, the Belle Vue one being of prime importance. What great days, never to be relived sadly, but happy memories nonetheless."
"I do enjoy these articles, however I do find the constant jibes about Norman Strachan a little distasteful. Norman came to my club Newport in 1968, although never a world beater was a solid 6 point second string . However in 1969 he was averaging over 8 a match and riding the best speedway of his career. Until a match with Sheffield when Arnold Haley clashed with him at Newport, a really nasty crash. Norman was out for a while but when he came back sadly was never quite the same and maybe went on racing longer than he should have, in my view Haley left a legacy on Norman. So I would ask the writer not to be so damning of Norman when he never seen him at his best on another track."
"I remember attending a Golden Greats meeting at Coventry with both my parents. Ken McKinlay got on a bike for a ride round. A couple of match races involving PC were great entertainment. I even have some photo's of the day and I think the programme hidden away somewhere. I also attended the World Final at Odsal and was glad I took my camera as I have some good photo's to look back on with fond memories."
The next chapter in Ian Harwood's popular series in which he takes a very personal look back at his formative speedway experiences. Watching Peter Collins and Ivan Mauger each week wasn't a bad way to spend a childhood!
"Great article! I am just so sick and tired of the sexism that is in speedway and almost all motorsport. How are we going to get women into the sport if we give them the impression that they are only objects of male desire? I watch a lot of speedway with my girlfriend but she hates watching the GP's and The SEC, it makes her just so sad and that's probably what a lot of women feel. It's just horrible the way it is right now."
"Re: Harry Marsh 'Pedalling to Glory': His father Frank Marsh was a highly respected midget car driver 1934-39 and linked to the Elto midget cars which were then being promoted by then Belle Vue speedway promoter the legendary E O Spence. Many of the Belle Vue midget car drivers were also speedway riders. There is much about Frank Marsh on the internet - he even has his own page. This can be found by a Google search Frank Marsh midget car racing."
"Glad to hear you enoyed your visit Tommy but please note (though in the town of Sittingbourne) the track is called Kent Speedway - this is because the track in Iwade has the 'Sittingbourne' name... I appreciate a bit confusing but it is important NOT to call Central Park, 'Sittingbourne'..."
"Knew him when he was a kid riding a mac 101 minibike in the 125cc class at Elsinore for his early mentor Ron Stewert. Knew him when he hit So Cal Speedway tracks and after his racing days. Kept wanting to get back up to OC and look him up. Sorry I didn't do so. Godspeed Danny."
Pictures from the Kellerholz-Arena, courtesy of Ian Presslie. This is the home of MC Bergring.
Thanks to Bob Cole for this great link to some old track pictures. Some of the tracks are well known, but others are a little bit more obscure. Particular highlights are New Brighton, Warrington, Staines and Birmingham (Greet Works). There's also a picture of Lythalls Lane in Coventry and Bob reports that the gas holders in the background are on the present day site of the Ricoh Arena.
"The Wilmslow rider between the 1st. and 2nd. Belle Vue riders on the back row is myself Harry Marsh. I am eighty years old now! Incidentally, my father was a member of the Belle Vue midget car team 1935 to 1939."
"Alison Byatt asked about my Dad, "Alison Byatt is looking for information on Sydney Scadding a former Grasstrack/Longtrack rider in New Zealand". Dad lived in NZ long after he had last riden grass-track. He would have been riding back in his army days or earlier - he enlisted in 1933. I think he rode grass-track back in, or around, Southampton. He spoke of bikes that they put together from whatever bits they could get their hands on at the time. If anyone has any information from the early days that might relate to Sydney Alfred Scadding I would be very pleased to hear from them."
A couple of early seventies shots taken at Rye House by Ian Goold. Any more old snaps out there in photo albums that we could publish on the site?
The 'Where Are They Now' page on Facebook continues to grow with 225 former riders and officials now bringing us up to date with their lives. Remember you don't need to be 'on' Facebook to view the page.
"I went regularly from 1946 to1952 when I had to do National Service. What a team, Ron Johnson was the main man but I loved them all especially Mick Mitchell, not very good but what a trier. I have my first programme from my first visit, the London Riders Championship 1946 won by Ron. 1947/48 seasons were wonderful with Jeff Lloyd, Lionel Van Pragg and Bill Longley joining the club. Silly fool that I am, I still go over to the old site and relive those great days. Up the Rangers."
"I knew Jack Millen in the 70s when he rode for Stoke. I would love to buy photos of Jack . If any one can help me please get back to me on 07796274342. I really miss Jack as he was such a character. I used to help him with his bike at weekends and prepare the track ready for the race. R.I.P Jack."
"Yes Mr Weber, I appreciate your explanation and in depth knowledge. But, when I was in Austria last year the offical OAMTC register showed the Eggendof track as the home of Zweigverein Wiener Neustadt, not the old stadium in town."
"What a wonderful set of images from Fred Pallett. I just love these kind of fan's eye view photos. I especially like the New Cross photo looking towards the starting gate. It really shows how the fourth bend virtually ends at the finish line. Thank you Fred. "
John has been a Belle Vue fan since the fifties. Here he shares some memories and thoughts on the sport.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to sponsor the British Youth Championship - formerly the Under 15's) are pleased to announce the 51st edition of their magazine the Voicewhich is packed full of interest and enjoyment.
This issue is a big 24 pages that will keep your interest for hours!
In this issue David Telfer gives his views on the rules, the Grand Prix scoring system and the best Elite league meeting of the year; Annette Maybach gives her thoughts on speedway in general; John Chaplin with a festive Dirt-Track Dracula tale plus remembering Peter Craven; 'Slider' gives his view on the new world champion and the current state of speedway; Charles Mckay gives a long and involved view on the National Speedway Stadium; Sue Towner reports on Tai Woffinden's World Championship, televised speedway next year and a training day at Iwade; Roy Delaney on the Lion Slayer Ron Johnson; John Hyam informs about Hungarian speedway and much more.
Available from Friends of Speedway ; 117 Church Lane , Chessington, Surrey KT9 2DP. Please send your cheque for £10 made out to the above for four issues of the Voice to Stuart Towner at the above address or ring 0208-397 6599 for more information.
"It is great to see, pictures of Harringay as this was the very first place my dad ever went to watch. Before his death in 2003 he use to tell me stories of how he use to get the bus there on his own to go and watch. "
"Great article on the covers kept by BSP at Swindon, after attending the debacle that was the Elite League Riders Championship, it seems to me it could have been avoided by deployment of covers before the shower, which was forecasted accurately ( for a change) from early sat' morning, I know we checked many times and sites. Between 4/5o'clock, and no further rain. I feel if I am paying a premium entrance fee the least I could expect is a professional track prep'. I am really disappointed and will defiantly not be attending many more meetings if standards are not raised. Feeling well ripped off by BSPA, and certain so called stars who could not be bothered and withdrew. The track was not that bad as lack of fallers & incidents indicated, well done to Rory and the half a dozen others who gave it a good go, but as for Ward & co, I will not be paying to watch them again, contempt for fans deserves contempt back, rant over thanks."
"A full house at Derwent Park - but sadly not for speedway. When I toured British speedway tracks earlier this year researching my new book, Classic Speedway Venues Past & Present, I really enjoyed an evening at Workington, a very traditional stadium, extremely well-appointed by modern speedway standards and with a great atmosphere. Interesting to see that, according to the BBC, the attendance for the Scotland-Italy match in the Rugby League World Cup on Sunday November 3 was 7,280, a full house. Derwent Park has enjoyed considerable recent refurbishment to allow two RL World Cup games to take place. I imagine the ability to hold a crowd of that size means Derwent Park has the largest spectator capacity of any current British speedway venue (with the exception of the Millennium Stadium, obviously). Although it would be marvellous to see such a crowd turn out these days for a speedway meeting other than the UK Grand Prix, I think it would be fair to say that Workington Comets probably get a bigger average home crowd than Workington Town RLFC. "
"So good to read of the days gone by. As a Brummies support I saw all the greats. Although not able to put them in order as they were all super I can say that my favourites were Wilbur Lamoreaux, Graham Warren, Jack Parker. I remember when Graham challenged Jack Parker for the Golden Helmet at Perry Barr. Graham fell and Jack retained the title which had become known as "Parker's Pension". Great days."
"I don't see this as the conspiracy it is being made out to be. If anything the only possible conspiracy was by the British SCB to try to keep Mauger out of the World Championship for reasons best known to themselves. To my knowledge the ascertion that the top two from the National Championships would go to the Overseas Final was never going to happen, so if the NZ officials told the riders they would be, they had no right to say that. The Australasian Final was in doubt at least as early as December 1981 when the Australian Speedway Control Council heard the company running the Wellington track was in financial trouble. The Wellington promoter, Tony Nesbitt, subsequently said he could not raise the necessary financial backing to run the meeting. Instead of the NZSCB simply moving the event to another venue, they tried to reduce costs by cutting the number of Australian riders.
Nesbitt first applied to the NZSCB to have the number of Australians reduced from 8 to 4. The Australian Speedway Control Council immediately rejected that suggestion and they raised the question about whether the meeting should be held in Wellington at all. The NZSCB then came back with the offer of 6 spots for Australians, or for the top 2 from the national championships to be seeded to the Overseas Final. The ASCC viewed the latter as totally unacceptable, and reluctantly agreed to the offer of 6 spots, believing running with just 6 Australians was better than having no Australasian Final. So when the Australian Final was held (a fortnight before the NZ Final) the riders rode on the understanding the top 6 would qualify for the Australasian Final. Nesbitt then sold his interest in Wellington and the new promoter did not want to stage the meeting. The NZSCB then offered the meeting to Australia and it was agreed to run the meeting in Brisbane. The only proviso was that the date be changed from 27 Feb to 13 March because the Brisbane promoters said there was no way they could get a good crowd with only a couple of weeks to advertise the meeting.
The FIM approved the change of venue but not the change of date, so that was Brisbane out. Christchurch then looked at running the meeting but wanted the NZSCB and the NZACU to underwrite the meeting, which they would not do, so the Australasian Final was dead. It was then decided to run both an Australian Qualifying Final and a NZ Qualifying Final. Both would have 16 riders competing, those 16 being the 8 from each country who had qualified for the Australasian Final (as was originally intended before the suggestion of 6 Aussies) plus another 8 to allow the meetings to be held over the 20 heat format, but only the riders who were eligible for the Australasian Final were eligible to qualify for the Overseas Final. Nothing shady about that as I see it.
As for the line-up for the NZ Qualifying Final, the same rules would have applied as for the Australasian final, that is if one of the top 8 were unavailable the ninth rider would have taken his place as a legitimate qualifier. So when John Goodall and Mike Fullerton withdrew, the 9th and 10th finishers from the NZ Championship legitimately took their places. Hence Ivan Mauger had a legitimate right to be in the Qualifying meeting as one of the 8 qualifiers. So to this point Mauger has had no say it what would be done, and has ridden as a legitmate qualifier.
As far as the Overseas Final goes the British Speedway Control Board did refuse to accept Mauger’s qualification. As he had legimately qualified I can only assume this was for some personal reason against Mauger? Mauger had every right to ride in the Overseas Final and understandably challenged the BSCB ban and won. Love or hate Mauger, I can not see where he has done anything wrong, or that he has got anything he was not entitled to. If Mitch Shirra and John Goodall thought they were the rightful qualifiers for the Overseas Final that is down to a problem with the NZSCB. To my knowledge the FIM was never asked if the qualifiers could be the top two from the National Championship so the riders should never have been told that was going to happen. Also were they told it “would” happen or it “may” happen.
As for Mauger riding in the Overseas Final just to deprive Shirra of a place, I don't buy that either. As we all know Mauger was probably the most driven speedway rider there has ever been and I don't believe he would have given up a chance to ride in a World Final for any reason whatsoever, least of all just to keep another rider out. As for the comment "Ivan told me, he and Briggs had issues with Mitch Shirra's lifestyle. Seems they had no problem with the Yanks." I think anyone who has ever discussed drugs with Mauger will know he had very strong views on riders using drugs, and I know riders were not selected for, and/or kicked off his Golden Helmet tours of Australia because of drug use. "
"Did anybody else see Tai on BBC Breakfast programme, complete with his GP bike? I thought he came over exceptionally well and will prove to be an excellent ambassador for the sport (shame about the ear rings though! ) when I was a lot younger I did break a collarbone twice when coming off my road bikes, so I know how brave Tai was to ride so soon after. Let's hope a British world champion gives a big boost to our great sport. "
"What a great article, sums up my feelings as well, I think Tai will win a load more world titles if he can keep as focused as he is at the moment, what really impressed me was he didn't just play safe and ride around at the back arfter heat 5 when the championship was won he went for it right up till the end, a sign of a true champ and a heart of a lion!"
"Great article David and spot on in my opinion The first time I had the privilege of seeing Tai race was at Perry Barr and the experience lasted for approximately half a lap. The poor kid ended up on the dog track after clipping a back wheel coming off bend 2 and clearing the fence superman style. I think he broke his arm which was a shame but it could have been a lot worse. The next time Rye House visited he was injured so we had to wait until the following season to see him. Basically he was untouchable on a track he'd hardly ridden, a story repeated all over the country. He was and is an incredible talent and a worthy world champion if ever there was one. My claim to fame is, on seeing Chris Holder for the first time, whilst holidaying on the IOW, predicting that he too would one day be a world champ. He was (and is) awesome. All the best to speedway fans everywhere."
"We attended a lot of speedway races in southern California in the late 60's and into the 70's. I worked with Tommy Moran, Kelly & Shawn's Dad and also did some desert riding with Sam Ermolenko. I have a lot of great memories of the Moran brothers from the early days on the Jr. bikes. I haven't attended a speedway race in a long time and I think it's time I went back."
"What a great poem. I am about to take a funeral service for a Speedway fan and will be reading this poem giving full credit to Bob Wilson. Being a Speedway fan myself I'm going to enjoy sharing this poem of Speedway passion at the service. "
"Many good points by Phil. Covers, if properly designed, could be a success - but common sense (and local weather forecasts) must also be used. There is little sense putting them on a saturated track, particularly if the material cannot 'breathe'. Also, there is no point lifting them if persistent or heavy rain is forecast during the meeting time. The 7 day forecast should be checked. If there are a couple of wet days before the meeting, prepare the track and put the covers down in good time. If, on the morning of the meeting, the forecast is for persistent or heavy rain during the meeting, cancel in good time. Ironically, one possible problem could be track watering - if covers come off late, the track base could be too dry. To overcome this, the track curator may have to remove, water and replace the covers several hours before the meeting - sorry Phil, more work for you and the other volunteers. "
"Whilst appreciating the efforts of all volunteers at any track and their contributions are vital and invaluable you have to question whether speedway is a professional sport or not! An excuse for track covers not being used because a track cannot get volunteers, people struggle because they are full of over 60's so the covers are too heavy and take a lot of carrying...this cannot be used by any track as an excuse...it's a valid excuse from the actual volunteers, who I admire and feel sorry for, but not from a track who's responsibility it is to get the covers used properly if they are provided..speedway at club level seems to an amateur sport masquerading as a professional sport."
It's always nice to see a new track opening and Central Park in Sittingbourne opened for buiness in 2013 as the home of the Kent Kings. Here are some pictures of the venue courtesy of good friend of the site Ian Presslie. Notable features of the new track are the massive soundproof fence and the terrace without a roof on the back straight.
The rain-off at Birmingham on Monday resulted in a great deal of anger because the BSPA track covers had not been used. As Phil Rice explains, there's more to covering the track than you might believe. Phil speaks from experience of performing the task at Swindon.
Still a few days left if you want to enter our competition to win a copy of Philip Dalling's new book. All you need to do is identify the six tracks we've pictured here.
The fabulous Speedway Fiction website continues to add new items of interest on a regular basis. Latest additions include a TV times article on Terry Betts, a Look-in feature on Kent Youth Motorcycle Club and a speedway story from the 1951 Champion Annual.
"Oh what wonderful memories I have of the mid sixties and Igor riding for USSR at Exeter. Simpler never to return times but priceless memories, seems as if yesterday and when I hear that Igor has gone it makes me treasure and grab life all the more, thanks for the memory Igor and all the Russians who rode. "
"Yes I remember the old days of Champion Speedway very well Ivan.....also do remember you riding there...however memories can play a trick, I am pretty sure I used to drive down with Gary Ford on the Sunday and drive back the six hours it took us in time to go to work Monday morning. Some of the Nationals (two day affairs) were absolutely fantastic, great racing throughout the two days and as you stated the place was packed!
Oh yes, and it usually rained......I remember once it rained so hard there had to be two or three inches of water all over the track and they were going to call it off. Gary said to me, "get my bike ready will you, they are not going to cancel this". I thought he had lost his mind......however he went out and four brilliant laps of Speedway. Joe Bieseker worked the track and a couple of hours later we went racing on a first class track.
aaaahhh, happy days."
"Around 1947/8 I was a follower of the Thameside Tigers cycle speedway team from Dagenham. Some of the boys were getting hold of old motorbikes that had been laid up during the war, these were being run on 'Red petrol' nicked from various lorries, and driven without lights or silencers thro the streets of the 'Becontree Estate' after dark, one I remember was a 'Rudge Ulster'. The point of this is that occasionally we would all go over to the Dagenham Speedway track, situated behind the Dog Track, in Ripple Road. The boys would then ride their bikes around 'what was left' of the track which from memory was only about HALF OF A TRACK. I presume that the track had not been used since the war. The Dog Track was certainly in use around 1937 when as a young 4 year old I used to accompany my mother there when she worked on the turnstiles. I was of course too young to remember the speedway at that time. Hope this may give a tit bit of info re the Track."
"Great piece, bringing back some wonderful memories especially of Peter Craven and latterly Mark Loram both great riders. Mark was great at using all the track to get to the front he was terrific to watch. If GP tracks had been less slick he would have won many more GP points. Tai's achievement has been brilliantly inspiring. I am sure more of our riders will now not want to settle for second best, but to get to the top just like Tiger Tai has."
"Thanks for that info Patrick, another piece to the jigsaw. Problem is, Ivan was NOT one of the highest 8 scorers from the NZ Final at Western Springs. Yes, he was PRESENT for the Christchurch meeting but that did not alter the fact that he was not in the top 8 at Auckland. Another thing, the Christchurch meeting was NOT a re-staged NZ Final. Mitch Shirra is still the 1982 NZ Champion. The results of that meeting were not declared 'black'. The Christchurch meeting was a NZ qualifying round of the World Championship. Hastily arranged in place of the cancelled Australasian Final. As Alan Mason told me a few days before it was run, only those in the top 8 at Auckland would have their points count. As Alan was not one of them, I asked him, what if somehow he was 1st or 2nd ? "Wouldn't count!". The non appearance of John Goodall and Mike Fullerton should not have altered that arrangement. Top 8 scorers from Auckland, yes. Was Ivan Mauger one of them? No!"
"Great article that bought back memories of watching Jack ride for Sunderland when they visited Rayleigh in the early 70s . Most of the Rayleigh riders kept clear of Jack on the track, except Brian Foote. They would just bang elbows for 4 laps..!! Met Jack in the bar at Rayleigh once when I was aged 8yrs (1972). He'd just broken his ankle in the meeting, but was sitting at the bar with several pints lined up and happily signed my autograph book. This fits with other comments about there being another very different side to him than the one we saw on the track - we were very catious about asking him for his autrograph thinking he'd be the bad guy, but he wasn't like that at all."
"Not so, Phil. The Gornja Radgona track is in Slovenia, Gorican is in Croatia. What You are talking about is the speedway track at Prelog, that is no longer in use since it is just a few miles away from the Pavlic family's new speedway venue at Gorican. The pictured above former world long-track venue at Radgona (this was a 1,000m track) is located in the Slovenian town of Gornaj Radgona, right on the Slovenian/Austrian border."
"Cheers Mik ! 1976 Australasian Final 4th place run-off; "Heave too me hearties Yo-Ho!" Phil Herne and Mitch Shirra, who had ridden well above his raw teenage years, lined up and were under starters orders. Along comes Ivan Mauger at 20ks or so and as he gets to the tapes, up they go! He flys into the corner as his opponents are leaving the gate. Well almost. Ivan rode in magnificence and I watched in awe as he 'aced' 4 perfect laps and flew across the line to set a new track record in the process. This is for me, THE best race I ever saw Ivan ride. BUT that is NOT the story and I'm sorry, I can't tell it. The solids would hit the airconditioning and I'm not keen on that kind of fallout. The guy who could tell it won't and I must protect my source! Love 'Hill Street Blues' me! HOWEVER, how good are you at joining the dots? Not mentioning any names, the story involves a referee who did not operate the starting tapes. A starter who did operate the starting tapes and a Speedway Superstar who had to win to safely qualify to the next round of the World Championship. Throw in that mother of all flyers and ... Was Enola Gay? Who shot JFK? Follow the Yellow Brick Road my friend and Y'all have a nice day !!!"
"Stape was my Brother in law when I grew up in christchurch. A legend. I used to pit crew for him in my teenage years and that was a challenge! Enjoyed every minute of it until I decided I would have a go at riding them bikes. Will never forget the time when he was seeing if I had it and during a meeting at Ruapunah he came on to the track with a spanner & said if you are going to sit on that seat going around that corner I will take it off! A great Kiwi & mate. Say no more."
"Hi Steve, good to read this story. And may I say, it was written with passion, every word, was passionately thought & written. And that passion is alive today, with all the work you are doing back at your new home. Good on you we say, love it."
"I enjoyed Steve Luxton's article but he is unfortunately a little muddled regarding Igor Plechanov's first appearance at Exeter. Igor rode there on 12 July 1965, and yes, he did break the track record, but not by 4 seconds. He clocked 71.4, which was 'three fifths' (as they used to say) better than the previous time set in 1958. However, that time was still remarkable, given that he set in Heat 13 on a rain-sodden track. I saw Igor that same year at Newport, and he broke the record there too!"
"Fascinating article and look forward to parts two and three, as it was a few years after that I began going regularly as a kid and heard plenty about these years, but never knew too much of the details. Dare I suggest I can see similarities between 50 years ago and now and just wonder if history is about to repeat itself once again?"
" Bruce Cribb, met at Poole Speedway Dance 1965, photo with my girlfriend Barbara, now my wife of 45 years, neatly installed in our photo album. Still love speedway, but no rider comes near to my appreciation of Bruce. 100%every race, terrific style, never had any money, seen riding a vespa scooter in the winter of 65. Remember a meeting when announcer stated Bruce had bought a brand new bike, which he couldn't afford and first ride crashed, got up and walked away not being able to look at his bent "investment". I felt sick for him. Watched his career closely and was dissapointed to be told that he had attended Poole's 60th dinner in 2008(which we had not). Often wonder if he's still in Britain, but he must be as a Irene Nixon above says she lives with the "madman maori". Good luck to him. Is he still doing engines as I remember him being brilliant with speedway motors."
"I was at that challenge match at Halifax and in the Star the following week, little mention was made of it - even the fact that PC took home kingpin Eric Boocock from the back around turn one and two."
Zdenenk Flajshanz shares pictures from Tarnow in Poland. Janusz Kolodziej and Maciej Janowski were the top home men around this circuit in 2013.
With regards to last week's query, John Hyam reports that Skid Sprocket cartoons appeared in the 'Speedway Gazette' late 1940s and early 1950s.
The fourth edition of the Old Time Speedway Journal is now available. You can view the latest edition for free by clicking here. Putt Mossman, Jeff Lloyd and George Gibbs are amongst those featured this time around.
Retro-Speedway have just published issue 57 of the consistently excellent Backtrack magazine. Dennis Sigalos is the cover man in this edition, but look out for a young Nigel Crabtree dressed to kill as Sid Sheldrick's mini-me. Issue 23 of Classic Speedway from the same publisher is also now available and marks the 50th anniversary of Peter Craven's death with this special edition.
"Jason Bonsignore IS Mr East coast speedway! He is truly the only reason that there is any speedway on this side of the country! Personally we only met four years ago, but in that time I feel we have built a friendship that I am so glad we have! This year at 49 yrs old Jason invited me to race in my first ever meeting and again at this summers US Open and those are dreams I've had since I was 11 yrs old! Say what you want about Jason, but if it's not 100% positive then don't say it in front of me! Long live NY speedway!"
"Ralph's work is truly fantastic he brings years of speedway experience gained over years of being a mechanic for riders, tuning and customising engines and also as a fan and enthusiast of our great sport, his artwork brings all his enthusiasm, his empathy for his subjects and countless years of speedway experience to blend into truly fantastic works of art. I know Ralph won't mind me telling you that he only started doing these fantastic pieces when he retired from his full time job working for a aircraft manufacturer and has no formal art training, which in itself makes Ralph's work even more amazing. With Ralph's attention to detail I only wish he had been my engine tuner / mechanic when I was racing!!! Truly fantastic Ralph keep up the good work I love it!"
"Good to see our old team. Never to be repeated. What a waste of a well supported club. We are worth more than our money going to support a poor club, (Plymouth) That came nowhere near FALCONS ..Come see real speedway NO BRAKES, 4 laps. Exeter Aces Cyclespeedway Crofton Road, Marsh Barton, Exeter. Tuesday and Thursday Club nights. Come along, Want to ride ? will provide you wirh a bike, Just bring a helmet and gloves. We are the ACES !! phone 01392 439763 for more information ."
"The article and feedback items make no mention of the fact that Ivan Mauger was allowed to take his rightful place in the Overseas Final after an appeal (to the RAC, chaired by Lord Shawcross(?)), that as one of the 8 highest scoring riders PRESENT at the re-staged final (Gooddall and Fullerton were absent), he was indeed eligible to qualify from the re-staged NZ Final. "
"I remember the night that Gary passed away. it looked a silly simple accident, that turned out so tragic. He was a lovely, polite gentleman. He will always be a hero to me. I am now in my 60's but still remember every detail of Gary's death. My signed photograph of Gary is still in my collection, (in pride of place). R.I.P. Gary. You will be always remembered."
"What a shame Dave Gifford never spent the time to get to know the man, because for those that did, they certainly knew CRAZY JACK quite differently. Jack was a man with many faces but there were no hidden agendas, he was always in control, a man that would do anything to help others, a man once met never forgotten, a man that touched the heart of so many, a man that talked a lot of sense, a man that with his death broke a lot of hearts, especially mine, I have never got over the loss of my brother, my world will never be the same. SO, for you Dave, I feel sorry for you and your narrow mind. To others, let us remember the man for what he was - a great guy!"
This week marks the 50th anniversary of one of the events that kicked off Speedway's bitter civil war that saw the blacklisting of the Provincial League in 1964. Join us for part one of a three part series from Arnie Gibbons.
"Started my career after my learning curve in California in 1975. Came back to Champion Speedway and Batavia Speedway and rode Friday at Batavia near Rochester New York then Saturday at Champion Speedway. Became the first 60 yard rider at Champion for the handicap racing. Great little race track to ride on. They used to pack the place out on Saturday night and you could walk away with $500 dollars which was good money in 1976. I miss that place. They are still going strong with a great field of riders today. Jason Bonsignore is the promoter and puts lots of hard work in to keep East Coast Speedway going strong. Long live Champion Speedway. The Costa Mesa of the East."
"I'll forward the link for this to my cousin Rim Malskaitis in New Zealand. Rim rode for Long Eaton in the mid 1960s. I visited him in 2009. He's well and still racing motorbikes. He lives in Auckland. "
"Just a little note to thank you all again for your comments it's so touching to know he was a valued man, the family name live on yet, as you wouldn't believe it but I have finally bought myself a bike :) in honor of Pa, just a little cbr 125, although mum was NOT keen on the idea, although I made sure to note it was only a 125 :). Also my email is now email@example.com"
"These drawings are perfect in every way. Amazing concentration & dedication Ralph. Amazing eye skills, I think they are wonderful."
"Is it not high time in the 21st century that tracks started using covers to prevent rain-offs or is this just too much to expect? It seems promoters are only interested in lining their pockets and spending as little as possible on the sport? Belle Vue V. Poole is a case in point, had covers been in use the meeting would actually have run for the full 15 heats, and nobody would have been disappointed at the outcome, if its too much to expect every track to own some, why not say 5 Elite League tracks have them and they get shared / transported to the tracks that have meetings when others do not? "
Ralph Smith is speedway mechanic turned speedway artist. Here are some fine examples of his work. Ivan Blacka reports that these pictures will eventually grace the walls of Steve Luxton's Garage Mahal museum.
"Johnny Hoskins was manager at the Hammers prior to the war and a tradition was started when the riders took his hat and passed it to each other teasing Johnny to try to get it back. After the war he joined Odsal (Bradford) I think and stayed as manager for many years. In those days the team consisted of Bluey, Eric Chitty, Phil Bishop,Colin Watson, Arthur Atkinson,Tiger Stevenson and two others ."
"What is the future for British Speedway if England's No2 city cannot provide a big enough supporter base for an Elite League team at the top of the table with one of the best venues in the country. When I went to a Birmingham meeting 3 years ago most of the fans were of the generation that remembered Alan Hunt, Ron Mountford , Eric Boothroyd and the small proportion of younger generations amongst the crowd was obvious. As the generation from the good old days depart this earth there is currently no one to replace them and a major effort to attract younger fans or speedway will die with them.
BMX events, Marching girl competitions, Local Pop groups, Talent competitions anything to attract youth to the circuits should be tried. Second halves with Handicap racing and plenty of passing could help. The most exciting races I have ever watched are handicap races in Australia but they are a rare event in the UK.
I am sure others will be able to make suggestions but lets hope something can be done to save Birmingham and encourage the re opening of tracks such as Odsal and Ellesmere Port."
"Good day Mr Elliot, Not raking over in the slightest, as I in fact did mention in my first contribution "all of this is now totally irrelevant" given that nothing will turn back the page of time and the events of that oh so tragic evening. Also in my own defence please kindly note that I have never in any way even remotely suggested that everything possible was not done, or tried, to save Sven, only observations about how things were at that period in time. My last "raking over" was in fact an answer to a Mr Crawford's comments directed towards my initial correspondence and myself, and I would in fact understand I do have a right to reply, as I am also now doing to your contribution to the debate which seems to have been unfortunately installed. Like yourselves I have the right to view the past from a different perspective, although not perhaps through rose tinted glasses.
Not everything was in fact rosy from the promoters in those days, as may be seen from some of the severely scathing comments now revealed in various books from both riders and promoters of the age. Also completely like yourself whenever I see any accident on the track I also am very concerned until such times as the rider is seen to be OK. I am not out to see either accidents or horrific crashes when I go to watch speedway, which as mentioned is all too infrequent these days given that I do live overseas, but racing. I will have no further comments to make on this particular subject matter, as I am sure will relieve you from your declared "disappointed" standpoint.
On a lighter note I do avidly follow most of the comments from veteran Glasgow supporters mto this site (which is excellent), some who I do remember from the past, and who do in fact seem to contribute quite a few of the articles and comments in the readers columns. You, in particular, I do note are a very regular contributor to the various topics which appear on the site. Regards "
"My wife and I were sitting in the South Stand at Hampden that fateful night, and 41 years later, we can still recall the terrible crash which took the life of our young Norwegian Rider Svein Kaasa. Speedway can be so wonderful, yet also heartbreaking, and that night was truly heartbreaking. We will never forget young Svein Kaasa. "
"I met Neil many years ago and as a Weymouth supported was over the moon when he was made manager, he brought over a rider named Terry Tulloch who lived with me for 3 seasons hence to say Neil spent a lot of time at my house and we travelled a lot together going to meetings, I found him a true gent and very knowlegable about life and told me how he first arrived in England, we used to do the track at Weymouth after the meeting with me driving the tractor and Neil working the grader are freindship continued when he moved to Poole, I learnt so much from him, a great man sadly missed."
"I'd like to respond to Ian Tyrie's recent statement that 'Mauger was a great gater and that's how he won his races, he wasn't so good when he missed the gate and if he would have been off 20 yards there is no way he would have beaten them.' To the contrary, I saw Ivan Mauger ride many times in California, over a period of several years, on a variety of tracks from 150 to 880 yards in length. In the late 1960s and 1970s half of every meeting in the U.S. was handicap racing, in which riders of the calibre of Mauger were set back as far as 70 yards behind the gate at the start. In those races, Ivan would often weave his way through the five riders who had started in front of him and would come out in front by the finishing line. In the years following his initial trip in 1968, those riders were not just a lot of easy-to-beat local boys who came out at the weekend to have a go. They had developed into experienced professionals who rode several times a week, eight months a year on the California ovals, while Mauger only visited for a handful of meetings at the end of each season and had to adapt quickly to unusual track conditions. No rider who was just a gater could be World Champion six times (plus three times on the long track). Getting out of the trap first is perhaps the surest way to win, but when that tactic didn't work, Mauger was always ready and quite able to overtake other riders."
"Andrew Gallon on Svein Kaasa: Howard Jones shed a fair amount of light on this tragic incident in issue 11 - Glasgow, Hampden Park - of his Pocket Size History of Defunct Speedway Tracks. Howard quotes Jim McMillan, Svein's partner in the ill-fated race: "I saw someone down but returned to the pits. At the time I didn't think much about it. We were told later that he (Svein) died in the dressing room but that was kept from us. As far as we were concerned, he was rushed to hospital." Howard also spoke to Dick Barrie, the track announcer. Dick refers to Svein being "catapulted into the fence" and adds: "He (Svein) was rushed to the dressing rooms and then to the nearby Victoria Infirmary but Dr Collier (the long-time Tigers track doctor) later admitted he was dead on the track." I visited the 'new' Hampden several years ago, to watch a football match, and was surprised and very pleased to see the memorial to Svein just inside the main entrance. "
"Fantastic memories of my youth come flooding back - LOVED the place, the noise, the smell and the chips and gravy on the way home - all for 10 bob! Let's hope the new stadium at least tries to capture the magic of Hyde Road."
"Really enjoyed reading this. I was a regular follower of Halifax Dukes from 1965-68 and, occasionally, in the early 70s. I can still remember vividly the teams and riders of those days. Many seemed to have unusual and, to a young boy, quite exotic names - Ronnie Genz, Jimmy Squibb, Gordon Guasco and your own Cyril Maidment to name just a few. Great days. There's recently been talk of resurrecting a Bradford/Halifax team at Odsal. I won't hold my breath but it would be good if it happened."
"This was a fantastic nostalgia trip for me Ian. I went to my first Belle Vue meeting in 1969 when I was 12, and like yourself soon got hooked on Speedway.You captured the whole spirit of the thing really well, I also remember the old scenic railway racing round as well and the Belle Vue amusements after the meetings, fantastic nights.The track was terrific back then and some of the action was breathtaking.The first meeting I attended was against Leicester Lions and Ivan Mauger won the first heat by a mile, I remember thinking has he got a different machine from the rest of them because he was so far ahead of everyone.Like you say there was Soren Sjosten and the skipper that season was Tommy Roper.The other riders were Ken Eyre, Mike Hiftle, Dave Hemus and Chris Pusey maybe a young Eric Broadbelt as well? I also sat in the old F block over the pits right at the back and it looked fantastic when the track lights were on.It was heartbreaking when the Hyde Road track was demolished but at least the fabulous memories still remain.Thanks again for a great article."
"I was mascot there between 1970 and 1975 and remember Bernie taking me round the track and leading the riders out on many occasions. Fond memories, never forgotten. Thank you Cradley for many happy years."
"This was my era too, I could close my eyes and be there at any given time, Some of the best memories I have, The excitement for a ten year old, I can barely remember anything else about the early 70s apart from holidays, A really excellent read ...."
"A really good read. Capturing speedway and what it's really like to a young boy looking over the fence and being sprayed with dirt. I'm 50, two years younger than Ian Harwood. Unfortunately I never got to go to the old Belle Vue. The Sydney Showground was the place where my father took me each week. Much of Ian's story runs parallel to my own, as it does with so many of us who were lucky enough to have been kids at the speedway in the '60s."
"Disappointed to see that Mr Lewis continues to rake over the details and aftermath of the tragic death of Svein Kaasa in 1972 at Hampden Park. Knowing some of the people involved behind the scenes at that time I'm in no doubt at all that everything possible was done both to try and save him and, ultimately, let spectators know as soon as was possible rather than, as he seems to be alluding to, get the meeting completed before giving the awful news, as if, 41 years later, that has any significance. All that matters is that Svein was killed, a lot of folk to this day remember what they saw that night(to this day, every time I see a rider go down I hold my breath until I see him moving, a direct result of my own experience that night), and I don't really want to read about folk suggesting that ulterior motives got in the way of showing due respect to what happened at the time."
"Fascinating and terrifying. Makes you wonder if there is any instructions given to rider today on what action is advisable if the same was too occur, God forbid? The consequences don't bear thinking about."
"I saw Bjorn Knutsson ride many times and on many tracks he, like all the big 5, was great to watch. They proved they were great by giving the likes of Nordin, Harrfeltd, Nygren, Mckinlay, Booccck etc a 20 yard handicap and still beating them. Mauger was a great gater and that's how he won his races, he wasn't so good when he missed the gate and if he would have been of 20 yards there is no way he would have beaten them. Bjorn Knutsson was also a very good ice racer winning the 1st major ice meeting before the world championship started a year later."
"What an excellent and evocative article. Shades of my first trip to West Ham in 1964 when I was 9. Belle Vue was 3 yards longer than West Ham, 418 yards as opposed to 415. I often wonder what the track record at Custom House would be now, as 70 seconds was never broken on the downside. Thank you Ian for making me feel like a schoolboy again."
"Brilliant story Ian, many thanks for sharing it. Our first meeting memories are oh so similar. The smell, noise, riders on funny looking bikes with no brakes going sideways !!! Thrills and spills, dirt covered hotdogs and Chris Pusey too. I took my Champions Book of Speedway number 2, [I bought it before school the very next day], and found the snap of you in the stand. Well, which ever one you are ! Great fun mate, Cheers !!!"
"Good day Mr. Crawford, I would certainly consider agreeing with your comment about perhaps trying to contact next of kin, althguogh in the 70's I am not sure if communication was that poor they could not locate any of the family by telephone quickly, even in distant Norway, which would maybe aliviate my declared perception, however the rest I am not quite so sure of......................
Those were the days of amatuer and very dedicated enthusiastic St John's Ambulance Brigade atendees for medical back up on the track, no paramedics and supporting life support equipment in the ambulances, except perhaps an oxygen bottle. Only the track Doctor would be an authority on these issues. However my recollection is that unfortunately given the very extensive time taken to remove the unlucky and unfortunate Mr Kassa, it was more than plain to all present that this was not a routine or simple accident, and was in fact very, very serious indeed.
I am sure that the riders must surely have had some notion of the seriousness and doubts whilst watching the progress of the operation on the track. Just considering the ammount of people who were surrounding the area, and as mentioned the time taken to remove Sven from the track, unfortunately does not perhaps coincide with your understanding or memory of the events, independentaly with whom you may have or not discussed this with recently.
My full agreement however on your standpoint is that it was horrific to witness, and without doubt nobody who loves speedway, as I still do, would remotely like to even think of such a tragedy such as this. My original ending statement I still think reveals my particular thoughts of the very sad, and as I still think, cynical end to the evening's events. It is most certainly not my intention to either offend, pricipally so long after such a horrific and difficult situation, it was very tragic and, as mentioned, none of these opinions will alter the tragic history unraveled during the evening.
I was quite a bit older than your declared age at the time, and although maybe a bit naieve, although most definitely not overly so. When reflecting on this ocurrence unfortunately the taste of biterness still remains surrounding the events commented in my previous corespondence!
The show must go on! Hope maybe to see you around Ashfield, if I can manage next year - still love the sport and try to catch up every year, visiting the UK and other European countries where the sport is showcased, and British Sppedway should have a look at where its going to survive. Poland for example is thriving, perhaps the most popular sport in the country, and it's a pleasure to see enthusiastic and very large crowds packing the stadia in that country. "
Nick shares some speedway thoughts and memories. He picks out Kenny Carter as one rider he'd like to have seen in action.
Here's a great picture of some of Belle Vue's 1972 championship winning team reunited recently. No prizes for spotting the familiar features of Peter Collins, Ken Eyre, Eric Broadbelt and Alan Wilkinson. Thanks to Ivan Blacka for the picture.
"I raced for Annfield Aces back in 84/5 ish and remember racing at Davidson Mains track which now has houses on it, Jack Kane centre, the Gyle which I think you can still make out under the grass and is where I came second in the Gyle jnr championship in 84 losing to my cousin Garry. I also raced once for Edinburgh down south with lads from the Broomhall Panthers."
"Will speedway ever come back to Plough Lane.....I'm afraid not.The Stadium is too big for the few people that were turning up. What I mean is, the meetings had to have security staff to serve at the bars etc. Wimbledon were not getting enough supporters to cover everybody's wages, this included the riders. The owner of the stadium at the time did not want speedway there. If they do up Plough Lane will they get Speedway back? I don't think so.....I would love to be wrong."
"As a small footnote to this little piece, when former promoter Neil McFarlane heard that the Loyal Squad had re-convened, he raised the possibility of him travelling up from his south of England home to meet up with some of the troops who had formed the ranks at another Ashfield meeting. To cut to the chase, it's all happening on 25 August when the Witches are in town-such is the power of reunions, and maybe nostalgia IS still what it used to be!"
"To Billy Elliot for the article (By the way, he is the gentleman with glasses on the far right)many thanks....Like Billy I was very fortunate to be one of the lucky ones to leave my zimmer behind and enjoy what must have been a highlight to my later years...To see some "Old" friends after so long was one thing, but as Billy says to get the opportunity to once again join other members of your old family and look at photos and discuss stories which seem to vary dependant on who's memory you believe. I know I speak for all when I say thank you to Jim Coyle and the Glasgow Promotion, for allowing us to go back to our youth. It says a lot for true friends when my old scarf turned up still in tact after all these years....So to Jim and Liz, I say thank you"
"My dad Jimmy Duncan loved speedway and used to tell me about me going to Meadowbank when I was a toddler. I grew up going to Coatbridge and Berwick but Powderhall was the place where magic happened. Friday nights with the smell of chocolate from the factory and standing at the 30 yard line with my dad was just a special time. Sadly dad died last year but was a Monarch to the end. I heard the Black Bear recently and it just brought back so many happy memories. I've been to Armadale but its just not the same"
RETRO Speedway are appealing for Speedway Plus readers to become part of their latest project. Later this year RS will publish a new book called BRITISH SPEEDWAY MEMORIES. As the title suggests, it will be a compilation of personal memories as recalled by those of us who have a passion for our wonderful family sport. Here's how you can get involved.
Jim Blanchard's latest painting features Ivan Mauger and Tommy Jansson in action at the 1975 Internationale. As usual, Jim will be donating some copies to good speedway causes. If you'd like to purchase a print then you'll find full details on Jim's website.
"Mr Lewis have you ever thought the fact for the delay in making the announcement at Hampden that tragic evening was down to the fact that The Promotion wanted to inform Svein's next of kin before making a public announcement? Having talked to various riders who rode that evening, including family members, not all were fully aware of the seriousness of the accident and had they been they certainly would not have ridden on. I was there as an 11 year old and it's not something I ever want to experience again and would hope no one ever witnesses such a sad occurence. "
"I dont know if Mitch was at White City or not. I have the programme and he wasnt even listed as a reserve. 17 was Mike Lee. 18 Scott Autrey. 19 Gary Guglielmi. As for the other questions, I don't have the answers. Muchos speculation! You must remember that Barry Briggs and Ivan Mauger were hugely influential personalities. Perhaps they had clout we know nothing about?! All I know is what Ivan told me on the phone. Briggs said, "don't let Mitch ride." So were they above the FIM? Certainly would appear so because Ivan indeed, did not let Mitch ride! Had he stepped down, as he suggested he might after that NZ round, Mitch as NZ Champion would have had the 'fought for' opportunity to qualify. No saying he would have! But had Mitch failed to qualify, it would have been on the track, down to him and not the result of a phone call between World Final co promoters!!!
Mitch wasnt the only one cheated. The NZ speedway public was too. Firstly, no Australasian Final and second, NZ's only other World Final prospect made to miss his legitimate place. Third, Larry Ross blew the last round and so no Kiwis would ride in LA. As Ivan told me, he and Briggs had issues with Mitch Shirra's lifestyle. Seems they had no problem with the Yanks and everyone knew what they were up to. Oh but the World Final was being held in the home of Mickey Mouse. Nothing wrong with that, never did Walt Disney any harm !!!"
"I grew up with Gary as a friend in Wrantage Street New Plymouth. I can remember Garry getting his first Motor Bike and riding it in the gully beside their house. One thing always comes to mind was him riding down one side of the gully and still with downward momentum jumping the drain at the bottom. He was always a guy who would go beyond the limit. I still think of him now and then. This is one of those moments and the reason for me looking up his name and finding your article."
Journalist and author Philip Dalling visited almost all of Britain's currently operating speedway tracks, completing a marathon 3,000-mile trek from Eastbourne to Edinburgh and Poole to Peterborough. He has combined his highly personal impressions of today's 29 venues with his memories of an equal number of former tracks. The end result is a new hardback book, Classic Speedway Venues Past & Present (Halsgrove £19.99) which will be available in mid-October 2013, from bookshops and Amazon
A bumper selection of pictures of this unusual venue in France. There's a vast grass track circuit around the outside of a traditional speedway track. These pictures are courtesy of Ian Presslie who visited in 2009.
"I was an avid fan of Hurriken and screamed blue murder at Charlie Monk on the night at Custom House. Saw the replay, McKinlay was running out of track and laid it down - Monk was blameless. However, not a great fan of Monk. Unfortunately, he had a surly manner towards fans. "
"Fascinating article about backstage machinations prior to the 1982 World Final in Los Angeles, but it raises a few questions that I wish Mr. Holmes would illuminate. If the FIM ruled that Shirra was to ride in the Overseas Final, how did Mauger end up riding instead? Briggo's s tatement, "Don't let Mitch ride!" seems odd, because what authority did Mauger have to control who would be allowed to participate, especially since the FIM had already decided? What was Shirra doing as Mauger usurped his spot at White City?"
"Just found this all about Belle Vue speedway. Great memories came flooding back one - name jumped out at me who wrote on your web site Sydney Dixon. Remember me Sid? I had a brother called Paul nick name (shaking brooks) because he used to always dance like Shaking Stevens. Paul is no longer with us, when he passed away Belle Vue speedway had a 1 min silence for him and it was in the programe which I still have. We went all over the country following Belle Vue and Peter Collins. We used to get a lift a lot all over from Fred & Mavis Ball. Great memories they will never be beat. I loved my speedway days."
Tracy Holmes looks back on the Kiwi riders attempts to qualify for the 1982 World Final in Los Angeles. He suggests that there was one particular New Zealander that the promoters didn't want to reach the big night.
Robert J. Rogers brings us the sad news of the recent passing of former West Ham rider Ron Butcher.
We've found a couple of more pictures of the old Felixdorf track in Austria which we've added to the page. These include the one above of the abandoned pits. We're still not entirely clear on when the track was operational. Charle McKay found a reference to the track in Dirk Riemann's Speedway Chronik book which says it opened in 1955. Ian Presslie came up with the same opening year and says a meeting was staged there in 1991. Anyone able to provide more info?
"Yes, a truly sad and another tragic moment in Glasgow speedway. Was also present on this most tragic night at Hampden Park, and occasionally flicks past my speedway memory. Having lived many years overseas I do lose contact with the day to day of the sport however some of the magic moments seen at Hampden, and there were very many, happily dampen this tragedy. One of my angry recollections was the coverage from the local press, Daily Record, Evening Times etc., giving extensive full page coverage of what happened, and in general to a sport which was largely ignored by them.
Looking back on facts and comments from the article I must also show my deception and perhaps dissapointment of the attitude shown by the promotion of the time, as I very clearly remember Neil McFarlane giving his very emotional discourse / speech at the very end of the meeting, although it would appear that they were already very well aware, for qute a considerable amount of time that Svein had in fact deceased from the tragic accident. It ocurred on the entrance of the first bend where Svein clipped the rear wheel of Martin Ashby and was hurled head first, into the then very solid wooden, safety fence None of this of course bears much relevance and will most certainly not alter history. Fond, and on this ocassion in particular, very sad memories, and on reflection a very bitter taste indeed of cinicism from the erstwhile promotion. The show must go on. "
"Good work Peter! Indeed a very sad night for Charlie and it was reported he had a slow puncture in heat 15. He was 2nd behind Trevor Hedge at the time but lost a point to Brian Brett, managing to hold off Bob Andrews. I always think that Charlie just may have done what Gordon Kennett went on to do in 1978. While not good enough to win, he may have upset the apple-cart enough to take the silver medal, on his debut. From Plechanov, Fundin and Briggs ? Yup, he was on that kind of form and really was that good. Sadly, we will never know! Monk was not the only 'Top Man' to miss that years World Final. Spare a thought for Sverre Harrfeldt who went to the European Final in CZ on Sunday, to find that the meeting had been held on Saturday! The Norwegian Federation had given him the wrong date!!!"
"I remember this British Final very well and while I was a supporter of Ken McKinlay he should have been excluded. The other reason I am going to let you know that Nigel Boocock should have been British Champion instead of Briggo because Boocock was leading Briggs half a lap to become British Champion until that misfortune when Boocock had an engine failed which cost him the British Championship and Briggs went on to win the meeting, most unfair but that's speedway. "
"This is an excellent read from Kenny. I met him when me and Jason Pipe were running the Cleveland Bays speedway team and he was a gentleman and he met up with his old adversary from Teesside days Henry 'Rule Book' Atkinson as he was known at Berwick! Interesting comments about when he finally left Berrington Lough."
"Speedway will always be in debt to Matt Jackson, Hugh Vass and John Somerville for the wonderful 'The Speedway A-Z' riders' biographical work. It's essential reading for EVERYONE with an interest in speedway's most essential ingredient - the guys who actually get on the bikes."
"It's a remarkable tribute to Svein that nearly 41 years after his tragic death, and considering he rode here for such a brief time, that so many people still remember him with such fondness and sadness at the same time. I was there at Hampden that night also and the place was just never the same afterwards, which was hardly surprising. Don't think that anyone who was there will ever forget it."
"Saw Bill and his troup in 1967 or 68 at the showground in Rapheals Park after the Romford Carnival. They did various tricks including riding through a tunnel of fire. I was so impressed I applied for my provisional bike licence the day I was 16 in 1968 and I've been riding bikes ever since. Off to work on my Varadero in a few minutes (and I'm 60 Now!)"
"Thank you Peter. This piece is a real gem and I'm so glad you took the time to share it with us all. To discover his life outside speedway was real treat. It's great too that guys like Svein are not forgotten by the Speedway world, far from it in fact. Cheers !!!"
"Jack never won a world title, but he was a great entertainer and people loved to see him ride, and was also a willing hand with the up and coming young rider. A wonderful man and sadly missed. If we had more characters like Jack in speedway today the sport would be better off. "
"As a young lad watching Southampton speedway, I seem to recall Charlie Knott the promoter enticing the great riders of the day to ride in second half events, I am sure Jack and Norman Parker, Vic Duggan and other great riders from the then first division were amongst them."
"I remember you from the days at Gisborne many years ago. It would of been at Allan Hessel's a few times gathering for celebrations after the speedway. I remember Tom Sweetman also but everyone else escapes me. This morning I was sorting through so old photo's trying to organise them. The was this small shot of you. My memory isn't that flash these days but it was taken the night when one of the guys ended up in Gisborne Hospital and a few of us snuck in so you guys could see how he was... So this morning l thought the internet is a good research tool, and thought I might just take a look. Angie"
Pictures from the very impressive Ostrow track in Poland. The photographer was Zdenenk Flajshanz.
The London Speedways forum is now entering its fifth year. It covers many aspects of the sport in London from 1928 onwards, and currently features the London area tracks at Lakeside and Rye House.
Its data includes teams from the start of league racing in 1929, test match and championship data affecting London tracks, as well as many team photos - and more.
Visit London Speedways at londonspeedways.proboards.com
"Great article on Svein Kaasa. Ii had never heard of him as a rider but stories like that show the risks that EVERY rider of all standards and abilities take in entertaining the fans and that fans favourites are not necessary the number 1 superstar all of the time...great but sad story,."
"Hi peter, good, well informed column with info. about Svein which I'm sure not many Glasgow fans were aware of. He had always been a rider who due to his short time as a Tiger, not much personal information had been known and even less photos were available."
"I was working on the track staff that night and it happened right in front of me. The only slight change I would make as I recall. Martin was riding quite wide and appeared to lock up. Svein hit him quite hard not just a clip. Svein's bike went verticly airborn and appeared to come down on top of him , snapping the handlebars on the top of the fence as it did so. I ran on the track and lifted the bike away from him. A very sad night. He was a really nice guy and was always happy to chat away with the track staff."
"I spent many happy Seasons watching Ken at Leicester. A great 'gater' and had a classic style. He was our top Man for many Years. After retiring he worked near where I live and often saw him....Always with a smile on his Face!!"
"What a fantastic idea, your daughter obviously has a lot of talent and you must be very proud of her. The drawings are that good that I managed to name them all, (except the 30s) without looking at the names. I'm not an Ipswich fan, though Tiger John did ride for my team Halifax Dukes, for a couple of seasons and he was always very fast round the big, banked shay track and was one of my favourite riders. I went to Foxhall a few times in the 80's and I'm sure I've seen all the Ipswich riders on the picture at one track or another. I have got to like Chris Louis contribution to sky coverage as well, he talks in a really knowledgeable, down to earth way."
Proud father Duncan Pemberton has sent in pictures of some marvellous speedway drawings that his daughter did a few years ago.
Stuart Towner has published the auto-biography of former rider Jim Chalkley who died in tragic circumstances in Spain recently. Jim was an occasional contributor to this website.
It has 72 pages A5 gloss cover and costs £7 plus £1.50 p&p (£4 to Europe, £5 rotw). If anyone would like a copy please send a cheque for £8.50 made out to "A Whiff of 'R' Promotions Ltd" and send to Stu Towner, 117 Church Lane, Chessington, Surrey KT9 2DP.
You may also find copies available on eBay.
The third issue of the Old Time Speedway Journal is now availble for free download. Gordon McGregor, Ernie Baker and the mystery of the Nazi armband are amongst the items included. Click here to view the pdf.
"It was nice to see Gary Guglielmi attending the reunion. Great place the Sydney Showgrounds were. I used to sneak in the place at night when I was there in 1979 and make all my long distance calls from the speedway trailer to my mother in the USA. The window was always left open and being the poverty stricken rider I was. I wonder if they ever found out..Little speedway story for you."
"re remark by Ian Graham. At no point did I say that my selection was based on a Newcastle Diamonds dream team. The purpose of the site, is to allow supporters to choose 7 riders as a "dream team" whether or not, that would be riders belonging to their "own club" or not."
"Damn!! My birthday was last week. Still, I think I know now what I want for Christmas. It sounds amazing, especially if the film / video footage is as good as the article suggests. Having read so much about the Fifties and attended the meetings with the Ruskies at White City etc. it has to be worth 16 quid."
"Not a success story from the sixties, but it's great to look back to the period and remember all the guys I came into contact with. There were 19 tracks in the league so we are talking of at least 180 riders plus non riders."
"Enjoyed reading this article, I was a regular in the late seventies before I could get into pubs. My mate was a bigger fan than me and used to drag me along every week.Bert Harkins was a big draw if I can remember correctly, he had a dirty yellow jacket and a distinctive upright style. Have been once to Armadale but it did not hold the memories as Powderhall. "
"Great place Powderhall. I am surprised the wall of death man never got a mention in the article. We all know who he is. I gave them every pennies worth of entertainment. I am only joking of course (no I am not). I remember the shacks at the back where the cold showers were cause I was always the last one in them. That was my wake up for the long trek home 220 miles. Beautiful place my beloved Powderhall. "
"Scott - a lovely and beautifully written and personal article. My late mother first took me to the speedway at West Ham in 1964, so I know how you felt when you started taking your own family. A very absorbing and interesting piece. Thank you for it."
"Great to see some of the people that raced at the Ekka when I was going there. Garry Rush was a favourite of our family, Sid Middlemass and Brian Mannion were others I saw race. Shame that our tracks are disappearing. Lovely memories. Thank you for sharing."
"In the late 80's I worked at Odsal as a cameraman/pit interviewer for Mike Bennett's MBi company. Have many fond memories. Gary Havelock, Andy Smith, Sean Wilson etc were always larking about having a laugh with the filming crew. The Ham Brothers were always very cooperative too! I believe the whole MBi back catalogue is now owned by Jan Staechmann. "
A bumper set of additional pictures of Terenzano - courtesy of Ian Presslie, Gillian Marks, Nick Pattison and Zdenenk Flajshanz. These have been added to those we published previously from Ian Adam, Harry Ward, Phil Rice and Craig Saunders.
"Odsal was a true racing circuit! Big, fast and steeply banked was one my all time favourite tracks alongside King's Lynn Peterborough and Sheffield (Not forgetting Exeter as well) Was a sad loss to the sport in 1997 when the plug was pulled would be great to see it back if the rumours are true"
"I have been looking for a picture of Jack now and this has made my day. I'm his older sister Gloria and I was with him when he used to race at Rowley Park. My husband Bill Harcus was his mechanic and used to push Jack off in the races, we used to stand on the mound down there and cheer him on. Especially when he raced neck and neck with Jack Young. Jack loved racing and went to England too and won some races. We saw him off on the huge ship and watched him as he waved good bye to us, I had a streamer joined to me and had a tear in the eye when the streamer broke. We used to get messages from him and what he did over there, nothing pleased us more than when we went down to the incoming ship bringing Jack home. We all watched when he came down the gang plank, and we all loved him up. He is a very likeable chap and all the family love him. He still loves to watch the bikes racing on the t v and I guess he relives all those boys who race now. I am very happy that you made a replica of Jacks bike and showed it to him. I reckon that made his day. "
"I readily accept and appreciate your comments regarding Ron Johnson. I am delighted to hear that my observation that he spent his last years confined to a wheelchair is unfounded and that he was active for so many post speedway racing years. My 2004 article in the 'South London Press' was based on extensive research with people in Perth, West Australia, who knew him up to his death. It was from there that I was given the information about him being wheelchair bound. The fact was also confirmed to me with a photo of him in a wheelchair where he was being introduced to Ove Fundin. The same information regarding him being wheelchair bound has been mentioned by others in reference works regarding the last years of his life. For my part, I am very pleased to see he was active virtually up to his death."
"Absolutely agree, Elite League is on its knees, the vested interest the promoters' have in running the sport has to be removed and an independant body with a viable mission statement to grow the sport and British talent should be established. Also, in my view, Britain should adopt the Polish and Swedish models with a single race night and only one home and away match against the other teams in the league. This would hopefully encourage larger crowds and reduce the fixed costs such as stadium rent etc. I note that Poole were due to race Lakeside on consecutive weeks before the dubious postponment; this probably sums up the chaos in the administration of sport."
David is/was a staunch fan of the Exeter Falcons, but continues to enjoy his speedway as a neutral. Lots of great memories here and remember that this feature is open to anybody who wishes to contribute.
We almost exclusively concentrate on solos, but these pictures of sidecar racer Harry Taylor were too good not to share. Thanks to his son Ralphy Taylor for sending these in.
Here are some familiar (though older) faces enjoying the recent Legends Night at Costa Mesa. From left to right we have Sonny Nutter, Dennis Sigalos, Danny Becker, Bobby Hill and Steve Columbo. Thanks to another legend (Ivan Blacka) for passing on the picture.
The fabulous 'Where are they now?' section on Facebook continues to go from strength to strength. A recent contribution from Danny Dunton is particularly recommended. Bernie Collier, Andy Reid and Craig Boyce are amongst the latest additions and remember, you don't need to be on Facebook to view the page. Check it out here.
"I remember Ken from the glory days at Leicester Hunters. I and my classmates from our school spent copious amounts of time at Blackbird Rd during school holidays. Many of us having crushes on the riders. Joy had a crush on Ken. We used to spend our time polishing Leathers. Happy days. I now live just down the road from the new track. "
" This is a very good article, I enjoy reading about Ove Fundin. I would like to say I had the pleasure to be picked up at his friends bungalow in Thorpe St. Andrews By Ove ( sorry I have forgotten their names ). I think Ove driving a yellow Mercedes - Benz he than took us to London for the world finals. What a great day I had thanks to Ove and his friends. I would love to see Ove open a new track in Norwich soon! "
"I was interested to see the bit about Basse Hveem - he did ride for a spell for West Ham but only for one season. He had meetings in the UK in his quest for World Championship glory. I was interested in the mention of Huskvarna as I'm sure I saw a Huskvarna engine at a BMF Rally at Peterborough and it looked for all the world like a copy of a JAP. It belonged to the late Richard Forshaw so I don't know who owns it now. "
"At the age of 71, I remember the Roger brothers. Don Hardy, Bronco Slade and many others. As a young lad I went and got some black boot polish for Norman Clay to clean his leathers with, this was also back when the Falcons had an old railway carriage to keep their bikes in. Over the years of following the Falcons, I've seen many a great riders, but for me the one rider who lit up the County Ground was Ivan, the ultimate professional. The man who took Exeter to the top. I've done a fans view of the last meeting, plus the demoliton of the stadium, to the building of the new estate. If Ivan wants a copy I'll send him one."
"I remember the old Odsal Tudors in the 1950s. Ron Clarke died in 1981, Oliver Hart died in 1983, Eddie Rigg died in 1991 and Arthur Forrest died in 2000. Speedway is due to return to Odsal in 2014 under the team name of the Bradford & Halifax Dukes. It is Tony Mole who brought speedway back to Birmingham who is behind its revival."
"Your statement about Ron being confined to a wheel chair from 1969 was false. He was just fine in 1969. Walking, bending and doing mechanical work on his own motorbike and mine. I visited him on a number of occasions until his death and although his age and past injuries kept him using a walking stick, he was very mobile and independent right up to 1981 when I last saw him. It amuses me when I read stories about this speedway idol. Never let the facts get in the way of the reality hey. "
We certainly hear more conflicting stories about Ron's post-speedway life than any other rider.
Some rather depressing pictures of the decaying remains of the Machowa circuit in Poland. It was a professional circuit from 1991 until 1993 and was used for training until 2008. It's now fallen into a state of disrepair. Thanks to Zdenek Flajshanz for the photographs.
Nigel Boocock will be guest of honour at an event in Sydney next Sunday. The celebration day is linked to the recently published "Ghosts in the Bull Pens" book. Steve Magro brings us details of what promises to be a great day out.
"Anyone knows where former Mildenhall riders of 1990's and early 2000's are, including Geoff Powell, Wayne Broadhurst etc. My book 'Vol 2 of Mildenhall's History (1994-2013) will be launched at the National Pairs Meeting at Mildenhall 30 June. It would be nice to see some of the ex riders on that day"
"Much as I dislike defending Dudley Council, as you say they have done nothing for Sport in the Borough, but they did not give planning permission for Barretts to build on Dudley Wood. They turned it down more than once, but Barretts took it to appeal, where despite all the available evidence, they prevailed."
"I thought it was a tidy little stadium and saw two meetings there: Newport v Glasgow when Frank Smart wiped half the Tigers team out in one meeting and a very eventful Conference League encounter between Newport Mavericks and Scunthorpe Saints. I know the track had its critics but the meetings I saw were superb and I cannot believe how quickly the deal was done to sell to a haulage company. I think the Mallet family had done everything possible to make Newport successful. I saw the Wasps riding at Redcar in what proved to be their final season and they were superb that night and looked like they had a potent team for the following year. Reports that crowds were as low as 200/300 for some meetings then you can maybe understand why the Mallett family sold the land to the highest bidder. A great loss to the fabric of UK Speedway though. "
Another collection of photographs and memories from Peter Colvin. This time including the first ever meeting at Berrington Lough and a trip to Paisley. Sadly, this may be the last instalment in this series as Peter is running out of suitable pictures to use as source material.
Jim talks us through his speedway experiences and ideas. His first meeting was 45 years ago, so he's well placed to comment.
The Eighth California-in-England Reunion. This will take place on 6th October 2013 at the Country Park, Nine Mile Ride, near Wokingham, Berks, where the speedway took place. The organisers are still looking for any cine film that was taken there, especially of the racing. Everyone is welcome - details from Stuart Towner on: 020 8397 6599 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Scott will be seliing books from the Methanol Press back catalogue at Nick Barber's Speedway Fayre at Cardiff on Saturday. The Fayre is taking place in the bar of the Rugby club next door to stadium and runs from 10 until 4.
"How can you use the name Dudley when referring to Cradley Heath speedway? Dudley council have decimated sport in the region for decades and should not be associated with any sporting event! Except perhaps the demolition Derby. Remember it was they who gave permission to build houses on the Dudley Wood site "
Neil Burrows brings us details of this year's reunion of former Station Road riders, fans and officials.
The orgainsers are trying to track down former rider John Frankland. Contact Pete Wrathall on email@example.com if you can help.
Approaching the 37th anniversary of the death of Wimbledon's Tommy Jansson on May 20, you may like to know that there is a new page on the Speedway Fiction website to mark the life of this prodigiously talented rider and very popular personality. The tribute includes pictures, extracts from the articles written in the speedway press after the event, as well as audio extracts of comments from Ray Wilson and Cyril Maidment. There is also a recording of the Blackbird Road announcer on May 25 asking the crowd for the Lions v Wimbledon match to stand for a minute's silence in Tommy's memory.
"Reider Eide was one of my all time hero's, tempremental but a fantastic rider but a Promoters nightmare by all accounts. I have many photos of him10x8, I think Ronnie Allen (the ref) used to take them."
"Tony, yes I can remember you at your van, at Crayford you run a very good business always had what I needed and very helpful.
Thank you for your kind comments.
You may tell by my comments that I feel very sore how I was treated and other English juniors by managers.
And now I still see it today, most english teams are made up of our friends from abroad they always have had a better mindset towards the sport and that goes to most sports like Football, Cricket Rugby etc.
I could see this coming when I was riding, even grass track has suffered.
Our problem is we start as a hobby and not a business, then riders suffer the down falls of it then won't hand down their experiences, shame.
I remember buying a Norwegian bike cover from you cos it was going cheep! the following week I rode at Wimbledon and the Norwegain rider there for wimbledon watched me ride, ready to help I bet?
Hope things have gone well for you in Aus and once again thank you for support back in those days."
"Just found a photo of my Uncle Tom Sweetman, (my father's brother) who I remember as a little girl in UK when he was a speedway rider. He moved to New Zealand with his family, and I have never had the opportunity to see him again, as I moved to Canada with my family. We get the opportunity to talk by Skype now, as he is in his 80s. Nice to see a photo of him. I am now 70, so many years have gone by, but I still remember watching him ride, although I would have only been about 13 years old at the time. I noticed that he is not on your list of Riders to Remember, so hope you will put him on it."
"Regarding KMS's article on West Ham at Custom House, I believe the bit about demolition not taking place until October 1972 to be wrong. The last ever banger racing meeting was held on Saturday 20th May, the last speedway meeting Tuesday 23rd May, and the last ever greyhound meeting the following Friday May 26th. I well remember only a week or so after that dog meeting going with a couple of friends to visit the stadium (were we actually in mourning?) and an elderly security chap actually let us go in and look round. We were shown the old dressing room and baths, and the speedway office which was packed with old programmes that he let us have (we actually came back to the track with a push chair and cleared out over 1,000 programmes from the 60's and 70's). We also took photographs of the demolition taking place (sadly they are around somewhere but completely impossible to find!). The reason I say that demolition begain with a week or so was because it was a very hot day we went, I then went to Africa for the summer in mid-June and started work in October 1972, so no way could I have witnessed what I saw so late in that year."
"This photo is most definitely Joe. I knew him and his family when I was child. Joe opened a couple of book maker shops in East London after racing but I have no more knowledge after that. He was a very good family friend and generous person."
"I was discussing this with friends at Brough Park last night. A lot of riders who were the next big thing at 17 years old don't seem to move on to the very top level and I wonder if burnout or boredom has something to do with this? If you are that good at 17 you have probably been riding speedway since you were 12 or so. I think the current crop of ex moto-X'ers may have a different outlook and certainly at Newcastle you can see the drive and determination in Richie Worrall and Lewis Kerr shining through. For some reason all of these lads can also gate very well, and as much as we all love our 'from the back' racers, being able to gate well is huge advantage in the sport. I'm not too hung up on the age thing as I think the extra maturity of getting into the sport at 20 means they take it a little more seriously and hey, they can wait until they are 40 to be world champion if recent years are anything to go by."
"This championship is open to all riders under 21 and Robert proved to be the best on the night. The fact he was unable to sign for a Premier or Nationsl League team prior to retuening to this country was due to him having the foresight to earn money to ensure he can continue to race in the UK . Robert has loads of talent and prior to his injury in 2012 was one of the top riders in the National League.
I am not surprised that the younger riders cannot emulate the feats of the former champions you list - British teams do not take enough chances on our youngsters (Robert included) being too fast to drop them from the team if they under perform in the first few weeks racing at Premier or Elite league level and far too eager to hand team places to young foreign riders. I have no beef with foreigners but their countries have regular training sessions at their clubs each week - local authorities do not extend the same allowance to British clubs. British under 21's have many disadvantages and none of the advantages that foreign riders have in their home countries "
Roger Scarborough shares some items of interest from Belle Vue and Fleetwood. Roger's father-in-law was Ron Lea who raced in the 50s.
Evergreen Bobby Schwartz is back on track for the 2013 season - here's a short video in which he explains his preparations for the new year. The video is on Facebook, but you don't need to be a member to view it. Thanks to Ivan Blacka for sending on the link.
"Re: Ernie Roccio, Birmingham and Wimbledon: It was in 1950 that Birmingham and Wimbledon were in the chase to sign Ernie Roccio. He arrived in the UK on the same boat as another American, Bud Reda, who rode second-halfs at Wimbledon and other UK tracks, and also briefly in Ireland at Shelbourne Park, and in Holland. There was a 1950 dispute between Wimbledon and Birmingham in regard to Roccio. It culminated in him being refused permission to race in the UK and returning to the USA. Wimbledon eventually won the chase for his signature after they were granted the Ministry of Labour permit to use him.
When the Shelbourne Park-based USA team raced in the UK in 1951, Roccio was already an established member of the Wimbledon team and I doubt very much if Birmingham would then be able to have signed him. I was delighted to see Nick Nicholaides' article on the 1951 USA team which raced in the UK. Some years ago he co-operated with me when I wrote an article on Ernie Roccio for 'Classic Speedway'. Unfortunately, I then lost contact with Nick. I was very pleased to see that he is still around."
"I was only 15 at the time, but regularly attended speedway at West Ham's old track from July 1967 until the last-ever meeting there, on Tuesday May 23rd 1972. The last-ever meeting at Custom House was a British League Division 2 match between the West Ham Bombers (formerly the ROMFORD Bombers) and Hull Vikings. Hull won the meeting 38-40. Demolition at the stadium didn't take place until October 1972 - so it could have been possible for speedway to have continued there and for the Bombers to have completed the season!"
"Bluey Scott was the Middlesbrough representative and rode 0 1 1 0 0 for 2 points but not last as that accolade went to Jon Erskine of Newport with 0 from five. His 1 in Heat 8 was third behind Ken Sharples of Newcastle and George Hunter of Edinburgh and in Heat 9 behind Peter Vandenburg of Newport and Bill Andrew of Newcastle. Ivan Mauger of Newcastle won with 13 after a run off with Charlie Monk of Glasgow also with 13. Roy Trigg of Hackney was third after a run off with Peter Kelly of Newcastle. This meeting was on September 26th 1964. "
"Yup, still have wonderful memories of "The Villain" from his Edinburgh Powderhall days. Even Monarchs fans booed when "Jack The Villain Millen" was announced only because he expected it and milked it! Great character and speedway rider. RIP Jack and Powderhall."