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Book Review:
Ivan Mauger - The Man Behind The Myth
(John Chaplin)

Speedway historian John Chaplin is the man behind this new book that takes a fresh approach to a familiar subject. Ivan Mauger is probably the most written about rider in speedway history, so do we really need another book about him? The answer (surprisingly) is yes, this is a very worthwhile addition to the bookshelf.

Rather than telling the story of Ivan's life, Chaplin approached dozens of people who have known him and asked them to write about him. A simple approach, but one that works fantastically well. The contributors range from family member, other multiple World Champions and some who met him fleetingly or only ever saw him race. They've all got an opinion and they are all in here.

There seems to be little middle-ground with Mauger, few of those featured are indifferent to him. He seems to be the kind of character that you simply either like or you don't. Interestingly he doesn't even seem to be universally respected for his on-track achievements, some contributors having absolutely nothing good to say about him at all. One five-time World Champion is unwilling to say anything about him - from which we can perhaps draw our own conclusions.

Tracy Holmes has followed Mauger's career and perhaps knows more about the related facts and figures than Ivan does himself. Tracy highlights a number of occasions where Ivan hasn't let a good story get in the way of the facts. It may all sound rather petty, but it's one of the best contributions in this book and gives a real insight into the Mauger mindset and his approach to public relations. Ivan does have a right-of-reply within the book and offers his own version of several events.

For every sniper, there's one or more contributors only too happy praise Ivan. Whether it's for help and advice given, for parts loaned in some god-forsaken corner of the world or for travelling to a social event in the depths of the Scottish winter. It's clear that he's touched many lives and for some he will always be the greatest.

Former promoter Martin Rogers (always worth listening to) provides an excellent foreword that sets the tone with a balanced and warm introduction. He notes that Ivan has perhaps mellowed since hanging up his boots, but some of the tales in this book make it clear that he's still striving for perfection and doesn't tolerate fools gladly.

It's a good read and by virtue of the book's structure can be read in any order you like. There are also a good selection of photographs throughout, mainly of Ivan at different stages of his life, but also of the contributors or of the events under discussion. There is a worry that the book could become repetitive, but there are so many tales to be told that new ground is covered from the first page to the last. It's impossible to think of another rider that would generate quite as much discussion.


Book and Ordering Details:

160 Pages

Available from:
The History Press


This article was first published on 20th January 2013


  • Mike Wilson:

    "I couldn't wait for this book to arrive and read it cover to cover straight away. Yes it's a good read but I couldn't help feeling it could have been so much more. I understand some people didn't want to comment or be involved but I quess I was expecting more riders of Ivan's era to give their 2 cents worth and offer up the juicy back stories that we all want to hear....Still give it 8 out of 10 from my point of view. "

  • Mike Wilson:

    "In the latest book about Ivan Mauger ''The Man Behind The Myth" John Davis again comes out blaming Ivan for his exclusion from heat 16 of the 77 Intercontinental final and also as a main reason why he did not qualify for that years World Final. The Youtube footage clearly shows Davis come from grid 1 and move across right on to almost grid 3. In my opinion Davis actually impeded the rider on gate 2 and also clouted Ivan who was only doing what ALL riders do when on outside gates. Davis has been talking about this race for years but surely he has seen this footage and must have softened on his view. Bob Dugard walks the line of the track that Ivan took but what would have been more compelling is if he had walked John's line too....It should have been all four back but if anyone had to go it was Davis."

  • Tracy Holmes:

    "Heat 16, 1977 Intercontinental Final. White City. Re-run, 1st Ole Olsen. 2nd Ivan Mauger. 3rd Keith White. John Davis excluded, unfair riding. I agree with Mike Wilson. It was definitely 1st bend bunching even if in THE extreme. With Olsen in front, Davis certainly went off his line and yes, Mauger did what All riders do, came across so when they collided, something had to give. Mauger going down was pure theatre but surely, it had to be 'all 4 back in'. I think most people will agree that both were pretty much equally to blame. Well, who was the referee? Gunter Sorber. Where was he from? West Germany. Who were THE biggest Superstars to ride in Germany on the Longtracks taking on Egon Muller? Ivan Mauger and Ole Olsen !!! So again I agree with Mike Wilson, 'If anyone had to go, it was Davis.' Conspiracy theory anyone ???"

  • Steve Magro:

    "Re the Mauger-Davis first corner incident in the '77 Intercontinental Final at White Ciry, of course all-4-back would have been a perfect resolution. BUT in those days if a race was stopped somebody had to be excluded. There were no all-4-back rulings then. The way I saw it Davis did no wrong, while Mauger came right across and into JD."

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