The Australasian Finals - 1977
Again, the top four would qualify for the Intercontinental Final, this year staged at White City, London on August 21st. From there, it was straight to the World Final at Gothenburg, Sweden, September 2. So again, the Australasian Final carried full Quarter Final status.
There was however controversy surrounding this years venue, The Sydney Showground. How's that like ? This venue was outside the FIM requirements. The Showground promoter, Owen Bateman said there was no problem.
"The Australasian Final is a domestic affair between Australia and New Zealand. It is our means of deciding our four top riders. We are free to decide how we nominate them. If we wanted to, we could simply name them."
Ivan Mauger had other ideas,
"Ten days before the meeting I received a cable from the FIM President saying that the meeting must be held according to international rules. As far as I'm concerned, it wasn't."
This is why Mauger went into that meeting with no pressure. He told me that had he failed to qualify, he would have taken a case to the FIM which would have declared the meeting 'black' and results annulled. The meeting would have been re-run somewhere in the UK. Did Ivan Mauger have such clout ? Oh yes !!! In the programme, it states that the meeting was FIM sanctioned. It even had printed the FIM rules for starting and tape breaking. Another interesting facet to this meeting, all races were 3 laps. See it for yourself on You-tube. All of this did not bode well for the Australasian Final. Speedway Down Under may very well have come of age, but was it really ready to hold such a meeting of this eerrr, magnitude ? Time would tell.
Febuary 19 and despite niggling engine trouble all night, Ivan Mauger forgets all about his call to the FIM as he takes first place dropping only 1 point. His first big test was heat 5 facing Phil Crump, Billy Sanders and Mitch Shirra. It was Crump who gated from Mauger and Sanders. Here's how one journo saw it,
"Mauger made his first move at the pit corner on the entrance to the finish line, but could not get around Crump. He then tried an underneath pass on the long sweeper under the main stand going off the straight to snatch the lead. He kept the inside line for a full lap, as Crump tried to zap him on the outside of the main stand bend, and bounced hard off the fence for his troubles. Sanders was always a threat, and kept in position waiting for the crumbs, but had to be content with third as Mauger scratched across the line a length ahead of Crump."
Good heavens ! You can see this one on You-tube and he has it pretty much right however at the finish line, Mauger was well ahead.
The next big one was heat 15. Again from our eye witness,
"It was Mauger, Boulger, Ross, Day as the tapes flew up and the field shot into the first corner. Mauger led for a lap, but slowed at the pits allowing Boulger to close. The engine freed again and Mauger held his lead but it nipped again on the last lap as it left the finishing straight and Boulger dived underneath to take the lead and hold it to the end. Mauger hung on to a safe-enough second place but Day could not get around Larry Ross."
Round 5 saw all the big guns firing and again John Boulger beat Billy Sanders. But 12 points was enough for Sanders to safely qualify so he was quite happy with the nights work. When Mauger won heat 20, it saw a three way tie on 14 points with Crump and Boulger. So to the run-off which was all about pride and prestige. Once again from our friend 'Johny on the Spot',
"Crump leapt away when the tapes went up and led from Mauger and Boulger. Mauger tried an outside pass on the main stand corner, but could not make it. He tried an inside pass at the pits and couldn't pass there either. But on the last lap, he poked a wheel under Crump on the entrance to the back straight and ranged up alongside. It all happened on the last corner. With half a length lead, Mauger drifted wide and swooped to the inside as Boulger tried to pounce, scorching to the win as Crump fought his way out of the loose dirt for second place with Boulger close."
My goodness, what a scrap that was !!! And it was that night I was convinced Mauger would win the World Final that year. If he could beat Crumpy twice at the Showground, he could beat anybody anywhere. Yes, he would need an extra teaspoon of 'good luck', but that would only be of any good to him if he was in the position to take full advantage of it. At 37, time was running out for him to equal Ove Fundin's record.
For Crump, Boulger and Sanders, a good day at the office. Phil Herne, beaten only by the top four, he could certainly stand tall. His time would surely come. Ricky Day did more than was expected of him and Mitch Shirra really should have got one more point from heat 12 but that said, he certainly had plenty of time ahead. It was another great night of first class entertainment, in the words of Wally Loak, "Well excoitment excoitment indeed ladies and gentlemen. That's part and parcel of this sport speedway. Thick, fast and furious in the true Wally Loak style !"
Heat 1. Crump, Day, Briggs, Goodall.
1st Ivan Mauger. 3 3 3 2 3 14
This article was first published on 26th January 2019
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