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Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 6: John Louis and John Davis
Rose Tinted Spectacles
Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 5: Chris Morton
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Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 4: Dave Jessup
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Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 3: Malcolm Simmons
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Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 2: Ray Wilson
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Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 1:Nigel Boocock
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Silver Machine Win Gold
Ivan's Fantasy Island
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Tidying Up The Parade
NZ v Australia 1980
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2024 is Off and Running
The Story of Noddy Holder
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1975/76 NZ v England
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DVD: Great Races of the 80s
What's Wrong With Ambition?
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Book Review: Walthamstow
When the Rangers Roared
High Beech Revival of 1954
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Western Springs Winged Wheels
Grand Pricks?
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Blind Speedway Rider
Track Pix: Oxford
Farcical Guest
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The Ole Olsen Tapes
Dream Team: Richard Cleaver
Plus Points
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1974/75 BL V New Zealand
Heat Details Required
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Northside Arena
Review: Tigers at White City
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How to halt the decline
NZ v Poland - 1st Test
NZ v Poland - 2nd Test
NZ v Poland - 3rd Test
NZ v Poland - 4th Test
Track Pictures: North Brisbane
It's All About You: Lionel King
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Dream Team : Geoff Langley
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Gerald Dunn's JAP
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1975 World Final. Heat 20.
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Peter Collins Autobiography
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DVD Review: 70s - A to Z
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Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 4: Dave Jessup

Dave Jessup, "No doubt about it, 1980 was my best-ever season and I don't think there is any way I can hope to emulate it, even if I win the World Championship. It would have been great to cap it all with the World Title but I wouldn't have swapped everything else I achieved last season for the big one in Gothenburg."

Ivan Mauger, "It doesn't matter if you win nothing else all year as long as you win the World Final."

These two statements are testament to why, when it comes to the World Speedway Final, the score is Ivan Mauger 6. Dave Jessup 0.

From the early 70s to the early 80s, Dave Jessup was one of Speedway's brightest shining stars, a point-scoring machine and his achievements made him a Superstar. Five World Team Cup Gold Medals. World Pairs Champion with Peter Collins. British Champion and winner of the Daily Express Spring Classic and the Internationale. And to the biggest stage of all, the World Speedway Final, where he rode in six;

1974. 5 points to finish 13th.
1978. 11 points to finish 4th.
1979. 8 points to finish 8th.
1980. 12 points to finish 2nd.
1981. 7 points to finish 8th.
1982. 8 points to finish 6th.

As early as 1972, he made the last round, that year the British Final. Injury took care of 1973 and the years 1975-1977, he blew the last rounds.

We will start our analysis at 1978. Did DJ look sharp at practice ? Not at all ! Why not ? He wasn't there. Playing golf instead. He explained in Speedway Star;

"The game was booked a long time ago. Even before I'd qualified for Wembley I knew the practice would clash. I saw no reason to cancel my game then and feel just the same now."

Of Ivan Mauger's 14 World Final appearances, how many practices did he miss ? Two. Neither being his idea. His Newcastle boss Mike Parker was behind those and Ivan was furious. One of the main reasons their relationship ended in acrimony. Besides, practice day was also about publicity and a huge opportunity to show off and thank sponsors, as well as helping to keep Speedway on the front page for the fans that paid the wages.

With home favourite Peter Collins having been knocked out, DJ found himself with a free-pass to an upset win. The hot favourites being Ivan Mauger, Ole Olsen, Malcolm Simmons and British Champion Mike Lee. In the wings, Scott Autrey also capable of an upset.

DJ was out in heat 3 and was a mile clear until he broke down on the first turn of lap three.

"My mechanic Dave Phillips took the pushrods out [ of the engine ] to polish them. Instead of holding them by hand, he put them in the jaws of a lathe, a bit too tight. In the first race, the steel cap split. It was an accident, a small costly error. But I don't blame him for it at all, he was doing his best. He just did it up a bit too tight on the chuck, it could easily have happened to me."

Result; Rembas, J Verner, Andersson. Jessup e.f

He would now have to win his remaining heats for any possible shot at the Gold Medal. Three wins later, taking care of Olsen, Autrey, Simmons and Mauger, that looked a sure bet. However, it was not going to be enough. Ole Olsen held it together, scoring 13 points and winning his third World Title.

DJ would have been heart-broken but in round five, had the opportunity to prove what would have been. 3 points in heat 19 will give him the Silver Medal with 12 points. But he faces Gordon Kennett, who has ridden the meeting of his life and Mike Lee, who are both in the exact same position.

Not a good start for DJ finding himself behind Anders Michanek and Kennett. It took the Brits until lap three to pass Mich but DJ could not catch Kennett. Result; Kennett, Jessup, Michanek, Lee.

Fans are quick to point out, had DJ not stopped in round one, that result would have given him the Gold Medal. What they fail to realize is, it became a different ball-game. Had DJ won that last heat and taken the Silver Medal, Ole would have handed him the trophy. But no, he failed to do so and then failed to take the Bronze Medal in the run-off, result; Autrey, Jessup, Rembas.

Scorechart; Ole Olsen 13. Gordon Kennett 12. Scott Autrey 11. Dave Jessup 11. Jerzy Rembas 11. Malcolm Simmons 10. Mike Lee 9. Ivan Mauger 8.

Onto 1979, with the World Final being held in Chorzow. Ivan Mauger said there were four favourites. Himself along with Ole Olsen, Peter Collins and Mike Lee. "Whoever had the best day would win, it just happened to be me." [ Ivan was beaten only by Lee in round three ]

Why didn't he rate DJ ? What did he know that we didn't ? They met in round one, heat 4 and Ivan made the gate from Finn Thomsen, John Titman, DJ last and staying there, pulling out with engine failure half way through. No-one talks about that one. Result; Mauger, Thomsen, Titman. Jessup ef.

Round two, heat 8 result; Sanders, Jancarz, Jessup, Slabon. No chance of a place and all the pressure off, DJ bounces into form.

Heat 9, he cannot match Zdenek Kudrna but beats Peter Collins who did not enjoy the meeting at all. Result; Kudrna, Jessup, Collins, Betzl.

Then an amazing win in round 4 beating Kelly Moran, Ole Olsen and Mike Lee ! Heat 18 sees DJ holding off Zenon Plech until the Pole masterfully overtakes and has Chorzow in rapture ! Because that gave him the Silver Medal behind Ivan.

Scorechart; Ivan Mauger 14. Zenon Plech 13. Mike Lee 11. Kelly Moran 11. Billy Sanders 11. Ole Olsen 11. Zdenek Kudrna 8. Dave Jessup 8. So, despite beating three of the favourites, DJ finishes midfield. And Ivan Mauger called it correctly.

1980 and the new decade sees a changing of the guard. Ivan Mauger is not up for winning the World Final anymore. Even if he had qualified, a year plagued with illness saw his form suffer. DJ on the other hand blossomed to have the year he spoke of at the beginning.

Winning the Internationale, British Final, Commonwealth Final, World Pairs Final with Peter Collins and would go on to win his 5th World Team Cup Gold Medal. With himself out of the way, Ivan now rated DJ as a World Final favourite. He wrote in Speedway Star,

"Jessup has the perfect draw. Number 10 isn't always the best position but it seems to be this time. He is off the inside gate in his first ride when he faces Lee and Collins. He has a great opportunity to make it count against his two biggest rivals. He tends to mess up one ride when he least needs it. If he can find consistency, he's won it."

He went on to say,

"Only Bruce Penhall can stop an Englishman winning the 1980 World Championship. That's the way I see the World Final with Peter Collins, Dave Jessup and Mike Lee the only other riders who honestly believe they can win."

And that's the way it was. Those four were given a massive boost as Ole Olsen was stuck at reserve. Was Ole still up for it ? Hell yeah !!!

So to the action and heat 3 sees DJ blast from the gate to lead Collins, Lee and Kai Niemi. He has no trouble riding the race of his life as Lee ducks underneath Collins on the last turn. Those 3 points were priceless and the Gold Medal was his to throw away. And that is exactly what he did ! No engine failures, no flat tyres, no dropped chains, no excuses. The next three second places were not the efforts of a World Final winner.

Finn Thomsen, Billy Sanders and Jan Andersson were top-gun riders, of course, but they should never have beaten DJ that night. A round five defeat of Penhall saw DJ with 12 points. He then watched Lee fulfil his destiny.

Scorechart; Mike Lee 14. Dave Jessup 12. Billy Sanders 12. Jan Andersson 11. Bruce Penhall 9. John Davis 9. Peter Collins 8. Chris Morton 8.

DJ was quoted in Speedway Star,

"It has been a tremendous season for me. I would like to have won but second will do."

Compare that to Mike Lee,

"It is what I have always dreamed of since I started riding."

And when did you ever hear Ivan Mauger say that second will do ? Now that puts a whole new spin on that opening quote to start this article. If DJ went into this meeting without the over-riding passion and determination to seize the Gold Medal, he had no right to do so and that explains how he beats his fellow favourites but stands on the podium behind the rightful King.

1981 and DJ finds himself the home favourite for Wembley. Peter Collins had not entered the competition because of injury recovery. Mike Lee had found his 'self destruction button.' He had qualified but wasn't a safe bet. Chris Morton was not up for winning and we'll discuss why next time. And new kid on the block, Kenny Carter was considered by some to be good enough but if Lee and Penhall had not been able to win on debut, Ivan's 'Mini Me' would probably find it too tough as well. Bruce Penhall was THE 'Red Hot' favourite. Ole Olsen was back and only a fool would suggest he was past it.

DJ was on form and get this, having broken down in the World Pairs Final at Chorzow and the World Team Cup Final at Olching, surely he'd used up the quota ! So to the action. After two rounds, DJ and Penhall had two wins each and were joint leaders. They met in round three.

Here is how Richard Clark saw it for Speedway Star;

'Heat 9. The American leads from the outside gate but Jessup is breathing right down his neck. On the final bend, Penhall locks and Jessup has to pull up sharply on the inside and comes to a complete halt allowing Plech and Jancarz through.'

Result; Penhall, Plech, Jancarz. Jessup ef.'

Did DJ have to pull up sharply ? When Penhall locked up slightly, it looked like an open invitation for DJ to sneak inside and snatch the win. So why did his bike stop ? DJ,

"Those clips holding the carburettor in position never break, so how could I have possibly allowed for it to happen to me on that of all nights ? George Yule tightened it before the race and said it couldn't possibly have come undone, but it did. He'd obviously tightened it too much but again, he was doing his best to keep the carburettor on. And the fact is, it wouldn't have stopped at all in that race had I not shut off sharply when Penhall locked up in front of me on the last bend."

See it for yourself on You-tube.

Round four, heat 15. Thanks again to Richard Clark;

'More drama as mechanical matters take a hand. Carter's bike snarls and snorts to a halt as he holds second place [ behind DJ ] on the first lap and, with under a lap remaining, Jessup grinds to a halt for the second time while well in front. Neither rider opts for the third place point.'

Result; Gundersen, Olsen. Jessup ef. Carter ef.'

Round five, heat 18. DJ picks up a point when race leader Mike Lee drops a chain and falls.

Result; Knudsen, Muller, Jessup. Lee fall.

After four wins, Penhall is happy to sit behind Carter in heat 20 to take the Gold Medal.

Scorechart; Bruce Penhall 14. Ole Olsen 12. Tommy Knudsen 12. Erik Gundersen 11. Kenny Carter 11. Jan Andersson 9. Egon Muller 9. Dave Jessup 7.

Nothing more to say I'm afraid. Engine failure had become DJ's catch-phrase. How many of them were down to bad luck ? I mean, there has to be something wrong when John Davis says, "It just happens too often."

1982, DJ sails through to the Los Angeles World Final and while Penhall is THE red hot / home favourite, the Brit still cannot be discounted. With Erik Gundersen somehow fluffing the last round, many eyes were on Kenny Carter who was back from injury. Was he up for taking on Penhall ? We all know the outcome. As for DJ, 5 points from two rounds and he faces Penhall in heat 12. The defender also has 5 points and they are joined by Dennis Sigalos, 5 points and Edward Jancarz on four.

Under starters orders, Penhall rolls into the tapes but somehow they don't break. He gingerly manoeuvres his way back and then blasts into the lead. DJ gives chase ahead of Sigalos and Jancarz. But that's as close he gets as Sigalos goes by on lap two and on the run to the flag, yes, you guessed it, DJ's bike stops and he is last. Three points from round four was followed by a round 5 duck behind Les Collins, Kelly Moran and Kenny Carter.

Scorechart; Bruce Penhall 14. Les Collins 13. Dennis Sigalos 12. Kelly Moran 11. Kenny Carter 10. Dave Jessup 8. Hans Nielsen 8. Jan Andersson 8.

That was DJ's sixth and last World Final appearance. The 1983 British Final saw his early exit, after two straight wins. Howard Jacobi explains what went wrong in heat 9;

"DJ was well on course for the Overseas Final when he clashed with Peter Collins. Some claim it was a reckless unnecessary tactic to dive inside PC when the race was young and time on Jessup's side. He could have settled for a safe second and still led the field at the interval. With hindsight, Jessup might even agree. But his smooth running GM motor appeared to have speed on Collins and DJ was sucked into a passing attempt that rebounded with horrible consequences for his World Title aspirations."

Heat 9 re-run result; P Collins, Kennett, Richardson. Jessup ex. Injury saw him unable to continue.

Had DJ qualified for the Norden World Final, he may have done as well as any of the Brits. Mike Lee 3rd. Kenny Carter 5th. Chris Morton 10th and Phil Collins 13th. But that is of course, had he got through the meeting without breaking down. And the odds weren't that great, here's why. He rode in one World Championship Final that year, the World Team Cup Final at Vojens. In heat 3, DJ has the lead from Bobby Schwartz, Ole Olsen and Vaclav Verner. What happens ?

DJ does not want to be remembered for his myriad of breakdowns.

"... I got an unfair reputation for breaking down in big meetings. But look back at my record and you'll see from my consistent averages for all my clubs and England that I hardly ever had mechanical failures."

And I'm sure that is true, however the 'hardly ever' breakdowns he did have, were on the Speedway world's biggest stage !

Six World Finals, five engine failures. In Ivan Mauger's 14 World Finals, he had just two. The famous 1976 heat 5, the only one recorded but I will include 1978 heat 4. If that's not a fair comparison, this is; Mike Lee, six World Finals, one engine failure. And that was a broken primary chain at Wembley 1981.

I do not believe for one moment that engine failure cost DJ the World Title. It all goes back to that introduction. If the genie in the bottle had offered him the 1980 World Title, at the cost of giving up everything else, he would have declined. Why did Ivan Mauger win 6 World Finals ?

"It doesn't matter if you win nothing else all year, as long as you win the World Final."


This article was first published on 23rd June 2024

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