Backtrack The Ivan Mauger Special. A Personal View.
I have only ever kept two Speedway magazines. A copy of the first ever Speedway Star and Peter White's World of Speedway. Now, I have a third. Backtrack, the Ivan Mauger special is a brilliant piece of work, thank you Tony McDonald! The entire magazine is dedicated to the man I consider to be the greatest ever, on equal points with Huxley, Duggan, Fundin and Rickardsson. This piece is just a few twinks with a few personal opinions. So don't go getting upset. OK?!
Page 13. Managing Kenny Carter. Ivan said, "If his father had not gone to Los Angeles, Kenny would have won that World Championship. There is no question about it." I'll question that. If Kenny had have used the tyres Ivan wanted him too, would that have made a difference to the result of heat 14? Maybees, maybees not though! The issue has been thrashed a thousand times and I'm just disputing the "no question" statement. Ofcourse there was question. Then and now.
Page 13. Grand Prix V World Final. Ivan said, "It would be unfair on Ove Fundin and me to make any kind of comparison with the present system, as they are different competitions. If you look at Ove's best 10 or 12 years as a rider and then consider mine, we would both have won it 10 times if the GP formula had applied in our time. Briggo would also have won more than four." Well, a comparison it became. So was Ivan really saying that from 1956 to the end of the 70's, there would have only been those 3 as World Champions?
Really? For a start, 10 + 10 + more than 4 does not add up. And I'm sure Ove would be quick to name Ronnie Moore, Peter Craven and Bjorn Knutson as those who would, along with Briggo have had the biggest say in his "best 10 or 12 years". And Ivan forgets just who his toughest opposition was from the mid sixties. Barry Briggs was followed, in the 70's by Ole Olsen with Anders Michanek. Then came Peter Collins, Malcolm Simmons, and later, Mike Lee. [ I would even include Bruce Penhall in 1979. ] They all would certainly have been GP Title contenders on more than a few occasions. So Ivan winning 10 times? Possibly. But I seriously doubt it! Even in today's GP, the all conquering Tony Rickardsson was, at his peak, interrupted by the genius of Mark Loram. Let's move on shall we?
From the same piece, "... my worst meeting was when I got 8th in the 1977 Intercontinental Final." No, Ivan was 5th. John Boulger 6th, Finn Thomsen 7th and John Davis 8th. Just keeping it accurate. In doing so, from the same paragraph, "Otherwise, 4th was the lowest I ever finished in the really big World Championship meetings..." If it's all about facts, make that '5th' , as in these;
1970 British/Nordic Final.
In that 1979 Intercontinental Final, Ivan threw the 3rd place run-off to Finn Thomsen and Dave Jessup. The 5th place gave him the World Final draw he wanted. Brilliant! And that's why, I never got why Ivan was so keen, decades later to point out his placings in these meetings. As he said many times and in print, these were only ever qualifying rounds. He never went into any one of them with the intention of winning. To qualify was the goal. Once achieved, he would go for the win if he was up for it. If not, who cared. Certainly not Ivan.
So yes, he was 4 time European and British Champion etc. But had he never won any, it would not have mattered. Getting to the World Final was all that mattered and he did that the whopping 14 times. That's what needs celebrating. Many of you will remember when Peter Collins won the 1977 Intercontinental Final, unbeaten at White City. Class of his own. Ivan was quick to get into print, pointing out that while PC was a worthy winner, they were all back to square one on World Final night.
The paragraph continues, "...plus the World Team Cup and World Pairs semi-finals and finals, where the top guys were all competing against eachother." Not so.
World Pairs Finals;
1973. With Graeme Stapleton 7th.
Also from the same piece, "In the World Pairs, if New Zealand didn't win, I still got something like 16 points out of 18." Nice try! NZ won in 1969 and 1970, Ivan with Bob Andrews and Ronnie Moore. They were NZ's only Gold Medals in this event. From then, Ivan's Final scores were;
1971 - 12.
There were many conversations I had with Ivan over the years and many times I told him how important it was to keep the records accurate. Otherwise you can see what a farce it becomes. The first was in 1982. He had been on the radio saying how he won 15 Gold medals but 16 Silver medals. In reality, the total is 11. When I corrected him, it did not go down well. I suggested that re-writing Speedway history to suit himself did not do the sport any good and could not do him any good either. Well, I think that proved sadly and tragically correct.
Page 16. The action snap should read; From left, Gennady Kurilenko, Jan Mucha, Ivan in heat 3. And in the scorechart, it was Vladimir Gordeev, not Valeri.
Page 27. Gordon Stobbs said, "The most disappointing World Final was Katowice in 1973, when Ivan fell in the run-off with Jerzy Szczakiel. He admits he made a mistake because he would have waltzed past the Pole if he had waited another lap." And that may very well have been the case. HOWEVER, Jerzy had thrashed Ivan in heat 8, from the gate. Ivan found no way past him then. So it was no forgone conclusion that he would have done the same, having been outgated in the run-off. Jerzy blocked his first attempt to pass, whose to say he could not have done so to any others?
Most people forget heat 8. That's where Ivan made THE worst start in all his 14 World Finals. See it for yourself on You-tube. All 4 riders were under starters orders and when the tapes went up, Ivan bunny-hopped out and was last into the first turn. It took him over a lap to get past Valeri Gordeev, yes, it was Valeri this time, and when Ivan found himself in the position to challenge the leaders, Szczakiel and Pawel Waloszek, he was unable to carry it out. Had he made the gate, as was expected of him, there would have been no run-off!
So what's the point? I think people underestimate just how good Jerzy was that day, despite his scoring 13 points and Ivan may have had more grunt, but could he have so easily picked off his run-off opponent as suggested? The other thing I will point out, those two raced eachother 4 times that year. The result? Szczakiel 4 - Mauger 0. Puts a whole new light on that run-off. Yes, Ivan knew how good Jerzy could be and that's why he was quick to defend the man who had dethroned him. Well, eventually anyway.
Page 27. Gordon Stobbs continues, re the 1976 World Final "...but he always contended he could have beaten PC in heat 20 if a simple engine failure, a broken jet block in the carburettor, had not let him down in his second race. It's hard to tell what would have happened if they had gone into that last race on 12 points apiece." Yes indeed Gordon BUT, for Ivan to have done that, he would have needed to have won ALL his other heats which he did not do! Ivan himself forgot [?] that Malcolm Simmons beat him in heat 10. I had this out with Ivan in another phone call. He had been telling his audiences that he and Collins would have been on equal points. When challenged, he told me that if he had not stopped in heat 5, he would certainly have beaten Malcolm. I suggested that was a bit rich. Malcolm, the 1976 British Champion had won the Internationale unbeaten which included Ivan [ who scored 7 ] AND he had won the World Pairs Final with John Louis, again easily beating Ivan. So to say that Simmo would have been no competition in the World Final, with Ivan on a different bike, did not at all stack up. Even more so as Simmo dropped just 2 points that World Final afternoon, to take the Silver Medal. As usual, Ivan was having none of it. Malcolm Simmons raced Ivan in 3 World Finals. 1975, 76 & 78. Results;
1975. Heat 2. Mauger, Simmons, T Jansson, Wilson.
See what I mean?! Speedway fans knew that to suggest mid-seventies Malcolm Simmons was a pushover, was just plain silly. Joe Public who did not know who Malcolm Simmons was, should not have been misled in that way. Just saying.
Page 43. Mauger Achievements.
World Championship Finals. 104. OOOPS, haha and Ivan would have loved this! Half that. It was 52.
Two myths that need busting concerning Ivan. 'He won everything there was to win' and 'If he did not win it, it was not worth winning'. Both childish nonsense and if you think about it, robs Ivan of his humanity and takes the shine off what he did win. The biggest one that got away was the CZ Golden Helmet. Despite making 11 Grand Finals of the 13 meetings he got to attend, a five year period saw him on the podium;
1972 - 2nd
Among others, Ivan never did win the Wimbledon Laurels or the Daily Express Spring Classic. Maybe the reason for the Classic was that he never rode in it. But he was invited. However, timing was the issue and to ride in this one, did not suit his hectic calendar. I do not have any of the programmes for the Classic but I can bet that there is no disclosure, 'This meeting is not worth winning because Ivan Mauger is not here.' I'm very relieved that I did not find these myths in this issue. But my goodness, they have been almost everywhere else!
Thanks again to the people behind this Backtrack. A wonderful addition to my Ivan Mauger scrapbooks. I do hope no-one sees this article as criticism or knocking the publication. Just the opposite. Ivan was THE ultimate mechanical, on track professional and perfectionist. I applaud that and respect his memory. Just as I am sure you do too. Lets enjoy our memories but keep it real.
You can order your copy of Backtrack (and find hundreds of other great speedway products) at Retro-Speedway.com.
This article was first published on 9th June 2018
This article was first published on 9th June 2018
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