"I remember this tournament really well Tracy despite only being 9 at the time. My main memories are of the Eastern European riders I'd never heard of before - the riding style of Zenon Plech, and the hard riding Russians (Grigori Chlynovski in particular) - and who could forget how it all ended with the run off controversy between Collins & Michanek. Great memories..."
"Re the World League and Scotland. Not only were the Scots denied a place in the tournament, guess which BL1 track was the only one not to stage a match? Yep the only Scottish one, Coatbridge. Some tracks even had two qualifying matches! Considering the Scots had McMillan, Hunter, Beaton, Harkins and Collins all in the top division, I don't think they would've been outclassed"
"Greg (Hancock) is an amazing rider for both his longevity and consistent results. Briggo used to hold the all time record for most World Individual Championships ridden at 18 until Hans Nielsen surpassed him in 1999 to reach 19. 2019 will incredibly be Hancock's 27th World Championship season although you could say he was fortunate in both 2001 and 2017 when he finished outside of the qualifying mark and was thus given a Wildcard. To even be near competing across 5 decades is astonishing in itself."
"Hi, I'm a family member of Ray, which is his middle name! his first name is Cyril. Also his death was March 21st 1964 (year I was born) Not April!!. Hope this helps, Always loved the stories of him from my Nan, & my Mother who stills talks about him."
"Can I ask everyone here to raise a glass to the achievements of Greg Hancock? Aside from coming to the UK for a few exhibition rides with Billy Hamill at the age of 18 in 1988, "Herbie" has passed three incredible landmarks in the history of speedway's 91 years.
1. He remains the only rider to still be riding at top league level, whether it be the Swedish League and/or GP's since the 1980's (debut 1989 for Cradley Heath, in British League Division One).
2. He is the only rider to now be riding at the top level for FOUR consecutive decades (1980's, 1990's 2000's and 2010's - heading for a fifth decade next year).
3. He holds the record for the most GP's ridden in. Whilst he isn't up there in number terms for World titles with the likes of Mauger and Rickardsson, surely Greg deserves a mention in the annals of history of our wonderful sport. Best wishes to him for his fifth decade season in 2020."
Our review of the new DVD boxset dedicated to the Cradley Heathens.
Due to popular demand, we've added the supporters' cup race format to our programme generator. You can find it here. Apologies to those who found themselves at meetings this week with the wrong heat line ups!
"An interesting article from Steve Haire. If memory serves me well, at Wimbledon in 1987 it was our responsibility to pay for BOTH teams start and points money. The Dons were in what was the second division. and I remember well that in those days, points money exactly equalled our admission cost at the time - £3.50. I have no clue as to present day arrangements, but it is common knowledge that especially in the top tier, some of the leading lights are on "guarantees". There was one story in the 90's of a top rider (who shall remain nameless) at a club not a million miles from west London (who will also remain nameless but no longer exist) whose guarantee was almost the whole of the weekly gate receipts. Whether that is true or not is open to debate. "
"I have accounts books from 40/50 days. As some rides are still alive I can not be more specific. I can confirm that the track promotion in these days paid the start and points money to the visiting promotion less deductions for fuel, oil, parts and insurance. The ledgers have the carbon copy pages setting out the promotion to which a cheque was sent for the total team payment. I also have a number of sheets itemising who had to paid what sent by other promotions. There are notes indicating that some riders were paid directly but this is not very common. Travel expenses do not appear on these sheets by rider."
"I was at those first Belle Vue Colts meetings and can remember Chris coming round the fourth bend at what seemed like a hundred miles an hour, missing the fence with a couple of inches. He was one of the stand out riders with his Red football jersey."
"Really sad news of the passing of John Chaplin. I first met him in the 1970's and was stunned at his knowledge and articulation of our wonderful sport. An old late friend of my family had given me a wondrous collection of speedway magazines from the pre-war years up until the late 50's. John eventually purchased them from me at one of the annual "programme and magazine events" at the General Smuts public house at White City during the major meetings held there in the late 70's and early 80's. One of our foremost brains of the sport who will be sadly missed by young and old. His articles weaved the memories of the past. RIP John."
"Sorry to hear about John Chaplin's passing. He drew on his memories and historical records to fashion some great articles, and books. The Vintage Speedway mag was a boon to all of interested in the early history of the sport we all love. Occasionally when l felt I needed to suggest corrections he would welcome my thoughts orwewold engage in a bit of friendly debate. There was no doubt he was a journalist through and through rather than a crusty researcher digging into the dusty old newspapers. That did not diminish his contribution as I can acknowledge that he was happy to publish researchers findings in his magazines which is big positive. I hope John is up there with his heroes of the tracks - it is just a pity that he'll not be able share their tales with us. Goodbye John - you will be sadly missed."
"Very sorry to hear that John Chaplin is no longer with us. He leaves a really fantastic legacy of documenting a period of speedway history that will forever live long in the memory. Really enjoyed reading the two re-published articles."
Sad news this week with the passing of the great journalist John Chaplin at the age of 85. John contributed to numerous publications over the years, including his regular Museum Piece feature in Speedway Star. He also edited Classic Speedway magazine for 10 years and published some marvellous hardback books in collaboration with John Somerville.
John was an occasional contributor to this website, so it seems appropriate to bring some of his work back to the top of the site as our small tribute to him.
In this first article he looks back on the 1950s, a decade he described as one of one of steady but precipitous decline.
"I wish I was very wealthy to the point where I could have the biggest Speedway party ever. I would fly everybody in from all over the world it would go down in history as the biggest party ever. So many great memories from Speedway in England. Who knows this is just a dream and I may win the big lottery one day and this could happen. This is my dream, I hope you all like it."
Tracy Holmes on the 1981 final. He describes it thus - "This meeting was everything a World Championship qualifying round of such magnitude should have been with all the thrills, spills, high drama and shocks."
A couple of speedway fans would like your help:
Steve Baker [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
"Here's a picture of the Aldershot team from 1953 or 54 and I am trying to identify the riders. The only one I know for sure is Tommy Sweetman in the centre and I think it's Bob Bunney on the bike to the left. If anyone can offer any further info I would be most grateful."
Chris Butlin [ Butlinca@aol.com ]
"My dad was a dirt-track racer at Harringay Stadium before the 2nd WW. He was Horace Alfred Butlin but was usually known as Harry. I am pretty sure he raced there in the late 1920s and early 1930s. I have no photographs of him unfortunately. His profession was that of a butcher. If anyone has any record of him I'd greatly appreciate hearing from you."
"A poignant reminder of how dangerous speedway can be. Ove Fundin was my hero as a kid. I worked with his mechanic Les Mullins at Pointers Motor Company. Les told me one day that in one race against Peter Craven, Fundin came back to the pits and said little bugger I had to put him back on the bike twice in that heat."
"Good comment DWood. Such a shame PC was not at Wembley in 78 but I would not be so quick to hand it to him over Ole. I say that because of the BLRC at Belle Vue several weeks later, where Ole takes him from the back, twice, in their last heat decider to take the Title. AT BELLE VUE !!!
So ... Interesting your take on early 70s Finals. Ole certainly lost it in 72 by falling and Ivan in 73 by totally stuffing his second heat. People only refer to the run-off but whose to say he could have got passed Szczakiel had he not made such a hash of it ? Yes, he had a faster bike but Szczakiel had him for breakfast twice ! The 'Mauger is god' brigade still find that hard to swallow !
I see you have PC winning in 77 as well. Maybees, but I think, even a fully fit PC would have had trouble in the Gothenburg rain. I still say that night belonged to Ivan because of his expert experience over ALL his rivals that night. As for Ivan's 'Mini me' in 82, really??? mmm Great fun debate my friend, thank you !!!"
"Still got the single somewhere - the only 45 I've got left - although it's probably 30+ years since I played it! I remember buying it: (1) in the vain hope of getting speedway on Top of the Pops; and (2) because Hull had just gone up into division 1 and 'Jimmy Mac' was our new number one. "
Tracy Holmes with part four of his series.The final no longer ensured qualification for the quarter final stage of the championship, but the increased number of qualifying positions proved significant in the context of the season as a whole.
"As a kid I lived within walking distance of the Dons home on Plough Lane. I thought it was magic watching Ronnie. He always rode for team points often protecting his regular partner Cyril Brine from the opposition. Ronnie's ability to hug the white line was the best ever. Marvelous."
"Great article on supporters clubs Steve. I, as well as you, don't remember the days, but the history books show that in 1949 Wembley Lions had a supporters club membership in excess of 60,000. Utterly unbelievable now in the days of 1-2,000 crowds alone. In fact are there any supporters clubs left? And what about the good old "war cry" days? 2-4-6-8 who do we appreciate? (insert your own clubs initials at this point).
Golden days indeed, never to return in reality, as the younger generation have so many more things to occupy them now. My two daughters, both in their 20's have visited the speedway with me many times over the years, both enjoy it, but both in truth can take it or leave it. The old days of being "hooked" I'm afraid are gone. All we have are memories - but brilliant ones at that. Nobody can take them away or replicate them. Hanging off the safety fence to see giants like Mauger, Briggs, Olsen, Penhall, Collins, Lee, etc will always be there."
"My family were supporters of the Monarchs and watched the awesome Jack Young from his first races. Ken-le-Breton, the white ghost. Magical times. We were 'third-benders' and it was so good to meet with like-minded supporters. Such happy days and what a clean, honest sport it was."
"I would agree. Peter didn't have the mechanical advantage he had in 1976 and 1977 when his Weslakes were more than a match for Olsen (and Mauger's) jawas and good as PC was, Olsen was flying.
However, I have always felt that rather than 1975 it was 1978 that was the one that got away for PC. He won the Master of Speedway with a round to spare, motivated partly by his concern that he might be banned following missing a Belle Vue meeting because his flight from the US was delayed. This was a serious victory given they were racing for £10k.
Peter had a strong season in the league and in individual events and Ole was the best at Wembley on a night when no-one dominated. PC rode Wembley really well and if his engines hadn't been sabotaged at Coventry I believe he would have won the Worlf Final. In my 'alternative world' World Final results, I have Ole winning in 1972 as well as 1971, Ivan winning in 1973 and Peter winning 1976-1978. And Preben Eriksen didn't put Kenny Carter in hospital just before Los Angeles, Ivan insisted he used Carlisle's and he won in 1982."
"I have never heard of a rider named Archie Moore - and most certainly not at Wimbledon. The only sportsman I know whose name was Archie Moore, a wonderful American cruiser weigh boxer and one-time world champion. The only riders with the surname Moore at Wimbledon in 1950 were Ronnie who rode in the team and his father Les who had a few second-half rides."
"I do think its a shame that Jerzy Szczakiel has the reputation of a one hit wonder because from all reports, he was better than that. I think part of that though is that he rarely rode outside of the Iron Curtain so people, especially the Brits, rarely got to see him. And it's not because he didn't want to, but because the Polish authorities wouldn't allow him to for some reason. They allowed Edward Jancarz and Zenon Plech to race all over the world, but not Szczakiel.
Ivan Mauger definitely recognised his talent though and when he and Barry Briggs were running their troupe's all over the world in the 70s, Jerzy was invited to be part of it, but he was simply never allowed to go. But one thing that can never be taken away from him is that he is a genuine World Speedway Champion. As was said above, there were supposedly better credentialed riders who never even got close to being that. But he did."
"Ah yes North of the Border. Having paid 11 visits to Glasgow speedway over the years at its various locations including Coatbridge, 2 or 3 Blantyres was it, Shawfield Park and its current track Ashfield.
First visit was in 1975 with the Crayford Kestrels losing 25-53 with Trevor Barnwell, George Barclay and Alan Sage as top scores wi th Glasgow having a young Mitch Shirra who was supposed to have been the next Ivan Mauger. Upto the late 80's they tended to be one sided affairs until 1988 when Hackney with their all concoring side won 50-46, again top scorers this time being Chris Louis, Andy Galvin and Mark Loram.
I had relatives in Stirling so when on holiday would always take in the speedway and even got to see Willie Templeton's Testimonial a Berwick. From 2006 -2008 having a mate who had a Scottish girlfriend we would stop at her place and do the Rye House northern tours taking in Edinburgh, Berwick and Glasgow.
Yes, fond memories of great times, unfortunately now I'll be lucky to see another live speedway match.."
"My dad Allan Jackson was a member of the New Brighton Motorcycle club and later President. Every weekend they had a race meeting, dad and I would go out on the Saturday to lay out the track for race, mainly at Clarkville in those days just out of Christchurch. Dad would be official scrutineer checking the bikes out to ensure they were safe.
Every one was riding 4 stroke bikes and they hated any little jumps most preferring to go around them. Graeme and Gordon Holland had many exciting races and they had the crowds cheering big time even the local motorcycle gang would go out and enjoy the spectacle.
Times changed when Graeme came back from his time riding in UK with a 2 stroke CZ from memory, then they really stepped up riding in gully at Halswell quarry and throwing their bikes over the jobs. My most vivid memory was at a North V South meeting in Timaru where the south was being punished But Graeme came down the hill on a dangerous line and passed two of the best North islanders the crowd erupted.
He took risks most others didn't and certainly had a huge fan base. I kept scrapbooks of all the amazing happening in Scrambling as it was known and passed them on the Ruapuna Speedway for safe keeping. I do still have many home movies my dad made including the incredible pass at Timaru. An amazing athlete well deserved of this article."
Tracy Holmes reminds us of the controversy that surrounded the final in 1977.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to part sponsor the British Youth Speedway Championship) are pleased to announce the 72nd edition of their magazine the Voice which is packed full of interest and enjoyment. This issue is a huge 24 pages, which will keep your interest for hours!
In this issue, Charles Mckay asks Where did the money go? Plus Fake news. Roy Delaney's article on Crashes were plentiful. John Hyam on Vic Ridgeon plus Bob Warner. More tales of a wandering nomad plus Ask not for whom the bells tolls from Jeffrey C. Jameson. The Editor reports on the Kempton Park Road Show and scattering his friend around Wimbledon. Sue Towner is on her Soapbox and giving the Accounts of the last year. Slider says, 'Are we at the crossroads or is it now a roundabout?' Followed by much more reading.
Available from Friends of Speedway; 117 Church Lane, Chessington, Surrey KT9 2DP. Please send your cheque for £12 made out to the above for four issues of the Voice to Stu Towner at the above address or ring 0208-397 6599 for more information.
"Bunbury Speedway is more known as a car speedway track mostly hosting Sprintcars, Speedcars (midgets) and Late Models, though it does occasionally host both solo and sidecar racing. The 530 metre long clay track, which is almost flat with next to no banking at all, played host to rounds of the old International Speedway Masters Series that was run in Australia from 1995-2000. Not surprisingly, with the length of the track one of the more successful motorcycle speedway riders to race there was the late Simon Wigg."
"Couldn't agree more with John Fray's comments on the future of speedway. I've said it many times before here, and will repeat it. Unless and until speedway is run by a third party, who only has the interests of the sport at heart, but can do it without a financial interest at any particular track, ie definitely NOT a promoter, it will continue to wither and slowly die on the vine. John Berry's offer in 1986 was turned down by the BSPA. Maybe now they may just listen when at the end of the 2019 season, they come out with their usual nonsense but look closely at the bottom line which will show yet another inexorable decline attendances. It's not a question of 'when will they learn' - it will eventually be forced upon them. Sadly, it will be the dwindling number of fans who will suffer as there will be less and less tracks to attend."
"Pinjar Park's new 300 metre track has now officially opened. It hosted the running of the 2019 Western Australian Solo Championship (which strangely was run on the same night as Rd.2 of the Australian Championship at Mildura). Showing his continued support for where he grew up and the club that both he and his father Rob were such a big part of, the WA title was won by none other than reigning World Champ Tai Woffinden who not only rode on the night but also helped with the track preparation."
"Bob Watts rode for Teesside as a lowly reserve for a short while in the 70s and drove from, I think, Exeter for the pleasure. The fans certainly took to him - he was a trier."
"With all due respect to Phil Rice the BBC sports personality of the year event is now no more than an excuse for licence payers funded junket. It is run by control freaks who don't want anyone from sports ignored by the BBC to get a mention. It is a sad fact of T V life that sport now, largely, equals footballl and maybe the other odd thing such as tennis. I see the sports personality on par with the Eurovision Song Competition as a complete load of rubbish and not worth watching. I don't get hung up about it - I just ignore it. Let's face it the BBC just ignores a whole raft of sports and as far as I can see that is not likely to change."
"Like Bob was at first meeting and last. Always thought that he was the best announcer that I had heard around the tracks. Sadly like Bob my speedway patronage has run its course from a meeting available virtually every night when I was growing up to nothing now. Despite Jon Cook's assertion, there is no accessible speedway to me as a retired personage with limited finance. ( I have always placed Eastbourne on the South Coast). I am left with many happy memories of Arena/Lakeside not least Alan Sage's ability to scatter the other riders should he reach the first bend in the lead by throttling back!!!"
"I'd like to nominate "Gentleman" (and he is) George Barclay when he lived in Plaistow, east London, and commuted every Sunday up to Sunderland, around a 750 mile round trip for home meetings. He gave them exemplary service too and I would imagine is still fondly remembered by many in the area. "
"The largest ever speedway crowd recorded at Odsal was 47,050 for an England vs Australia test on 5 July 1947. England won 65-43 that day. The English side that day was: Jack Parker (c) - 9+4 Norman Parker - 13 Bill Kitchen - 16+1 Tommy Price - 7+1 Alec Statham - 16 Ron Clarke - 7 The reserves were Malcolm Craven and L. Wotton who did not ride. The Aussie's were: Lionel Van Praag (c) - 3 Bill Longley - 6 Vic Duggan - 16 Frank Dolan - 3+1 Ron Johnson - 5+1 Max Grosskreutz - 10 The reserves were Aub Lawson and Ray Duggan (younger brother of Vic) who also didn't ride."
"I have every sympathy for Tai getting a nomination be it for say an MBE or being a top three finisher in the BBC's Sports Review of the Year. As far as the latter is concerned the BBC nominated a ten strong shortlist which was only released on the night which clearly was set up to avoid the sort of mass voting that has been seen over the years, In many ways this is a fair way to do it but of course speedway continues to be ignored by most of the media. With low crowds, guest riders and the ridiculous double up and down facility is it surprising? The sport needs an organisational shake up and some sort of medium term plan. Sadly easier said that done."
Tracy Holmes looks at the third and final test at Boston.
Our final update of the year, so time to give thanks to everyone who has contributed or assisted with the site in 2018. Apologies to anyone inadvertently overlooked.
Ivor Craine -
Paul Davey -
Mark Dell -
John Fray -
Steve Haire -
Bill Hamilton -
Jim Henry -
Colin Hodgson -
John Hyam -
James Jessop -
Sandor Kovacs -
Keith Lawson -
Charles McKay -
Martin Nation -
David Pickles -
Robert Rogers -
Harry Susemihl -
Stuart Towner -
Very special thanks to Tracy Holmes who contributes more words to this website than anyone else, we'd be lost without his regular supply of articles.
It would be great to see even more names on this list in 2019. Please remember that we're always delighted to publish any speedway related articles or pictures, don't hesitate to get in touch if you've got something to share with speedway fans worldwide.
"I dunno, I guess I am a bit old fashioned in a way because I also prefer the old way where while the title was likely to be fought out by only a few. There could at least be a surprise winner on the night like a Jerzy Szczakiel, Egon Muller or even a Gary Havelock. And if you go back even further there were other surprise winners including the likes of Australia's Jack Young who won the 1951 World Final while still a Division 2 rider (though as we know, unlike the 3 mentioned, Young would win again in 1952 and spent the rest of the 50s riding in just about every World Final. He wasn't just a one hit wonder and is still revered to this day 31 years after his death as one of the best ever riders). Should they go back to the old format? Maybe, but the SGP is a money spinner and I can't see them turning their back on that."
"Fond memories of Ken at Boulder Oval Speedway in 1962 with a coin insert in left side of handle bar. R.I.P. Ken. "
"Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe I am having scoured as much of the relevant websites as possible. Yet another blank year of honours for speedway riders, Tai in particular. A British 3-time world champion, and no recognition whatsoever. An utter disgrace. When will the speedway world wake up and organise a movement to put pressure on the authorities to rectify it? Probably never, given their previous track record (pardon the pun). When one has to listen to the midnight news that someone in the world of Netball is lauded, then I believe all is lost Speedway is finished."
Tracy Holmes continues his series on this second division test series in the early seventies.
Friends of Speedway took their road show to the Kempton Park Off-road Show on Saturday 1st December. The star of the display was the actual bike that Ivan Mauger won the 1972 World Championship on plus the major awards that he won during that year.
Other machines there were a Norton rotary engine speedway bike (the only known one in the world), three JAPs, one in a Staride frame and two in Rotrax frames. Along with various race jackets from different years and picture displays.
"As an 8yr old at the time, I remember the second test in this series at Rayleigh, featuring then Rockets Allen Emmett, Trevor Barnwell, Brian Foote and Bob Young, plus ex-Rocket Graeme Smith. Jack Millen was also in the Australasia team - he was the most feared visitor there !! "
"Racing solos at Ruapuna in the 1980s to early 1990s was a lot of young very good riders like Craig Monk and Mark Thorpe, Mike Hollow and there was also grasstrack and longtrack happing in the south island with Kim Mauger and Mike Hollow and Warren Madden and all these guys have gone now but not forgotten."
"Disenfranchised fan here again. John Fray's article is re-iterating what the seasoned speedway fans have been saying all along, the promoters ignore the paying public desires, they only have their own interest at heart. They are going with the old saying "If it ain't broke don't fix it" unfortunately, they can't see it's broke.
Over the years we have seen vast numbers of tracks closing culminating with no tracks near London and few tracks accessible by public transport and also the lack of top class riders competing in the British League. Even going back to the 70's & 80's when British Speedway was attracting good crowds I doubt if there were that many riders that were professional motorcyclists.
Today, perhaps speedway needs to be treated as an amateur sport, the promoters do.
I will finishing up by repeating something I point out, 'Sport is about competition', speedway is about penalising teams that are good. For us olden's, we only have nostalgia."
Tracy Holmes kicks off a new series, covering the 1972 test series between the English and Australasian stars of the second division.
Mike McKnight has sent us this picture of Jimmy Gooch from 1949, just before he left the army to start his speedway career. He'd be happy to pass it on to any of Jimmy's family who may like to have it.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to part sponsor the British Youth Speedway Championship) are pleased to announce the 71st edition of their magazine the Voice which is packed full of interest and enjoyment. This issue is a huge 24 pages, which will keep your interest for hours!
In this issue Charles Mckay investigates the reasons behind meetings being postponed or abandoned. Roy Delaney's tribute to Ronnie Moore. John Hyam on speedway riders turning to midget cars. More tales of a wandering nomad from Jeffrey C. Jameson. More on the Swindon development - good or bad news? The Editor reports on the 13th California Reunion. Sue Towner is on her Soapbox praising our Tai on another World Championship. Slider says, 'What Crisis?' on the state of domestic speedway. Bibliophiles Corner reviews the Barry Thomas book ThommoHawk. Followed by much more reading.
Available from Friends of Speedway; 117 Church Lane, Chessington, Surrey KT9 2DP. Please send your cheque for £12 made out to the above for four issues of the Voice to Stu Towner at the above address or ring 0208-397 6599 for more information.
"I don't know why the BSPA don't try to buy the stadium. It had two enclosed grandstands, a bar on the 4th bend, a gym underneath the main stand and a reasonable size car park with a fair amount of street parking and as a frequent visitor over the years I found it always produced good racing. I'm sure as long as it was run as a community asset the council would give their backing and it could be developed into a successful business.
I met Dag Lovaas at the Hackney Reunion at Paradise Wildlife Park where the Speedway Museum. In 1977 when White City won the league Dag was signed to them but they finished up using rider replacement for the whole season (think Wolverhampton had done it previously with Jon Erskine), I jokingly asked him if he got a winners medal, he didn't.
So daft decisions happened even back then and if memory serves me right White City had finished their season early and Wimbledon wanted to sign Trevor Geer and Paul Gachet. They weren't allowed to but it goes to show what they tried to get away with. Lets hope someone can get Oxford up and running and there's enough riders to go around. "
"I had the privilege to watch George Newton ride during his career with Wathamstow Wolves in 1950. After set backs in their opening few matches in April, George was signed to fill part of the huge gap to replace Dick Geary, Dick Shepherd and Bill Osborne when they were dropped. He had been with Fleetwood I believe previously.
He made his debut away at Cradley on the Saturday night and in his first race beat local hero Alan Hunt for the first time that year on his home track. His machine reared at the starting gate on his next start and he took no further part in the meeting.
I read the report later in a long defunct speedway mag called Broadsider. He made his home debut at Walthamstow the following Monday and before the match proper he delighted the crowd, many younger members like me who probably had never seen a leg-trailer before - with a couple of demo solo laps at something like full speed! I had only seen three speedway matches before. if it wasn't for George I wouldn't have stayed on to see many more.
The tracks were now all red shale surface, replacing the pre-war cinders. Races had become really rather a procession after the opening lap. George partnered Wolves skipper Jim Boyd and scored two wins, a second place and a third - not bad for his first race at Walthamstow. His riding was spectacular, courageous bordering on the dare devil."
"As a Londoner at one time there were so many tracks to visit. Alas not even Rye House or Lakeside are now operating. (Hopefully RH will revive with a more realistic management). It was a great opportunity to see riders like the late great Ronnie Moore. Memories flood back thinking of the period.
My personal favourite was George Newton; past his best by then through serious ill health but for excitement unequalled in my experience. A leg-trailer, of course, along with Oliver Hart and some others I can't recall. (Incidentally am I imagining things or is leg-trailing making a come back?).
Orthadox riders that come to mind are Jack Parker (and his match race pension), Vic Duggan the King of Harringay, ruthless Tommy Price who would make Nicki Pedersen look like an angel. Bill Kitchen the ultimate team man, the immaculate Jack Young, Bruce Abernethy with his scary face mask, spectacular Alan Hunt.
It would be interesting to add to the list but the brain isn't what it used to be. Any suggestions please?"
"I agree Dave. Shivers are still there. I am not an expert on engine positions but lay-downs were tried years ago and did not catch on. I am not sure why they are now universal. As for attracting the younger generation, the track I attend most is awash with family groups in the stands from babes-in-arms to teenagers. Some of the children have their own trundle bikes and whizz around the place with considerable skill. In addition there are young riders on 50cc (I think) machines practising after the meetings as well as slightly older lads (and one lass) on bigger bikes. So maybe where I go is exceptional but I hope it isn't. "
"I was there that night. Never could understand why the track staff did not water the track before the fans did. You could not see the riders such was the amount of dust. As for Peter Collins as a winner, don't think so, Ole Olsen was too good for everyone."
"Thanks for the NSS images. What a great race track this has become. Delivers excellent racing week in week out. Go there once and you cant help but be impressed. The BSPA and Speedway GB really should do more to promote this fantastic facility and race track. If Carlsberg did Speedway they'd be at the NSS."
"I'm sad to report that my great friend Dave Slater passed away recently at the age of 88, Dave was a rider for Rye house speedway team in the 50s, he rode bikes up until his 80+ years and was an active member of the AJSMOC, he built some excellent single engine bikes in the flat tracker style, at the age of 76 he bought a new Harley Davidson sportser which he liked but always prefered his Matchless single, it was fitting that two of the specials he built out of auto jumble parts were ridden to the service on the day of his funeral. R.I.P Dave we miss you lots!"
Tracy Holmes looks back at the clashes between Peter Collins and Ole Olsen during the 1975 season.
Thirteenth California-in-England Reunion.
Friends of Speedway are pleased to announce the date of the above reunion to be held on Sunday 14th October 2018 from 11am to 4pm at the Country Park, Nine Mile Ride, Finchampstead, Wokingham, Berks, RG40 4HT, where the speedway took place.
There is an hourly bus service, number 3B from either Reading or Bracknell Rail Stations and stops at the entrance to the park.
All are welcome to attend and bring any memorabilia that you may have or of interest to others.
Details from Stu Towner on 020 8397 6599 or 07860 135939 or email@example.com
A message from John Hyam [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
"I would appreciate information on Gil Goldfinch's cousin John, who was a photographer and in the mid-1950s in my brief spell working at 'Speedway Star' co-operated with me on various photographic feature. I especially remember working with him when we did 'Rider At Home' features - among those featured were Ron How, Graham Warren and dear old Phil Bishop."
"Was very interested to see the article on speedway. My grandparents, parents and my brother and I were keen supporters of Raleigh up to 1953 when we all immigrated to NZ.
My dad became friends with a lot of the riders as they used to come into the Eastern Cafe (on Eastern Avenue in Romford) which my grandmother owned. We became good friends with Les McGillivray and his family, and after the speedway used to go to his mum's house (Mr and Mrs Mac) . Lovely people.
When Les had a bad accident my grandmother paid for a new bike for him.
I can still remember running from the gates on a Saturday night to claim a seat in the front row. On our birthdays us kids got a ride around the track on our favourite riders bike. Great memories. Maurice Dunn and Julie Benson the New Zealanders visited us when we went to NZ. I think on one occasion Jack Unstead came to visit us as well. Maury Dunn was killed in an accident in a power boat not far from where we lived.
My dad used to go to a lot of the meetings with Les in different areas of England. We travelled to Swindon, west Ham, New Cross, Birmingham, Wembley, St Austell, Long Eaton, Wolverhampton, Hackney, Harringay, and a few more. I have all the badges from those clubs.
Would look forward to hearing from anyone who also was a speedway fan in those days. They were marvellous memories of my childhood. "
"Public Interest. Most of the minority spectator sports have something in common which generates public interest. Nearly all of them involve sports in which anyone can (or can imagine) themselves participating. Speedway does not lend itself to this advantage. Gone are the days when there was a cycle speedway track on every street corner. Is this a possible factor which contributes to our woes? Be glad to hear your views."
"Wow this is amazing and means so much, thank you everyone for sharing, I should have some photos coming soon which I will be able to share. Sue, you wouldn't believe it, nearly 20 years had gone by and ironically I have just got back in contact with Edwards son, Uncle Richie (Andrew), and have provided him the link to this page, in hope of rekindling past history. Thank you again. I still have not had the time to create a website and upload all the wonderful material people have sent to me, but when I do, I will be sure to let you all know. "
"Handicapping. We already have handicapping when under penalty. More often than not the handicapped rider starts at the back and stays there. What pleasure we are expected to get from heat leaders theoretically passing inexperienced reserves baffles me. The result would be the same anyway in this theoretical system. Agreed some races are processional but many are not. Track preparation and design providing more than one racing line would be great help. "
"Very interesting article, and one of the few with a new angle, and backed up by data and not just opinion ("Bring it back to Wembley" etc.). This discussion may well go on for a long time. For example, of all the qualifiers that went towards getting to a World Final, how many of these were exciting, how many of the races really counted etc. I'm sure that TV money has something to do with having a GP series as well. Amongst the major motor sports, Speedway was unusual in that it kept the one-off World Championship for a very long time, so perhaps it was just time to fall in line with the rest of the world. Actually regardless of the standings, i.e. the winner is known before the last GP, I think all of them are eagerly anticipated."
"Great fun mate. This is for those who say ... If Dave Jessup had won his four remaining heats after his ef in 1978, I would say he should have won the Gold Medal. But he did not, beaten by Gordon Kennett in round 5. Then he lost the Bronze Medal run-off. That, for me says his first round ef did not cost him the World Title. And Chorzow was not Jerzy Szczakiel's home track. Cheers !"
"Great article re Arena first match. I was at the meeting as Clerk of the Course. Had that position for 4 seasons then took over the announcing from Dave Lanning and was announcer for 25 years having to give up due to failing eyesight. I miss speedway, it has been part of my life since I was 5 years old. I was asked to go to the final meeting and I closed the meeting and the life of speedway there. My voice was the last heard and I was honoured to be asked to do that - sad as it is."
"Great articles, love speedway, used to watch Arena Essex. We want a speedway team near or in London, the capital city and it has no speedway. Watching the Polish and Swedish speedway, it makes you salivate for a London team, would be nice if we could have speedway at the London stadium or Spurs new ground, instead of that American football, but money talks..."
"Thanks Steve, for voicing your discontent so eloquently, I am sure your comments reflect the thoughts and opinion of the silent majority. I was an avid fan until 1973 when I moved to Canada. Now my speedway fix is restricted to "youtube" and an occasional trip to Cosa Mesa when visiting my daughter in LA. It sounds like the British promoters could learn a lot about putting on a fast paced and entertaining show from the Oxleys."
Thanks to Harry Susemihl for pictures of this brand new track in Hungary.
Can you help Luke Eaton? [ email@example.com ]
"I'm searching for information about my grandfather who rode speedway in the 1930's, his name was Maurice John Murdoch, pictured here on his machine. He was from the Taree area and rode along with Van Pragg and Jack Pattman, any information would be appreciated."
"Press coverage is key. So many minority sports get full page reports in the dailies. A swimmer, for example, gets a medal and is given the treatment. Nothing wrong with that but we have World Championship success and hardly a murmur. I wonder if it is because of popular particpation.
In the days just after the war speedway crowds were comparable with all but the major football clubs, but where I lived there was a cycle speedway track on many plots of waste ground where anyone could have a go. There was popular participation. Not possible these days of course but it is a major change in how the sport is brought into the public awareness.
As for handicaps, I am not a fan. I don't see how contrived 'racing' would have any credibility. There have been many example of handicaps when a rider is required to start off 15 yards. Even when the penalised rider is a heat leader he just ends up at the back more often than not.
There is also this obsession that the powers that be have about close scoring matches. There are many examples of one sided scores where the actual individual races have been excellent. And anyway whoever complains when your team gets a 5-1. Theoretically 75-15 could be an very exciting meeting. There is only one other sport where it is considered proper not to win by as much as possible. What next? Shall we give every team that plays Manchester City a two goal start?
Unfortunately there are problems with our sport. It certainly needs someone at the top to see beyond thier own self interest and 'take one for the team'."
David Pickles advocates the appointment of an independent thinker at the top of the sport.
The 70th issue of The Voice magazine is now availalble from Friends of Speedway. It includes an obituary for Jim Gregory along with articles on charity, Ron Johnson, Vic Collins and other topics. Available from Friends of Speedway; 117 Church Lane, Chessington, Surrey KT9 2DP. Send a cheque for £12 made out to the above for four issues of the Voice to Stu Towner at the above address or ring 0208-397 6599 for more information.
"I found Ken's article interesting and I agree that speedway needs to market itself a bit better. I'm not sure if newspaper advertising is the answer, especially in the sports pages. It needs to seek potential supporters who are not into other forms of sport.
Maybe BSPA needs to consider a UK wide campaign promoting the exiting elements, its family / supporter friendliness, rider approachability. Speedway needs to get a good and informative "roadshow" to take round town centres in areas within reasonable travelling distances of speedway stadia.
Maybe it needs to get a skilled wordsmith to write up articles to send out free of charge to a whole range of family orientated publications extoling the virtues of speedway. (eg Womens's magazines, kids comics, company inhouse magazines, biker magazines.) with a spin tailored to the publication.
What about a central BSPA agency pulling together a weekly / monthly DVD with the best races of the period and giving these free of charge to local TV stations / network stations (obviously this needs to encourage folks to watch the regular events shown by BT and not cut across it).
What about handing out fliers which require contact details (email addresses etc) which, if handed in at the turnstile at any track after payment of admission, is entered into a raffle for (say) admission cost cash prizes to be handed out by the meeting presenter after (say) the penultimate heat. I'm sure speedway fans can come up with other ideas to promote the sport and it might be interesting what these ideas are!! "
"What Speedway needs is from somone outside the sport to take a good look at it, grab it by the scruff of the neck and say 'This is what needs to be done'. The basic product has always been good, the sport just needs kicking up the backside. "
"As the author of the Neil Street book I invite constructive input. Jock states there are mistakes. I contacted many people for input and the names are all listed. Invitations were sent to everyone I knew. The book was approved by Phil Crump and has been read by Bob Street and many close friends. If there are mistakes that detract from the spirit of the contents these can be noted in an Eratum in all future copies until such time there is a reprint.There was a deadline and there were several people that came back after the deadline. If I am provided with a list I will ensure they are noted. Neil had so many friends there will be different points of view, but overall I thought we gave Neil to credit he was due."
Mark Dell pays tribute to Kelvin Mullarkey, the legendary Rye House Rocket who passed away recently.
"He was a character, a great competitor, a fantastic captain for the Rockets and at times a controversial opponent."
Many congratulations to Speedway Plus contributor Peter Colvin for his starring role on the BBC's Eggheads programme this week. Peter single-handedly defeated the quiz experts in the final showdown, winning the £7,000 prize pot for him and his fellow Glasgow Tigers fans. Even better news is that the team have generously gifted £2,000 of their winnings to the Speedway Riders Benevolent Fund. Well done to all involved.
"Firstly can I say how pleased I am that we have a book on my good friend Bill's life. There are however several "howlers" I've spotted already & that's just in the previews! It's a pity that Carole, Graham, Andy or Bills brother Bob did not read the copy prior to it's publication. So please don't take it as fact because that what it says it in the book!"
"I was in Sydney when I heard the news that Mal Carmichael had died. I met him in Townsville when he was doing the speedway circuit with Peter Bradshaw. I was only 17. We had a relationship and I followed him to Melbourne. I was smitten, oh the memories. Still think of him after all this time. RIP Mal."
"Difficult early years, then they changed the track and widened the corners. Great racing with George Hunter, Neill Collins, Davey Trownson and visitors like Bruce Cribb. Wonderful to remember Carlo Biagi's testimonial with the Collins bros and Tony Briggs. Not quite Old Meadowbank but near it! "
"I am amazed at the lack of foresight by speedway administrators that has allowed the sport to decline to the stage where it has no public appeal particularly to the younger generation who are so critical to speedway, as we know it, long term survival.
To be at the stage where we cant get a few hundred extra to keep Rye House going where as the sport used to fill Wembley is unbelievable, Most races are processional with no passing or change of position and you can write the result in your program before the start of the race or at the latest after the first corner. Consequently there is no spectacle or excitement compared to the days of the upright engines when bikes were harder to ride and we had contrasting foot forward and leg trailing styles.
To survive spectacle, uncertainty and excitement must be re introduced into the sport and there is only one way to do this handicap racing.
Having spoken briefly to Keith Chapman at a Polish GP event a couple of years ago it is obvious that for some unknown reason the sports administration are totally opposed to handicap style racing and content to let a great sport continue to slide into history without making the radical changes necessary to save it. "
Milton Keynes rider James Jessop share his thoughts on the past, present and future.
A request from Jim Henry [ Jamesjhenry@yahoo.co.uk ]:
"Has anyone the early edition of Speedway News which, if my memory serves me correctly, carried a photo of one of the UK royal princes. Was it the future King George VI then known as Prince Bertie? King Alphonso of Spain was reputedly a fan of the pioneer racesrs. By the way the only enobled dirt track rider was Lord Craigton! As Jack Nixon-Browne he had promoted and raced at Carntyne, Glasgow in 1928. He later became a Tory MP and continued in politics in the Lords."
"This idea has some merit. It would most certainly make the crowd feel involved but could also turn the meeting into a sort of Pantomime with the heroes and villains paraded in front of everyone. Would it also be fair for the top points scorer to find all of a sudden their hard nights work is rewarded with the worst gate? Also you could guarantee which ever country is staging the meeting the odds would be stacked for their riders should they make the semis/finals. Great thinking outside the box though Tracy, keep it up. "
"It seems I'm always replying to Dave Pickles observations. I think the reason is we're of the same sort of age and have always been passionate about speedway. I was going to Rye on Wednesday to see Belle Vue but decided against it. I don't think the fixed race night is the reason for the decline in spectators. A fixed Wednesday race night should have freed up more foreign riders but then they allowed Swindon to be exempt and also limited teams to one 8 point rider.
You have no continuality, having to wait 3 weeks for another home meeting then not knowing how many of your or the opponents team are available. This is the reason people are not going. I've got used to not going speedway and the reasons I didn't bother that Wednesday are the track produces poor racing, and Rye were missing 2 riders who's doubling down Championship teams had priority over their services.
Saturday nights I spend down the pub with my mates reminiscing about the good old days of speedway, not about looking forward to the next meeting. Like most sports you'll always have your diehards who'll go week in week out no matter what but unfortunately in speedway they're not being replaced by new supporters.
British speedway needs to realise sport is about competition where the strongest not only survive but prosper. On a ironic note I hear there's talk about a new northern track opening at the same time there's talk of Buxton closing through lack of riders. Perhaps trebling or quadrupling up or mechanics and promoters races to make up the teams. Perhaps even betting, and although betting on the final score might be illegal you could bet on the number of guests your team will have.
Lastly RIP Kelvin Mullarkey, unfortunately characters like him political correctness doesn't allow, with perhaps Nicki Pedersen being the exception. Perhaps that's what's missing, characters. "
"Hello from California, I'm former 2nd Divsion speedway rider, I competed here in southern and central California in the late 70's to the mid eighties and speedway here in California is in pretty dismal shape compared to its heyday back when I was riding and we were sending our best to compete in the British league we still had lots of riders here putting on a pretty good show. I sure hope you all over there in Britain can overcome your issues and bring speedway back to its former glory that the British League has always been in my eyes the epicenter of speedway. The tape rule here in California has been you are excluded if you break the tapes. "
"Hi Terena. Joe Screen was number 17 and Roman Matousek 18. So in the event of a reprieve on the day, Screen was next in line. Per Jonsson had qualified for the meeting but his career had come to an end by injury. From the Nordic Final, Claus Jacobsen had qualified for the Prague Semi as reserve. But he got to take Jonsson's place at Bradford. So had Nagy pulled out a week before, maybe Matousek would indeed have been his replacement. But on the day, Screen at 17 would have lined up. "
"Robert Nagy qualified for the 1994 Inter Continental Final via a different round to the Overseas Final which Joe Screen failed to progress from. So surely had Nagy dropped out before the meeting started, should it not have been the reserve from Nagy's meeting taking his place?"
"Re: Handicapping.. Being a similar age to Dave Pickles we've probably both 'read the book, worn the t-shirt and seen the film' as the saying goes. Handicapping would be a backward step as is with the reverting to the old tactical substitute rule of replacing a rider off form with a better rider.
Every year they muck around with the rules to try and make all teams equal in stregnth in the belief closer matches are going to get these mythical non speedway supporters to start following speedway. Sport is about competition to see whose the best, not to penalise good teams to give everybody an equal chance of winning (Speedway Nations a good example, Poland usually winning the World Cup so lets reduce it to two man teams, thus giving other nations a better chance of winning).
If speedway needs to take a backward step, then go back to 1968, have two leagues, no track sharing, no doubling up, no maximum team averages, riders on contract and loaned out if surplus. That way you could have a workable promotion and relegation where teams are formed on what the promotions can afford."
"Missed the really good Leicester teams but what a great racing tack - really difficult to emulate. Spent a season watching a late Arriving Johnny Boulger, Gary Middleton and the fantastic Ila Teromma (unbelievable at the Riders Championnship at Belle Vue) try to cope with top flight opposition. Fantastic track!,,,"
"Just been in touch with Nathan Murray who was selected to ride and appears in the programme at number 6. Sadly, he was unable to travel due to a lack of funds. So adding to the scorechart; NATHAN MURRAY Q ns."
"John Boyd summed up lack of media attention to British speedway perfectly, it's run by amateurs. Too many leagues with not enough riders, track sharing, doubling up, team averages restricting team strengths. Sport is about competition, speedway is the only team sport that penalises teams that are successful, no wonder media doesn't take notice. The latest is the revamped World Cup, two riders per team, the minimum number of people you can call a team. A great sport being run down by the people that run it. "
"Absolutely right, why did the BBC not comment on the passing of a Motorsport legend? It's shameful of the media to not cover it, just another indication of how speedway is on the media list. If a back room sport like darts can make headlines and attract massive coverage then we need to speak to the people behind the rise in public interest in darts and talk to them about changing speedway's fortunes."
"Perhaps the (two?) exceptions that prove the prevailing rule, actually, Ivan's passing was marked by a full-page obituary in The Guardian, Thursday 19th April, and is available to view on the newspaper's website. The Telegraph also published an obituary which is available online too, though access is subject to a pay-wall."
"David I think you expect to much. Speedway fans which I class my self as, know how good Ivan was. To the press etc he was just a rider. You are right about Lewis Hamilton. But there again Formula 1 get millions of viewers. That is all the TV and media want. Wouldn't it be great to get the results on the news, we need more publicity to push our sport forward.Good for you on getting on t o BBC and ITV."
"Although it's been many years since I have regularly read a daily paper, I believe from posts on Facebook, that at least one of the broadsheets (I believe it was the Daily Telegraph, no less) featured a fairly extensive article as an obituary to Ivan, as well as some of the so-called the red-tops.It's just that they took a while to appear in print after the sad day of his passing....."
"Yes I remember Charlie Monk being almost unbeatable at White City apart from Silver Sash races. I also remember Bengt Jansson going over the 'hump' on the first bend and breaking his leg in 66? And Jim Airey? Takes me back- good times growing up and travelling on the underground from Hillend! "