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Riders to Remember....Larry Ross
By Tracy Holmes

Larry Ross

Larry's British League career has been masterfully recorded in Backtrack. Here now are some outside stats and opinions that will hopefully be of interest.

His first NZ Cap was against Poland in 1975 and in the two tests, he failed to score. But after one British League season with Wimbledon, he was a natural selection and would remain so for the next 18 years, representing NZ at home and all over the speedway world. The ultimate climax was when NZ won the 79 World Cup, Larry scoring 11 points, beaten only by Ole Olsen who was himself, unbeaten. That Gold Medal was the result of not just that year's competition but the previous four when Larry first got to ride in that event.

There was also the World Pairs Championship. Larry got to ride in eight World Finals and with partner Ivan Mauger, took 2 Silver Medals.

Other competitions that Larry did extremely well in include the NZ Championship. On Jan 3, 1976, he was unbeaten for his first Title, pushing the Napier home favourite Colin Farquharson to second. Larry would go on to win this event 9 times. The last in 1990 when he beat Mark Thorpe in the run-off. Then 18 years later, on Feb 24 2008, at the age of 53, he returned and was second to Jason Bunyan! His scorechart? 3 3 3 3 1: 13. In his last race, he was third behind Bunyan and Andrew Bargh. Bunyan was unbeaten. The defending Champion Andrew Bargh third with 12. And this story may well continue this coming season at Moore Park.

Also in NZ, the 1977 season saw Larry win a brand new car after five rounds pushing out Roger Wright, Mike Fullerton and Jack Millen. At the Western Springs track in Auckland, two years later, he won a Super Six contest from Kai Niemi, World number two Gordon Kennett, the World Champion Ole Olsen, Ivan Mauger and Mitch Shirra. Such events are sometimes just exhibitions but this night wasn't and Larry's win was extremely justified.

On the International stage, he won the London Riders Championship, Wimbledon Laurels and WJ Cearns events. He was second to Edward Jancarz in the '77 Internationale, second to Peter Collins in the '78 Tommy Jansson Memorial and second to Dave Jessup in the 1980 Pride of the East.

To show just how good he was on the biggest stages, in three British League Riders Finals at Belle Vue, he scored 11 points in 78 to finish fourth behind Ole Olsen, Peter Collins and Steve Bastable. In 79, 10 points and 5th place behind John Louis, Bruce Penhall, Mike Lee and Peter Collins. Then in 80, 11 points for 3rd place behind Les Collins and Bruce Penhall. Remember those years, those riders and that the BLRC was second only in Individual importance to the World Final, thats an indication of what Larry was capable of.

This brings us to the question of why Larry never 'fired' in the World Championship itself. The trouble with coming from NZ is that we were spoilt with success in this event. And more so if your hometown was Christchurch. From Ronnie Moore's debut in 50, Geoff Mardon's Bronze Medal in 53, appearances by Trevor Redmond, Maury Dunn, Barry Briggs and Ron Johnston; and of course the overpowering Gold medals of Moore, Briggs and Ivan Mauger, it was sadly taken for granted that the likes of Larry and Mitch Shirra would just continue the story. If not winning the event, certainly continuing the NZ representatives. It looked too good to be true and it was.

Larry just lacked that 'certain something' when it came to this one. Getting to the World Final in '79 as reserve was of course, brilliant. For those who don't know, the World Championship had at that time, a disastrous qualifying system that had super-gun western riders falling over themselves to squeeze in while the less talented eastern riders, and NO DISRESPECT intended here, it's just the way it was, having a much easier passage through.

Larry had the dream ticket to the 1980 Final. The first big hurdle for him was the Australasian Final, hometown venue. Then the Commonwealth Final, Wimbledon, hometrack for over five years. And lastly, the Intercontinental Final, White City where he had won the previous year's World Cup. So, Australasian Final, easy, gave points away. Then, he failed to qualify from Wimbledon!!! How on earth was that possible? And at the end of the last round, no Kiwis had made it to the World Final. And that is no slur on the defending Champion, Ivan Mauger. No-one expected him to get through. Mitch Shirra however was a disgrace.

Larry would ride at the Wembley Final in 81. He scored 4 points and finished 13th in the only Final he got to ride in. In the next 3 years, Larry would not qualify from the last round. He just could not lift his game to do so.

In 1985, he was banned from the event after winning the NZ Final, the meeting declared 'black'. NZ was being riddled with cancerous politics. His last shot was '86 but this time, failed to qualify from the second to last round with 5 points.

Today, Larry is enjoying his NZ comeback and he has certainly been a huge benefit to youngsters like Andrew Bargh, Andrew Aldridge, Grant Tregoning and Alex Cunningham. Now, this 'old guy' doesnt just tell them what to do, he shows them, racing against them! It sure is a sight to see.

Larry Ross, a true NZ Superstar!!!

 

We want to feature similar articles on riders from any era of the sport's rich history. If you'd like to contribute a piece then email us at speedwayplus@hotmail.com or fill out our form here.


 

  • Mike Wilson:

    "I rode in the Uk from 88-91 and in 1999 took up race commentating. I have been the 'gob on the job' at lots of top events whether they be cars or bikes. In 2008 my brother Darrin hosted the innaugeral NZ over 40 Vets championship on the small bullring track in Hawkes bay where we live. Larry had entered and we had heard how well he had been going on his return to racing and wondered if the tight circuit would catch him out, WRONG, Larry showed all the skills and reactions of past glories by finished on the rostrum in 3rd place at the age of 54 against guys 14 years younger. But for one small mistake he would have been in a runoff for his 10th NZ title. Since then Larry has ridden himself into form and but for an adopted kiwi { Jason Bunyan } would have added a couple more by now....... KEEP IT UP LARRY AND SHOW THEM WHAT A 60 YEAR OLD CAN DO...."

  • Mike Frank:

    "Top class No1 while at Belle Vue home and away. Hard to pass once in front."

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