Twenty one years ago Tracy Bray made his way to the UK to attempt to break into team speedway.
He headed for Cradley Heath where an injury ruled him out of a possible team place. On his recovery he was establishing
himself in the Middlesbrough side when his injury jinx hit again. In this article he shares his memories of that
season and tells us what he's been up to since.
Ivor Craine now lives in Australia and therefore doesn't see as much UK speedway as he'd like. He
was surprised by the decline in the sport's fortunes he witnessed on his most recent return home. In this article he
suggests some changes that could be made to change things for the better.
Chris followed Leicester from the fifties until the club closed at the end of 1983. His selection includes riders
from throughout that period.
Peter Hosking is looking for details of Frank Shuter's scores in the 1969
World Championship - Can You Help?
Tracy Holmes tells us that Mark Thorpe, mentioned on the site last week,
is now living in Christchurch and working as an electrician. He still looks very
young and fit but has not yet been tempted back on a speedway bike.
"One of the few great sixties riders I never saw, but I agree with everything you say. A great shame he did not continue. Reading through an old 1962 edition of Speedway Star recently it seems that the spelling of his name should be Knutson - one s - and was confirmed by Bjorn and his wife in an interview. Seems that misspellings were common with some foreign riders back then, similar to the long-running Broadbanks/Broadbank spelling saga."
"Geoff made some very interesting arguments for Bjorn and I must admit that he has some good points in his argument to push Knutsson higher in my rankings as a world class rider. I have to admit he looked effortless on the bike and won races in what looked like an easy manner. Above all he was such an unasuming rider, first class al the way. A shame he retired at such a young age leaving us all wodering what might have been. A great write up Geoff, well thought out."
"I very much enjoyed the article on Bjorn Knutsson, who unfortunately I never saw race as he retired just before I became a regular fan. However, as the writer correctly surmises, as an Ivan Mauger fan I can't accept any suggestion that Bjorn was the better rider-even if at the time of Knutsson's retirement Ivan had never headed him in the world rankings, too many what if's.
Ivan was nowhere near the rider he turned out to be later in his career when he was nigh on unbeatable anywhere and in any event (In my opinion, easily the greatest ever seen), he won SIX world titles (might have been one of the oldest to win for first time in 68, but also 40 when he won his last in 79 making him one of (if not) the oldest, a measure of his ability and class over a much longer period) in 11 years, and at a time when British speedway was possibly in its golden age with the greatest number of exceptional riders in the most number of countries.
Sorry Geoff, it just doesn't add up. Ivan performed at the highest level and with the greatest of success (jointly with Tony Rickardsson in terms of world titles) for a much longer period, so in terms of comparison with Knutsson the sums don't tally - it's what you do, not what you might have done."
"I believe the photo on the Bjorn Knuttson article is of Formula One ace Jim Clark (F1 World Champion 1963 and 1965) presenting the trophy. Although Formula One in the sixties was not as money orientated/professionally run as it is nowadays, it would still have been big business (I am too young to remember!). Imagine if speedway organisers today could attract today's F1 aces to present trophies etc, e.g. Lewis Hamilton or Jensen Button presenting the British GP winner 2008 with their winner's trophy. What publicity for speedway that would be! Sadly an unlikely scenario, but surely not impossible. Could IMG could pull a few strings?"
Tom Marriott recently purchased a speedway trophy from the Canadian version of eBay
that was awarded at High Beech in 1939. The winner was one R.C.Appleby, who Tom believes must be the
Canadian rider Charlie Appleby. In this article Tom shares what he knows of Charlie and seeks assistance
to uncover more about both the man and the trophy.
Tom wishes to thank Roger Beaman whose research helped greatly in the production of this
Jeff Scott from Methanol Press
is offering free postage on all orders made before the end of January.
The offer applies to all four of his books: 'Showered in Shale', 'When Eagles Dared', 'Shale Britannia' and 'Shifting Shale'.
Regular visitors to the site will be familiar with Jeff's entertaining style of writing. For those that haven't read his work
we're bringing you another sample this week. In this extract from 'Shifting Shale', Jeff travels to Poole for the 2006 Craven
Robert J. Rogers concludes the series with these snapshots taken at Assen in 1976. Robert was there as
a member of a tour party, whose yellow bobble hats feature prominently in some of the pictures.
Chris Schramm, who will line up for the Witches in 2008, has a new personal website. The address is
Former rider Tony Richardson is looking for photographs from his racing career - Can You Help?
Chris Brooks needs to clear some space in his house so is looking to sell his collection of speedway memorabilia - Can You Help?
The mysterious 'dlprezes' from Poland is looking for heat details from quite a number of World Championship qualifying rounds - Can You Help?
Here are some of the search terms that brought traffic to the site this week. In each case we feel certain that
the visitor would have found scant information on the subject they wanted to read about. Get in touch if you'd like to
produce an article on any of these subjects.
"My Dad first took me to speedway in 1970. He hadn't been to speedway since the early 50s and was amazed to find that Jack Biggs was still riding (then for Hackney). Sadly it was the following winter he lost his life in a track crash home in Australia. I sometimes think that every time a speedway rider goes out on the track it's like they are buying a lottery ticket, the only difference being that when your number comes up, you lose. Jack bought a lot of tickets before his came up, but he must have loved the gamble right to the end."
"Why are there so few Dream Teams shown each week, after spending a couple of hours deliberating and typing it would be nice to see the results and hopefully be interesting to others and keep us fans enthusiastic about this site."
Dream Team will return next week and we'll make a start on using the backlog of submissions. Apologies to all those waiting for theirs to appear.
The Canadian Speedway Racing Association were promoting the sport at the recent Toronto
Motorcycle Show. David Hensby, our regular correspondent from Canada,
was on hand to capture some pictures and press some flesh.
Another Russian ice track this week, once again Charles McKay was the photographer.
The Sunderland website has been completely redesigned. It features articles,
pictures, programme covers etc from the days of the Saints, Stars and Gladiators.
Step back in time at sunderlandspeedway.co.uk
Adam Roynon of the Birmingham Brummies has a rather smart new website. The address
Graham Morris has just published a book covering the Swindon Robins' 2007 season.
It's entitled "The Year that Ended in a Seven" and is available as a download or 'proper'
book. Further details at grachan.co.uk
Kelvin Lapworth is the latest to be searching for some programmes to
complete a collection - Can You Help?
It's always interesting to see what searches bring people to the site, though
often they probably don't find quite what they're looking for. Here's some search terms
from recent weeks, if you'd like to write an article that would
benefit people making the same search in the future, then we'd be delighted to hear from
Sir Edmund Hillary by Tracy Holmes
January 11, 2008, Sir Edmund Hillary, NZ, dies age 88. Beekeeper, flying-boat navigator
in WW 2, mountaineer who on May 29th 1953 climbed to the top of Mount Everest with
Tenzing Norgay as part of the John Hunt team, diplomat, NZ Highcomissioner to
India and founder of Hillary Trust - building schools, hospitals and roads in Nepal,
and there is a speedway connection!
On September 17th 1953, he and John Hunt presented the medals at the World Speedway
Final. A great night for NZ as Geoff Mardon took the bronze medal behind Freddie
Williams and Split Waterman. For the 'cellphone-playstation-Ipod' generation,
the World Speedway Final was THE highlight of the speedway year and only the winner
of that one meeting could be called Champion of the World. Real speedway, one-off
magic that today's GP cannot begin to copy.
Thanks to Robert J. Rogers for the photograph of Sir Edmund presenting the trophy
"Nick Nicolaides is a member of the TrailBlazers and was at their banquet last year in Carson, California. He now races bikes at El Mirage. If you google his name and El Mirage pictures can be found. I also have information on a few tracks than ran speedway in the States going back to the 1930's. This info can be found at xtremesport.org"
"This was the best stadium for me. I was more into F1 stockcars in the 80s and had some fantastic nights there sat up in block L on the first turn. I'll never forget Stu Smith senior winning his 500th career final there at the last ever meeting. I shed a tear when I left looking back vowing never to buy a car from BCA on what the site became. GREAT PICTURES."
Geoff Langley makes his debut on the site by paying tribute to a man he
describes as "speedway's forgotten great". Knutsson was the 1965 world champion who quit the
sport all too soon afterwards. Fans of Ivan Mauger may not like Geoff's views on how things
could have panned out had Bjorn raced on into the seventies.
"It's a crying shame to see the brilliant track of Exeter speedway look like this. The County Ground stadium produced a quantity of first class riders such as Ivan Mauger, Scott Autrey, John Titman, Vaclav Verner and his brother Jan Verner, Peter Prinsloo, Kevin Holden, Mike Farell, Steve Koppe and Chris Julian. It was a sad day when they lost the fight to keep the speedway at the County Ground, but let's hope one day they will return to speedway. If Birmingham can return to speedway and yes it did take a long time, 20 years or so, so can the Falcons."
"I think there is nothing sadder than photos of defunct speedway stadia. When you think of the atmosphere, noise and excitement of the past, then look at the overgrown remains of track and terracing it breaks your heart. I suffered it as a Rayleigh supporter from boyhood seeing pictures of the old Weir stadium. (Does anyone have any old photos of that venue?). Still at least I now have the Rockets at Rye House which is very much alive."
"I can only agree with Alan Roger's assessment of Joe Owen. If not for his first major accident at Hull I believe Joe was a possible world class rider. I have never seen a rider have such dominance at a track as Joe did at Brough Park in 1976. I'm sure his only dropped points were due to mechanical issues (although brother Tom did beat him a few times in the 2nd half final)"
Steve Harland paid a visit to New Zealand at the end of 2006 which included
a chance encounter at an airport and an unexpected visit to the Eastern States speedway. We don't
think it's ever staged solo racing, but confirmation would be welcome.
"I liked the piece on Jackie Biggs: it brought back memories of watching the man himself, unaided, fitting an engine into his bike's frame in the car park outside the pits at Plough Lane (Wimbledon) in the mid to late '60's, or cutting his rear tyre whilst perched in the boot of his car, chatting with the supporters. I also seem to think he still had a knee-hook fitted to his bike in the Hackney years (1967-1970). Dingle Brown did an interview in one of the magazines a while ago, in which he told a couple of amusing tales about Jackie and his somewhat volatile character. Apparently he was a well-respected tuner of engines,too,in the days before the super-tuner era."
"All of the previous comments simply confirm what I have always thought to be the truth, Hyde road was the best track in the world! Love the comments from Dave Gifford about the 2 minute warning, I had never sussed that out! I first went to watch speedway there in 1963 with my sister & brother in law, Thanks Janet.
I can only remember the smell of Castrol R, the black leathers, the grit & the dust, the noise of all those JAPs & the sell out crowd. In 1969 I started going to speedway every week, Dent Oliver time: went to the cricket match in Denton where very unfortunately, affterwards he suffered a heart attack & I can remember the sadness with which Jack Fearnley announced the news to the crowd the following week.
The Trusthouse Forte period was simply fantastic, sponsors, good track, good stadium. Who remembers the Leicester match which ended in fighting on the track, it was heady stuff in them days. Also during the year the BLRC meeting was so fantastic, all the racing was on the outer 3 meters of the track it was phenomenally fast, I seem to remember Ray Wilson doing well, but it must have been Olsen or Mauger that won. A brilliant spectacle in front of a sell out crowd, I never saw that many people at the zoo. The stock cars were also great at BV but one wonders what the track would have been without them."
THE WAIT IS OVER!! The much-anticipated 2007 FIM Speedway Grand Prix Series
dvd box set is now available! BHP Sport have once again came up trumps with this
fantastic production, including the entire 2007 Grand Prix and World Cup series.
The 6 DVD box set also includes interviews, behind the scenes footage, and extra
features. You can get your copy for just £19.99 direct from www.speedwaydvd.com