"This statement from Tracy really sums it up: "This event would be homed at Belle Vue and would join The Internationale as THE biggest meetings a rider could win in the UK apart from The World Final." I went with my dad to many BLRC's in the '70's and Tracy is spot on in saying that this was a BIG night. But I'd never really thought of it in comparison terms with other meetings, and I can see that, certainly from the inception of the British Leage in '65, the BLRC stood as a 'big 'un' for many years. Under the lights at Hyde Road, end-of-season, packed crowd, best riders in the world bar the odd one or two - fantastic stuff."
"I went to Somerton Park in 1969 for the first in our championship season. Gordon Guasco scored a 12 point max in a 49-29 win then whenTim Stone opened up Hayley Park we went to watch young Martin Willis ride there on several occasions. The sixties and seventies were the halcyon days of speedway in my opinion watching Eric Broadbelt scraping the boards at Poole and winning, top nights."
"Just like to say enjoyed the Bill Andrew article. Remembered him well at Poole giving 100% all the time. In 1968 he held the Pirates together when Gote Nordin went back to Sweden after one meeting, still we found Odd Fossengen that year with his battered old pickup truck and red tank speedway bike. Anybody remember him riding over 2 laps and finishing second with only half of his handlebars, legend! Good times."
"A great article from Alan Pennington. Like him, I wonder now whether I'm going through the motions by watching live speedway. Sadly, the total destruction of Plough Lane, Wimbledon, is now complete and there isn't a track in London or within 50 miles now. This year thanks to the virus we haven't been able to showcase the sport on TV, and quite frankly the Polish stuff without a crowd has been lamentable. I grieve for the sport I love, having spent many happy Tuesday's at West Ham and Friday's at Hackney in the 60's and 70's.
Like Alan, I note the lack of the younger generation at the few meetings I do attend now. Maybe a return to the "old" rules (especially the nonsense at the start - What would Tony Lomas have made of those first out of the gate now?), and the freedom to choose handlebars (remember the wide sweeping cow horns that some used?) would give the sport some of its spectacle back. But, I won't hold my breath.
A once proud and magnificent sport now seems to be slowly dying on the back of political correctness (you aren't excluded now but disqualified), and ridiculous rules courtesy of the BSPA and the FIM which have slowly throttled the life out of it. I shall continue to attend meetings when and where I can, but each year they seem to get less and less important. Nobody though can take away the memories. Thank you speedway for everything."
"Thanks for this brilliant piece which answered many questions for me. I was a 15 yr old Wolves follower at the time and had been to my first meeting at Monmore a few weeks earlier but was not at the meeting where Gary died. I found out the following day seeing it in the Express & Star headline when shopping i n town next day.
It was such a numbing shock I never read the account of the accident.
I became a regular from 1978 with some friends and in one meeting some time after this we were cheering Alan Grahame who was guesting for Wolves that night when one of the older fans stood behind us on the home straight chimed in: "What do you mean 'come on Alan!'? That man killed Gary Peterson!" A woman in their group was visibly distressed and they did not elaborate on how Alan was supposed to have done this. Seeing this piece and attached comments removes the asterisk from Alan Grahame's name for me. Maybe some fans were still traumatised and naturally blamed the survivor in order to cope.
Right up until Wolves were "relegated" to the National League we always seemed one rider short of having a competitive side. I often wondered especially if 1978 would've been quite as disastrous with Gary Peterson alongside Hans Nielsen, Dave Morton and Jimmy Mac and whether he could have emulated his friend Ole Olsen and become Wolves's second World Champion. Or would he have followed Ole to Coventry instead? Alas we shall never know."
"Enjoyed your reminiscences Alan - just one thing Ray Harris -also one of my favourites did ride after Stoke closed, for Newport in 1964 and 1965. In fact Ray scored 7 points at Long Eaton for a Newport away win in 1965 I recall an older speedway fan at that meeting seeing a hectic race with Ray Harris against Ken Adams and saying how great it was to see two old timers giving it their all. I recall that particular race (hitch-hiked up to Long Eaton) - great days and great riders!!"
"Alan's is another sad story of a supporter lost to the sport. Like myself he tells a similar story, a relative or friend persuades you to go speedway and you become hooked. Living in London, Stoke was a track I enjoyed going to, paying many a visit, a couple of times stopping off at Alton Towers with Loomer Road rounding off a wonderful day.
His thoughts on why British Speedway has declined is shared by most of us but I think other factors have contributed, we are told there's not enough riders yet you have track sharing, air fences have reduced the widths of tracks thus reducing racing lines, an example Rye House the last track I was able to get to became poor racing once an air fence was introduced especially when they went Premiership, out to the fence and stay there, no passing unless mistakes were made, ironically Rye had a safer (collapsible) fence than the air fence.
Even if you watched Swedish Speedway on Freeview and Polish on You-tube you were watching the same riders in each league. Fortunately we have the internet with websites such as this where we can share our speedway memories of a time when it was enjoyable, great in these times of coronavirus with self isolating and thank goodness for Zoom and Facebook Messenger. "
Alan has been a fan since the fifties, but fears he has seen has last live meeting now that Stoke Potters are no more. Having seen racing at 74 UK tracks, he's well placed to offer some opinion on the sport.
"Saw a couple of meetings at the Hayley stadium, one against Birmingham the other was the New Year Classic. The Brum meeting had some great racing made even better by the fact that Brum came out on top - this was ridden on a beautiful summers day.
The visit for the New Year Classic was a little different. There had been a lot of rain but the meeting went on even though the track was like a pudding bowl. Racing was very difficult due to the conditions and I had noticed that anyone standing near to the bend three fence got filled in with splattering shale as the riders entered the bend. There were five of us and we wondered around the track watching the racing from different vantage points. I stopped the group at bend three as we chatted. As the riders came round four of us crouched using my brother-in-law as a shield and true to form he got covered from head to toe...as you can imagine we were all very sympathetic.....happy days!"
"Re: "suitable for crimewatch" - Ukrainian Igor Marko who died after a mugging/street robbery in Rivne in 2006. Although over 40 he was still active in the Ukraine. Career highlight was the 1986 European Junior Championship (now called World under 21) which he won from Tony Olsson and Brian Karger. He appeared in Britain in 1990 as part of a USSR touring team."
"Just came across this article. Me and my mate hitch-hiked to Skeggy for a few days back in the 70's. On the Sunday Boston were at home to my beloved Brummies in the second leg of a cup match. We hitched back to New Hammond Beck Road and pitched our tent on an embankment outside the stadium which I think overlooked bends 1 and 2. Our intention was to go into the stadium but we had such a good view we watched from the embankment. We witnessed a great meeting as Boston stormed into a 14 point lead only for Brum to fight back and earn a draw and won the tie on aggregate."
"I remember this meeting has if it was yesterday (not 46 years ago). This was the first time a bunch of us lads (Long Eaton Archers Supporters) had taken our wives/girlfriends to an big individual meeting. We arrived early and went to watch the South London Rangers Cycle Speedway team against a Select Side. An entertaining match, which the Rangers won. I have the program somewhere.
Any way, off to the meeting. My mate Paul's GF (later wife) was a massive John Boulger fan, who fell in his first ride and was unable to continue due to a shoulder injury. It was a great meeting for another Friend (Big Rog) wife, because Peter Collins won it, and she was from Manchester and an Aces Fan.
The fates hadn't finished with us yet. On the way home, the Mini bus broke down. Gary and Tony who drove the bus had to trudge over a mile to the nearest breakdown phone box. After dropping everybody off safely I finally crawled into bed around 5 the following morning. Later I rang my the girlfriend (at the time) Loran up to see how she was, and had to explain to her irate Dad, what had happened to the bus. Any way thanks for reading the story and the memories of an Old Man."
"So sad to read Garry died at such a young age. My sister and I met Garry and his wife Ann at Belle Vue when we was on a coach trip with the Hackney supporters. They ended up driving us home. Such a lovely couple. "
"Just to let you know I was at the Golden Helmet race, same night as Kings of Oxford Trophy. 14th August 1958, Peter Craven beat Ron How 2-0. The first broke the track record by 2 seconds and Ron How beat the old record time as well. (possibly only time ever that two people in the same race both broke the existing record).
Peter autographed my programme in pencil, I still have it.
My father was a St.John's Ambulance man so I had access to the pits. I asked Peter did he have his lucky pyjamas on? I realise now that Ove Fundin, talking to him, was wetting himself laughing.....he told me not to-night!"
"Only just caught up with this fascinating piece - a mere 16 years after it was published. Better late than never! Congratulations to Terry Cheney and his army of dedicated helpers for keeping the speedway flag flying in Milton Keynes amid such difficult circumstances.
I visited Elfield Park twice, for a match with Glasgow Tigers in July 1990 (a fabulously sunny summer evening, I remember) and another against Middlesbrough Bears in May 1992. For the Glasgow meeting, I walked to and from Elfield Park from the YHA hostel at Bradwell, where I was staying overnight.
Interesting to note Terry state Daz Sumner went well at Elfield Park. In the Middlesbrough match I watched, Daz (aka 'The Electric Hare') scored only 6+1. Three Aussies - Steve Regeling (11+2), Dave Cheshire (9) and Mark Lemon (8) - were Bears' best. Dane Peter Glanz posted a six-ride maximum, and the evergreen Rickard Hellsen 13, as Knights won 48-42. Milton Keynes lost 40-56 to Glasgow.
My records show Kevin Jolly, with 16, top-scored for Knights. Glanz, a Knights stalwart, contributed nine. Top Tigers were Steve Lawson (13) and Shane Bowes (11). I recall being thankful I'd taken trousers to change into once the sun went down. It was so warm, I'd set out in shorts from the youth hostel. Boy, was it chilly when darkness descended!
As Terry suggests, the spectator viewing at Elfield Park, particularly from the flat area high above the third and fourth bends, was excellent. Had I been a local, it's a track I would have enjoyed attending regularly. I look forward, one day, to speedway returning to Milton Keynes. Here's hoping!"
Tracy Holmes on the 1976 Internationale, staged just days after the tragic death of Tommy Jansson.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to part sponsor the British Youth Speedway Championship) are pleased to announce the 77th 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 there is Charles Mckay who looks at the Abbey Stadium Speedway after Covid-19. Sue Towner on her Soapbox, with an update on the progress of young Sam Norris. John Hyam on Ron Johnson, Stan Tebby and Jack Winstanley. Roy Delaney looks at Alan Hunt. Slider says, Covid-19 Speedway Nil. Ron Jones looks at Tom Farndon. Spike reports on the Ice speedway or lack of it! Read about the return of women in Japanese Speedway. The Editor reports on the High Beech Reunion. 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 6599/07860 135939 for more information.
"Close to our hearts always indeed. I followed Hackney and West Ham during the late 60s up to 1976 and, latterly, my now local club Newcastle from 1990 to 2003. Of all the riders I've seen Garry is my favourite and I find it sad that he died at such an early age but sadder that he never realised his true potential. I've been lucky to have seen many wor ld champions at club level and for my money Garry could have been a contender. R.I.P. mate."
"Remember this meeting, simply because I went on the Leicester fans coach and when we got there extremely early I decided to leave my friends and tube it over to Wembley to watch Evil Knievel do his "bus jump" and ended up missing 8 heats of speedway! I was 15 at the time."
"Many thanks Arnie for your exhaustive work in producing the 2019 rankings. Reminds me of back in the day when Bryan Seery did the statistics in the Speedway Star. Very useful reading and full of surprises too."
"If anyone has this record would you sell it to me please? It would make my daughter very happy as we played the record a lot when she was a youngster, that's why she says it was part of her childhood memories!"
Arnie Gibbons is making good use of lockdown to pore over the results of over 900 meetings staged last year. He's analysed the results and compiled a world ranking for the 2019 season. We'll bring you under 21 and UK breakdowns in future weeks.
"We lived up the street from Jackie and Sheila in West Preston Vic and my twin brothers would race their mates around the park across from the Biggs house on push bikes. Jackie was full of enthusiasm for them drifting and sliding around. We all fell in love with the sound of his red hot straight out JAPs and with Jackie's help and encouragement built our first mini bike out of an old scooter, some gal water pipe and a Victor mower engine. Top bloke, he inspired and ignited a life long love of motorcycles in us. PS. l am sure he would be happy......just bought a Rocket lll."
"I hope Campbell Duncan will indulge me. Meadowbank Stadium (recently demolished) was never intended to replace Old Meadowbank. It was meant to be the centre piece of the new sports facilities to be the legacy of the 1970 Commonwealth Games.
Meadowbank Stadium was built on the site of what was New Meadowbank which was a cinder running track. The site of Old Meadowbank was covered partly by the Sports Centre and partly by the all weather pitches to the east of Old Meadowbank. Next to Old Meadowbank was a scrap yard. The Commonwealth Games development also took in a public road and the St Margarets Engine Works which backed on the the railway line.
When Meadowbank fell out of favour it could have provided a venue for football, speedway and greyhounds. 50 + years on since we lost Old Meadowbank and it is still touches a raw nerve that the City has never made any attempt to help bring speedway back to the city. Yes Powderhall came 10 years later but it was lost to housing thanks some ill advised forward planning.
Maybe some folks would like to make the City Fathers aware of the need for a speedway track in Edinburgh via the City Plan 2030 by taking part in the consultation. Either see the Monarchs web site or Speedway Star for 17.2.2020 but don't delay as consultation closes very soon. "
"As a Hackney Hawks fan in the late 60s and 70s Garry was my absolute hero. Never a dull moment and a great entertainer. I met him once when I shed a chain on my BSA 250 leaving Waterden Road one Friday and had to leave my bike inside the stadium. When I arrived next morning Garry was there working on his bike for that evening's return leg at Cradley Heath. He tried to find a chain link for me but speedway bike chains are smaller.
We had a chat about that nights meeting and he came across as a decent bloke. I used to make airfix models at the time and I still have a small speedway rider model painted up in Garry's trademark yellow and red leathers complete with Hackney body color and crest. Happy days although I am said to hear of his death."
"I was just thinking that speedway fans stuck indoors due to the current lockdown might wish to make productive use of their spare time. The Speedway Researcher web site is worth a look if you want to relive meetings of the past. The site still has many gaps in its records and it would be fantastic if anyone with a collection of programmes could provide information which will fill the gaps. No offer of help would be turned away. "
"I was at Meadowbank the night Peter had his accident albeit I can't remember it as I was only a toddler. My father Jimmy talked about it a lot and he often became upset recalling the accident. In later years I became a football referee and often referee'd at the stadium that replaced the old Meadowbank. On one wall there was a plaque and a couple of pictures as a tribute to Peter. I took some snaps of them and if I can figure out how to post them on here I will. Unfortunately the stadium has since been demolished, I have no idea where the tribute to Peter is now."
Tracy Holmes takes us into the Supersonic Seventies, with Jimmy Ogisu an interesting addition to the field.
JIm Henry has started to submit some interesting material to the Defunct Speedway website. First up are some scans from The Auto that covers the sport's pioneer days. You can access Jim's page directly here.
"I can confirm that the spat with Mike Gardner happened at Dudley Wood. I was there in August 1969 when Gary knocked Mike off on the first bend of Heat 12. Gary came to a halt on turn 4 where he was confronted by Graham Coombes. Feelings were already running high from a previous incident which had seen Gary excluded. Mike Gardner started to run across the centre green, but stopped and returned to get his helmet. He then made his way over to the melee on Turn 4 and belted Gary on the head with his helmet. Cue uproar. "
"I started watching Speedway in 1965, with my two mates, Roy Jackson, and Keith Barraclough. We followed The Dukes and had a Great Time. We were there for the Big Season in 1966, when they seemed to win everything.
I especially remember Roy and myself were at my house watching England play West Germany, one Saturday in July, we live in Leeds, and the game went to extra time, we only just made it to The Shay to watch the Speedway that evening. Eric Boothroyd, Eric Boocock, and Dave Younghusband were the Top Three riders, but they had a Great Team, and my favourite was Tommy Roper.
Over the next few years we visited quite a few tracks, and it is such a good sport where all the fans will chat and exchange things , badge and programme collectors, very friendly riders who will chat with the fans."
"The first ever World Final I attended was the only one where Bjorn became World Champ -ahead of Plechanov and Fundin (Igor beat Ove in a run off for 2nd for the second year in a row). Bjorn had come close on a couple of occasions prior, sometimes was pre meeting favourite but had a rep for big night nerves letting him down. In 1965 however, he lost his first race to Bengt Jansson and since Igor won his first two races maybe that took the pressure off Bjorn a bit - anyway he won his four other races. Not for a minute did I think that would be his only World Title. Bjorn retired too soon for sure. Great rider."
Tracy Holmes on the 1966 Internationale, which came down to a last heat decider.
The California-in-England reunion will be held on Sunday 20th September this year. Tapes up at 11am, with the final flag at 4pm. Refreshments will be available and there are no issues with disabled access.
"I realise the article is about Bjorn Knutsson but the photograph shows him with Jim Clark - world champion racing driver that year. There is a magnificent Jim Clark Memorial Museum in Duns in the Scottish Borders. I mentioned Jim Clark's role at this event and the staff manning the museum had never heard of it. They have loads of Jim and it might provide an opportunity for a wee bit of a plug for speedway if the Museum did have a copy of tis photo. I had a look at a copy of the World Final programme and there is no mention of who was to present the Trophy."
Tracy Holmes on the 1965 staging of the Internationale, with one of speedway's most enigmatic characters coming out on top.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to part sponsor the British Youth Speedway Championship) are pleased to announce the 76th 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 there is Charles Mckay who looks at 2019 and beyond. Sue Towner on her Soapbox, with an update on the progress of young Sam Norris and her Treasurer's Report. Gerry King with an opinion of lost support. John Hyam on Manuel Trujillo. Roy Delaney's articles on Cesil L. Smith and Wee Georgie Newton. Slider says, To Infirmity and Beyond. A.J. Gooding history submitted by Ron Jones. 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 6599/07860 135939 for more information.
"It's been a few years, but I just came across this article again. Firstly thank you to C Harrison & Rab Drake for their comments. Please feel free to send me a line via FB messenger anytime! Secondly, I've been riding a grasstrack bike here in Australia that was set up for local dirt track events, but my heart isn't into it like speedway. Therefore I have just built up a laydown using an ex Max Fricke chassis and an ex Brady Kurtz Karger GM. My first ride will be next week Feb 9 2020 and it will mark 33 years from my last racing season. Yours in speedway, Tracy Bray"
"One of the most significant contributions of Long Eaton speedway was the winter training school that was held there over at least two winters in the late sixties. Along with Weymouth, this provided much needed practice, experience and tuition in the quiet time of year. About ten to twenty riders would attend of all levels experiences, from raw rookies to riders recovering from serious injury, under the eye of Ron Wilson and other family members. My father and I volunteered there, covering the dog track, selling fuel out of a large tank and flagging down in the event of regular falls. Don't think that would happen today! We even took the injured Pete Reading to Nottingham General with a broken collarbone. An amazing time!"
"I do wonder about the Luftwaffe pilot who rode at Wimbledon. Seen a few times the name Alfred Rumrich mentioned as a Luftwaffe pilot, but I am sceptical.
I have Rumrich's war time record from the official military records in Berlin and he spent the whole of the war as a .......lorry driver !!! Until he ended up as a PoW in France. Now it seems to me to be very strange that a trained pilot would end up being a lorry driver when the Nazis were in desperate need of pilots.
He was released from his enternment on 06.07.1945, and according to his Daughter-in-Law, who I spoke to some years ago sadly lost all his personal career clippings etc he had with him during that time."
A new series from Tracy Holmes, looking back on the Internationale, second only to the World Final in importance for many years. The first staging was in 1961 with Moore, Fundin, Knutson, Young, Briggs and Craven amongst the contenders.
"Stumbled on this article, glad to know that people are still playing Skid-o. The game was actually invented by my late father in law. A Mr Sidney Chapman. Who sold the rights to Casell Brothers of Glasgow in 1949, for the princely sum of £100."
"I will always be grateful that Belle Vue Aces were saved by returning to the dog track when Hyde Road closed but after going to the inaugural meeting and being so disappointed with the stadium I didn't go again until 2015!
Yes I was spoiled by Belle Vue itself in its heyday, stadium, fun fair, zoo, music venues, beer Keller, all of this was replaced by a car auction and a bowling alley and housing.
My hero Ivan Mauger had retired by the time Hyde Road was demolished and although I remember at the time he did consider buying it, I'm more pleased he decided to retire to Australia's Gold Coast as after the Bradford City fire an all wooden stadium would have cost a fortune to upgrade and time has rolled on, Speedways crowds are now a fraction of what they were in the 1970's so the stadium would have closed.
Peter Collins and Chris Morton don't get the recognition they deserve, PC for saving the Aces and moving to the dog track and Mort along side Dave Gordon building the NSS, I went there many times to the site hut as the stadium was under construction and I was there at the opening meeting, we all know what happened that night and the failures of others that caused a chain of events that again the Aces were lucky to survive.
I'm a fairly regular visitor now to the new Belle Vue and was thrilled to be present when Dan Bewley broke the track record towards the end of this season. "
"Good to hear re Alf Wells - an inspiration to us all."
"I understand a recent publication suggested that races in the ill-fated Monarchs v Belle Vue Aces match featured a steel plate starting process. Having been there on the night I don't recall any mention of it being used.
I do recall reading in the Speedway Star of this era that Ian Hoskins was suggesting it could be used as a possible alternative to the tactical substitution rides process. I can advise that the steel plate idea was tested out in one race in the second half of a league match in July 1953. Details can be found in the 1953 White City, Glasgow file on The Speedway Researcher web site.)
I don't think it was ever tried again and it probably would be a potential source of danger if the staring gate crew had to get the plates off the gate area before riders completed a lap."
Next up is Test Match Special which showcases some great action from International meetings in both the UK and from around the world. Loads of legendary names can be seen in action once more on here, a real who's who of speedway royalty.
'Sudden Sam' is the latest star to get a DVD dedicated to his career, one of the great entertainers and hugely popular wherever he rode. His many admirers will welcome this chance to see him at his very best.
You can see which other riders have been given the DVD treatment on our DVDs page.
Fred Taylor is looking for new players to join the popular Sim Speedway management game.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to part sponsor the British Youth Speedway Championship) are pleased to announce the 75th 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 there is Charles Mckay who looks at the past season and Speedway Star changes. Sue Towner on her Soapbox, plus an update on the progress of young Sam Norris and sidecar speedway. John Hyam on Jim Tebby, Ian MacDonald, Dave Collins and Ernie Hancock. Roy Delaney's article on Ron Johnson. Slider says, An End of an Era. Editor Stu Towner reports on The 14th California-in-England Speedway Reunion, 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 6599/07860 135939 for more information.
"Been to see Alf & Margo a few times now in New Zealand, always nice to see them, as they stayed at our farm at Netherwells in Scotland when Alf rode speedway in the UK, we were always amazed how Alf adjusted after losing his legs but nothing was a problem for Alf."
"I lived with Garry in 1979 / 1980 in Mira Mar California. He owned the home we lived in. He was selling cars and trying to get into selling Bell Helicopters. He had his pilot license. He mentioned he was a motorcycle rider but there was no internet then and I never thought anything about it. I just heard of your death. RIP old friend."
"What a great read and a great article. The BLRC was indeed the highlight of the year, after the Internationale and especially when the World Championship Final wasn't at Wembley.
Great days at Hyde Rd in the 70's. I think it may have been in 1972 when Ted Rogers (3-2-1) was the "guest star". Yes, we had to queue to get in, and 25,000, which I believe was the capacity at Hyde Road, would have been the crowd (you couldn't have got a fag paper between us) would have been the attendance. We were lucky (!) to be right near the tapes, standing of course, but with the old wooden fence, yes you really felt the whoosh of speed as the riders came hurtling round the fourth bend and jockeyed for position down the home straight and the swoop on the first turn.
Wonderful memories of a track much remembered, even by an avid West Ham and after that Hackney and Wimbledon fan (gotta keep it in London!). Great days - the "golden" years of speedway in the 60's and 70's. Thank you to all who had the sheer courage to get their butt on a bike."
"Fighting talk that will, I fear, fall on deaf ears. I was an occasional attendee at Odsal for Bradford speedway meetings during the last few seasons of operations there. Yes, the stadium offered a good view of a decent racetrack - but nobody went!
In the final season, when Odsal crowds sometimes struggled to reach four figures, despite Bradford topping the table, one could stand on the terracing above the first and second bends, and find oneself 40 yards from the nearest spectator. A miserable experience.
Speedway's audience has declined dramatically even since then, the late 90s. How many now watch live speedway every week? Maybe 18,000 in total? A comeback for crumbling, decaying Odsal? No chance. If Bradford Rugby League Club cannot make Odsal either pay or work (and they attracted 7,500 to the stadium's farewell fixture), what hope is there for a poorly-supported speedway team? Given the parlous state of the sport in Britain, its future little brighter than managed decline, the opening of any additional tracks (either new or revived) seems unlikely. Odsal included."
"A meeting was held at Dagenham on 9th August 1936 for The Secretary's Cup. According to a report in Speedway News, the cup was given to the Amateur Speedway Riders' Club by the Hon. Secretary, Mrs. G. O. Thornton. Mrs. Gladys Thornton then presented the cup to the winner, Frank Hodgson. One of the riders participating in that meeting was B. McKechnie. As the cup in the photograph is inscribed 'The Cup of Merit', I suspect it was awarded by H. L. Thornton at the end of the season, possibly at the Championship meeting on 8th November 1936, to Herbert Mackechnie (note the slight variation in spelling) as a rider who had perhaps ridden consistently well or made progress throughout the year. This assumes B. McKechnie is Herbert (Bert) McKechnie. "
"A super read, very accurate as well. I was also at the Leicester match and all hell did break out. I remember the Manchester Evening News gave the full back page to it. The title was something like the disgrace of speedway. Its a shame the sport didn't usually get such a good coverage! The British League Riders Championship was always a fantastic end to the season. This particular one was terrific with Ivan Mauger riding at his very best. Thanks for such a good review, it brought back some great memories. "
"An excellent and first-class article by Ken Nicholson, on the comparisons between wrestling and speedway promotion. Co-incidentally I have been involved in both, although in truth I could never describe myself as a speedway "promoter", just part of a consortium for a year.
Nevertheless, having had experience of both ventures, I must say that those involved in the wrestling business always thrive for, and on, publicity and go out of their way to generate it. Speedway has lost its showmen, be it riders or promoters. Garry Middleton always put a few bums on seats back in the 70's, and in my view the sport at the highest levels is all the poorer for the absence of Len Silver. "Uncle Len" knew how to pack them in at Hackney, the same as Johnnie Hoskins did in the post-war years.
You can't lay all of the blame at the door of the BSPA, the FIM with their ridiculous start-rules and other things must take their share. Sadly speedway is facing an inexorable decline unless and until individual promoters are prepared to hand over the running of the sport to one individual, as John Berry offered to do back in 1986, before being unceremoniously rejected. Cut out the delays and bring back the old "two-hour" evening where 13 heats and a full 2nd half were completed within that time. Referees need to get the 2 minute warning on much quicker as well. No wonder the season no longer ends on Oct 31 - with the current long delays at each meeting there would be nobody left who'd want to stand around in the cold that long these days."
"An excellent article by Ken who I assume must of a similar age to myself as I remember the wrestling. Even as a youth I knew wrestling was fake, let's face it if you twist someone's arm too far up their back, smash them in the face with your elbow or drop from a great height onto them the re's going to be serious damage but as Ken pointed out they were showmen and the promoters knew how to promote it.
WWF is exactly the same except the wrestlers are more professionally fit and muscular than the old British wrestlers who tended to be fat, Hulk Hogan and the Rock had replaced Mick McManus and Big Daddy (real name Shirley Crabtree), yes true, Shirley. Also we do love to hate a baddie but political correctness has done away with that, us of an older age remembering riders like Bob Dugard (Wimbledon), Arthur Browning (Birmingham), Jack 'The Villain' Millen, Malcolm Ballad (Eastbourne) to name a few who weren't afraid to ride hard and ride opponents into the fence, and in later years we had the likes of your Tomasz Gollob's (we all remember Craig Boyce decking him at the British GB at Hackney) and not forgetting everybody's favourite Nicky Pedersen.
Unfortunately I can't see speedway in Britain improving because of all the reasons Ken gives us. The only speedway that I as a retired person living in London gets to see is the weekly Swedish league on Freeview Sports or catching up with the GP or occasional British League match on You-Tube. Just as a footnote besides poor promotions I think one of the major reasons for the demise is there is too few promoter owned purpose built stadiums. Swedish Speedway seems to be surviving with purpose built stadiums, no guest riders simply rider replacement. "
"I was one of a sizeable contingent of Edinburgh Monarch's fans who made the short rail journey over the Forth Bridge to attend meetings at Central Park. Attendances were reasonable to start with but soon dropped off. I don't think there was ever much of a local fanbase and the venture was probably doomed from the start. There was a large main stand and some terracing but many spectators watched from grass banking."
Speedway's starting regulations have been tinkered with many times over the years. In this article from MCN in 1971, Cyril Brine proposed one of the many solutions that have been considered over the years.
"Bravo Ray Allen. I hope you get more than me to back your rallying call! It would be great to see Odsal, Coventry and Oxford back in the fold. Speedway folks must engage in the planning process both at the statutory plan preparation stage as well as the development management stage when other uses are being proposed. Planning authorities have to plan for communities and there is scope for local planning communities to get involved (guidance advises that in the context of planning that communities can be geographically or interest based.) The trouble is once abandoned so many stadiums are altered to stop speedway coming back without a massive investment. Again - well done Ray - hope this sparks off a revival. "
"It all comes down to the ability to draw crowds and make money. Sadly speedway seems to be struggling to do either, so why would anyone invest in Odsal? If the rugby team move out then I can see the council selling the place (for landfill, which is how it was sculpted in the first place). If the rugby stays then their pitch corners prevent a track being laid. Just one thing though - "not the greatest stadium for speedway" ??? Do we have a better one in this country? One where you can get up close and have such a great view, with no dog track? Belle Vue is pretty good but only along the straights - nowhere else comes close to Odsal!"
It's the Kiwis versus the Poles. The Polish team were handicapped by the absence of Jerzy Szczakiel, just a few months short of his finest hour.
The Oxford Cheetahs fans are still doihg their best to keep the team's name alive. They are taking a team over to the Island later this summer and this fabulous poster has been produced to publicise the meeting. Thanks to John Fray for sending it on.
"I shared Gary's life in England for approx 10 months. He was an acute business man with Mercedes Benz cars, and a great rider. I am so saddened that he died so young. When he was focused, he rode with such passion and determination, it was a pleasure to watch."
"Ivor was the first rider I saw win a speedway race on my first visit to Dudley Wood when I was only 13 years old, way back in Aug' 1963. He was almost unbeatable and I was 'hooked'.
I've seen all the greats who rode in the Cradley colours since then, but none quite filled Ivor's boots in my adoration of the man. He proved he was 'no big fish in a little pond' by mixing it with the big boys of the ex-National League and out scoring many of them with a 10-point match average until his fateful clash with Ove Fundin in Heat 1 of the '1965 Wimbledon Internationale'.
The Doctors told him he would never ride again with his spinal injury - he did, but he was never the same rider he once was, other than glimpses of his former dominance and sadly, he retired after the 1968 season after picking up many more injuries.
I recently visited his Wymeswold village and after speaking to a few elderly villagers, they showed me the house (formerly the general store and Post Office that he ran) where Ivor lived, and they pointed me in the direction of his final Resting Place (heartfelt thanks), which we visited to pay our last respects to the great man. My wife and I were sad to learn that his wife - Sandr a - although still with us, now has Dementia. She sold the shop and moved to a bungalow almost opposite, I was hoping that we could speak to her and learn more of my childhood hero.
Heady days indeed and fabulous memories of a superb racer, who deserved a lot more success than he actually got.
RIP Ivor, I'm so privileged to have seen the greatest of the Cradley Heath 'Greats' at his best. "
"As well as Bert Harkins, I also watched Basse At the world champiomnship qualifier at White City Glasgow. It was around 1952/53. I was 12 years of age at the time. What I clearly remember was that Basse was unbeaten on the night and rode brilliantly."
"Barry Briggs has always been my favourite rider, exciting to watch, always battling even for minor places. I have about half a dozen memorable things that stick in the mind about him.
Firstly I remember Gary Middleton of then Hackney beating Briggo from the back around Swindon (unheard of back then), he was the first rider in the British league that I remember wearing a full face helmet (Bell helmet). I was at the Wembley World Final when he lost his finger in the crash with Cradley and Sweden's Bernie Persson and the Russian flying over Briggo's bike and me getting home in time to watch it on tele.
However the main memory was at the end of 1972 Ivan Mauger was World Champion and Barry Briggs runner up, both riders said they weren't going to ride in the British League in 73 so the authorities said if they didn't ride in Britain they wouldn't be able to enter the World Championship in 1973. What you have to remember is Australia and New Zealand riders could only qualify for a world final via british rounds. It would have been amusing to see what would have happened had they not ridden over here, the number 1 & 2 not being able to compete.
Mauger went onto ride for Exeter and Briggo for Wimbledon where I was fortunate enough to watch him every week after also being priviledged to see Ronnie Moore in their colours. I did meet him at Rye House a few years back when he was doing that end to end of Britain track tour to raise money for charity. A remarkable man and his DVD is well worth purchasing. "
" Greetings from Canada-I recall Jack at Newport. Got a second lease on his career -in 1965 he was a heat leader at Somerton Park and top scorer in 1965 -first year of BL. He was the comeback hero of the season-can still see him beating the then top guys. Wot a rider"