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21/07/2024
Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 6: John Louis and John Davis
Rose Tinted Spectacles
 
14/07/2024
Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 5: Chris Morton
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23/06/2024
Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 4: Dave Jessup
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16/06/2024
Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 3: Malcolm Simmons
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02/06/2024
Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 2: Ray Wilson
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26/05/2024
Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 1:Nigel Boocock
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06/05/2024
Silver Machine Win Gold
Ivan's Fantasy Island
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02/04/2024
Tidying Up The Parade
NZ v Australia 1980
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24/03/2024
2024 is Off and Running
The Story of Noddy Holder
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28/01/2024
1975/76 NZ v England
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17/12/2023
DVD: Great Races of the 80s
What's Wrong With Ambition?
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29/10/2023
Book Review: Walthamstow
When the Rangers Roared
High Beech Revival of 1954
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16/10/2023
Western Springs Winged Wheels
Grand Pricks?
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01/10/2023
Blind Speedway Rider
Track Pix: Oxford
Farcical Guest
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17/09/2023
The Ole Olsen Tapes
Dream Team: Richard Cleaver
Plus Points
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23/07/2023
1974/75 BL V New Zealand
Heat Details Required
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04/06/2023
Northside Arena
 
14/05/2023
Review: Tigers at White City
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19/03/2023
How to halt the decline
 
12/03/2023
NZ v Poland - 1st Test
NZ v Poland - 2nd Test
NZ v Poland - 3rd Test
NZ v Poland - 4th Test
 
05/03/2023
Track Pictures: North Brisbane
It's All About You: Lionel King
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15/01/2023
Dream Team : Geoff Langley
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04/01/2023
Gerald Dunn's JAP
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27/12/2022
1975 World Final. Heat 20.
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11/12/2022
Peter Collins Autobiography
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23/11/2022
DVD Review: 70s - A to Z
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Ivan Mauger V Britain's Best
Part 2: Ray Wilson
By Tracy Holmes

World Cup Willie. That title was given to Ray Wilson after he scored a flawless maximum at the 1971 World Team Cup Final, September 26, Wroclaw. Helping Great Britain along with Ivan Mauger, Barry Briggs, Jim Airey and Ronnie Moore to win the Gold Medals.

An amazing performance made even more so as over the next three years, he would again be part of the winning team at Abensberg, Wembley and Chorzow. And it was 1972 that Ray and partner Terry Betts won the World Pairs Final, pushing New Zealand by Ivan Mauger and Ronnie Moore to the Silver Medals. The icing on the cake, Wilson beat Mauger in the Gold Medal run-off!

He also captained England to win the 1973 Daily Mirror International Team Tournament. These were his greatest achievements on Speedway's world stage but what about the biggest stage of all? The World Speedway Final. Ray Wilson rode in four of these and his record is;

1967. 7 points to finish 8th.
1971. 11 points to finish 4th.
1973. 5 points to finish 14th.
1975. 5 points to finish 11th.

John Berry wrote an excellent piece for Backtrack Magazine; 'When I think of Ray Wilson, I think of determination and reliability. I conjure up pictures of robust but resoundingly fair riding, of a strong personality and a mighty competitor.'

So now we will analyze Ray's performances at the World Final and ask, could he, should he have done any better?

That Wembley debut in 1967 was highly successful. After winning his opening heat, he was brought back down to earth, literally in round two when he tangled with Ove Fundin and fell. Remounting to come home last. Two 3rd placings followed with no disgrace whatsoever; round three behind Igor Pleachanov and Anders Michanek. Round four behind Bengt Jansson and Ivan Mauger. Second to Barry Briggs in round five saw him finish 8th behind Fundin, Jansson, Mauger, Plechanov, Briggs, Michanek and Eric Boocock. Nothing to be sad about there. Well, apart from round two.

In 1968, a disastrous 2 points at the British Final saw him knocked out with two rounds to go. World Final winner, Ivan Mauger. 1969 saw another Wembley appearance beckoning until another 2 point British Final disaster put that dream to ruin. World Final winner, Ivan Mauger.

The following year saw 1970 enter in a whole new era. The World Final being held for the first time in Poland. And to get there, Western riders would have to get through the European Final in Leningrad. Now word spread that a number of riders were not interested in either of these two gigs. And Ronnie Moore told me that it was no surprise, Trevor Hedge was England's sole representative at Wroclaw. Was Ray Wilson one of the riders who thought the better of trying to get there? I don't know but he breezed into the British Final and here's how;

Leicester. 15 points 1st
Swindon. 12 points 3rd
Coventry. 10 points.
British Semi-Final. Sheffield. 11 points 3rd.

What happened at the West Ham British Final? Scorechart; 0, 1, 0, 1, 3. 5 points, failing to qualify. A bad day at the office? Maybees. Oh and for the record, 1970 World Final winner, Ivan Mauger.

With the 1971 World Final being held at Gothenburg, British interest was back in full swing and Ray had no trouble getting there. Finishing second to Mauger in the last two rounds. He went to the Ullevi Stadium as one of the British quartet, joining Nigel & Eric Boocock and reserve, Tony Lomas. And as a pre-meeting favourite alongside Mauger, Bengt Jansson, Anders Michanek and Ole Olsen. Out in heat 1, Wilson showed no sign of any nerves as he blasted to 3 points from Michanek, Nigel Boocock and Jiri Stancl. Heat 7 and another brilliant win from Soren Sjosten with Mauger stuck in 3rd place, outridden after tangling with Jerzy Szczakiel who fell on the first turn. Round three, heat 11 and it's head to head with the also unbeaten Ole Olsen. Vladimir Gordeev with a win and a third, and Leif Enecrona with two ducks.

This was how Paul Parish wrote it up for Speedway Star, 'Enecrona went over the tapes and as he was hauled back, they snapped. He was excluded but chased up the long flight of steps to voice protests to referee Georg Transpurger. With reserve Gote Nordin ready to line up, Enecrona was reinstated because, we were told, he had not broken the tapes as he went forward. Which is a rather too literal and highly unsatisfactory interpretation of the rules.'

With all of this going on, Wilson was back in the pits with Olsen and Gordeev. And when the race finally got underway, it was disaster for the Brit. Olsen exploded from the gate as Gordeev beat Wilson to the first turn. And that's the way it stayed. Decades later, Ray was interviewed for Backtrack; 'Contemporary reports from Gothenburg suggested that Ray wasn't ideally prepared for his third ride, having been distracted by Enecrona's heated protest.

He doesn't dispute the claim, admitting, "It's a fair assessment. That wouldn't have happened to Ivan Mauger would it? I should have been fully switched on and known what was going on. Ivan wouldn't have fallen into the same trap. He would have eliminated all possible eventualities but I didn't. I just rode each race on it's own merit but Ivan took everything to another level. He put a lot more into his planning and psychology but the rest of us didn't realize the significance of these little things at the time. I regarded myself as being as professional as the next rider, I was England number one and captain but I still didn't realize back then the importance of details to the extent that Ivan did."

Had the pressure of the big occasion started to get to him, with two early wins under his belt? "Oh yeah, the nerves and tension had started to kick in. It was there for me to lose and I lost it of my own accord."

Ray had no trouble winning heat 15 from Jim Airey, Ronnie Moore and Tommy Jansson. This meant that he could still finish on the podium. Round five saw Gordeev win heat 17 giving him 11 points. Mauger winning heat 18 for 12 points. Now for heat 19. The win for Wilson would give him 13 points. The win for Bengt Jansson would give him 12. It was almost disaster as Wilson, Jansson and Eric Boocock nearly went through the tapes. But when the race got underway safely, British hearts leapt with excitement as Ray made the gate from Jansson, Bernt Persson and Boocock. But just as quick, those hearts sank as Ray was passed by Jansson, then Persson before the first lap was over.

Result; B Jansson, Persson, Wilson, E Boocock.

"I was gutted when the two Swedes went by me in my last race. For some reason, I obviously came out of the second corner slower than I should have done. I know my bike was quick enough so I obviously rode the race wrongly. I was up against two Swedes in Sweden, with all that extra motivation that gave them, and I lost out. So near yet so far, I messed up in that one ride when the two Swedes came by me. It's fair to say that I look back on that Gothenburg Final with big regrets."

With Mauger and Jansson on 12 points, Ray's eleven meant he missed the podium, unless Olsen had a horror ride in heat 20. Jack Biggs? No, Ole gated and easily beat Michanek, Sjosten and Airey. The new World Champion had a 15 point maximum, then Mauger beat Jansson in the Silver Medal run-off. Ray Wilson was 4th with 11. Gordeev also scored 11, finishing 5th. [ Wilson had three heat wins to Gordeev's two ] Michanek also 11 points for 6th that included one heat win. For the record, Gordeev was subsequently disqualified by the FIM having been caught using the banned Nitro. He was banned from FIM competition for 12 months.

1972. With the World Final at Wembley, World Cup Willie found himself home favourite. But he was going to have to survive the last round, that dreaded British Final where just the top five would qualify for the Twin Towers. Was he up for it? Certainly got to the meeting safely.

Halifax. 11 points 3rd.
Wolverhampton. 12 points.
Leicester 8 points.
British Semi-Final. Sheffield. 10 points.

So to Coventry for the British Final, would he rock-up to Wembley? No, he sank like a stone. Scorechart; ex/tapes, 2, 1, 3, 1. Well short on 7 points.

Ivan Mauger 14. Nigel Boocock 12. Barry Briggs 11. John Louis 11. Eric Boocock 10. All qualify. Jim McMillan 10, qualifies as reserve.

Terry Betts 9. Dave Jessup 7. John Boulger 7. Ray Wilson 7. Martin Ashby 6. Arnold Haley 5. Garry Middleton 4. Peter Collins 3. Trevor Hedge 2. Ronnie Moore 2.

Could Ray have won the World Final? I don't think so but it was ever so sad he wasn't there to prove me wrong. In fact the two biggest names missing from Wembley were Ray Wilson and Bengt Jansson. Now I believe the Swede could certainly have won, especially the way things worked out scorechart wise. Oh yes, for the record, World Final winner, Ivan Mauger.

1973, and as British Champion, Ray got to the World Final at Chorzow but he would not have been happy with his 5 point tally. Scorechart; F, 2, 3, 0, F. His heat 10 win over Vladimir Paznikov and Valeri Gordeev was impressive as these two finished 6th and 8th respectively.

But if Ray was disappointed, it would not have compared to how Ivan Mauger felt when he duffed round two, coming 3rd behind Jerzy Szczakiel and Pawel Waloszek. Then he lost the Gold Medal run-off to Jerzy Szczakiel.

Ray's fourth and last World Final was at Wembley in 1975. Again, five points would have been another disappointment. Scorechart; 0, ex/tapes, 1, 2, 2. Gold medal winner, the unbeaten Ole Olsen.

So, could Ray have done any better? Should he have done any better? We've analyzed

1971 but as for these last two, yes, for sure. 5 points from each was only half of what he was capable of. But even that would not have been enough to get near the podium let alone thinking of winning!

What did Ray Wilson lack compared with Ivan Mauger? The Kiwi never made any secret of the fact that he was only in Speedway to be the Champion of the World. Everything else took second place and that's why he qualified for 14 World Finals, put up the winning score in half of those, winning 6!!!!!!

No-one got in his way, well, Mike Parker did but that drama was eventually dealt with, and Ivan did everything he had to do in order to achieve what he did. Some of it fair, some of it not so much but we won't go there.

When he made mistakes and failed, he went back to the drawing board and fixed the problem or started a new programme. Some people laughed at his eccentricities but no-one laughed at his Gold Medal haul.

If Ray Wilson, despite being a brilliant rider, captain, leader and ambassador, have had half that zeal and ambition, he may have done so much better. And none of this is criticism, it's trying to work out what the difference between the two was. I believe the super patriotic

Ray Wilson had a motto, "Buy British" If Ivan Mauger had a World Final motto, it may very well have been "Buy whatever it takes"

 

This article was first published on 2nd June 2024

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