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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 3: Malcolm Simmons
By Tracy Holmes

Super Simmo, yes indeed, it's time now to look closely at the one and only Malcolm Simmons. The legend goes, it was in Australia for the 72/73 season that saw Simmo freelancing in Perth. [ He'd been riding Speedway now for ten years and had been down under the previous season with the British Lions ] Meeting up with Ivan Mauger, the reigning World Champion in a hotel bar, they got drinking and talking. After a bit too much to drink, Ivan said too much. [ He was good at that ] He told Simmo that if he got really serious about Speedway, he could be a World Final contender.

Simmo listened and the rest is history. No, he did not win the World Final and we will analyze why shortly. But lets look at what Simmo went on to achieve. Making three World Finals;

1975. 10 points to finish 7th.
1976. 13 points to finish 2nd.
1978. 10 points to finish 6th.

He was four times winner of the World Team Cup and three times World Pairs Champion. 1976 with John Louis, 1977 with Peter Collins and 1978 with Gordon Kennett. Oh yes, in that one, he beat Ivan Mauger, the reigning World Champion in the Gold Medal run-off ! British Champion, winner of the Daily Express Spring Classic and the Internationale. Also won a Gold Medal at the 1973 Daily Mirror International Tournament. These were his biggest achievements on the World stage.

His long awaited World Final debut at Wembley in 1975 saw a very polished double-figure score. Second to Mauger in Round one, then to Phil Crump in Round two. Winning Round three gave him 7 points. At half time, the scorechart read; Ole Olsen 9. Anders Michanek, Crump, Simmo and John Louis all on 7. Ivan Mauger and Peter Collins 6.

Round four and Malcolm was forced to follow home Michanek and Louis. No disgrace there, Michanek was the defending Champion and Louis along with Collins were the home favourites.

Round five saw the showdown with Olsen who needed two points to secure the Title. Collins needing to win for a place in the Bronze Medal run-off. Watch this race on You-tube and you can hear Dave Lanning suggesting that Simmo's sole purpose was to help his British team-mate. What happened ? Olsen shot out of the gate and Collins swung across from gate three to block Simmo, who ducked underneath only for Collins to re-pass on the exit to follow Olsen down the back straight. But Simmo wasn't done and got past Collins on the exit to go onto lap two. Olsen held the lead safely to secure the win while Simmo held off the very determined challenges from Collins.

The closeness of the finish was testament to the effort involved. People have suggested since that Collins wasn't trying. BOLLOCKS ! Watch that race closely and see how it was all on from start to finish.

The Final ended; Ole Olsen 15. Anders Michanek 13. John Louis 12. Ivan Mauger 12. Peter Collins 10. Phil Crump 10. Malcolm Simmons 10. Viktor Trofimov 8. And that heat 20 clash would prove hugely significant a year later. Because at Wembley, Simmo and Collins were on matching Weslakes in power and speed. Hold that thought.

It's 1976 and both Malcolm Simmons and Peter Collins are on fire. They are as quick as each other and Simmo has the edge in the big meetings. Collins in the British League. Simmo wins the Internationale and the British Final. Then wins the World Pairs Final with John Louis. Collins wins the last qualifying round to the World Final, beating Ivan Mauger in the run-off for the winner's cheque. Phil Crump beats Simmo in the run-off for 3rd. But they're both through to the World Final at Chorzow and along with Mauger are the three hot favourites.

Sadly, the defending Champion, Ole Olsen fails to qualify. Crump was picked to win by many but he was never a contender and said as much in many interviews.

In the days leading up to the World Final, something bizarre happened. Simmo and Collins were works riders for the Weslake factory. And Simmo was instructed to return his motors to the factory for servicing. Why ? They were just fine, more than fine. But, he did what he was told.

This from Simmo's book;

'PC was well looked after by Dave Nourish, his engine tuner but the Weslake factory took my 3 engines back to overhaul them just before the World Final and they were never the same again.'

And this from a 1997 'Five-One' interview;

'I had 3 engines from Weslake [ overhauled ] and used them at Poole in the week of the World Final. They were crap, absolutely rubbish !'

He returned them to the factory and demanded they be re-done. They were and Simmo continues,

'I went to the World Final with those engines done but they were far from quick enough.'

He was right as the results proved. Beaten by Phil Crump in round one was no disgrace and he met Collins in round two, heat 7. With Ivan Mauger having that famous round two engine failure, it was all on for the 'Battle of the Brits.'

Also in heat 7 was John Louis and the Pole Jerzy Rembas. Simmo made the start from gate 2, Collins off 1 lifted slightly but was behind Simmo into the first bend. Louis off 3 finds outside drive and passes Collins down the back straight. Lap 2 sees Collins take Louis into the first bend and sets off after Simmo who is a good 5 lengths clear. Collins goes inside and outside looking for the best line and with a 20k advantage, had no trouble reeling him in, effortlessly riding by into the last lap, passing inside and off into the distance.

'I don't want to take anything away from Peter but he had so much more speed than me and the rest of the field in Poland that day, he shouldn't have been able to come past me the way he did. If I'd had the right engines, he'd have had a job to beat me.'

Collins won heat 7 by a good 6 lengths to prove the speed advantage.

Malcolm won his remaining heats and took the Silver Medal with 13 points. Scorechart; Peter Collins 14. Malcolm Simmons 13. Phil Crump 12. Ivan Mauger 11. Zenon Plech 11. John Louis 9. Doug Wyer 8. Egon Muller 8.

There is no way anyone can knock Collins, he really was magnificent. And his years of effort paid off handsomely. But, it was just a shame it was not an equal fight, especially where Simmo is concerned. Had Malcolm had the power like before being sabotaged, my word only, there is no way Collins could have beaten him. Watch it on You-tube and decide for yourself.

Had that been the case, Collins would easily have beaten Mauger in heat 20, as it was, he did not race, just tucking in behind for the safe 2 points. That would have set up a Gold Medal run-off. Remember, we are talking equal horse-power as in the months before. You could run that race 10 times and it would be 5 all. So who would have been the one-off winner ? Sadly, we will never know.

This is my personal opinion. And before anyone starts, I am a huge fan of Simmons and Collins equally. That being said, from 1973, Collins was Speedway's 'Crown Prince.' And every time you heard Dave Lanning preaching from his Television pulpit, it was Collins that everyone wanted to be England's next World Champion.

Simmons was the 'Black Knight' who despite doing the business as not just an excellent rider but also as an excellent ambassador, had done time previously. Serving a four month sentence in 1968 for being caught three times driving without a license. Being a professional sportsman, the judge threw the book at him. So who would look better as the Champion of the world?

The 'Black Knight' with a 'past' or the 'Crown Pince' the 'darling of the Speedway world' ? I still believe to this day, Simmo's motors were sabotaged so that he could not get in Collins way. Had he been having a ho-hum season, things may have been different but as he was so, so very much on Title winning form, someone made the call. Fantasyland ? Maybees, maybees not though. Let's leave the final thought on that one to Simmo,

"If I had been riding equipment as good as him that year I would have won that race."

1977. With the World Final being held at Gothenburg in September, enthusiasts were dreaming of the big four showdown. Mauger, Olsen, Collins and Simmons. The first few months of the season were as the previous year. PC & Simmo were the top Brits, equal in horse-power again and there was a new kid on the block. A young teenager named Mike Lee who was doing things on a speedway bike that demons wouldn't dare!

PC & Simmo won the World Pairs Final at Belle Vue and all the top Brits made the British Final. And that's where the World Title dream ended for Simmo. A few days before, he'd got smashed up in Germany.

"I'd had another good year and I felt confident again but my bike broke in half and I had broken and dislocated my shoulder. I had one arm and I'd spent three days with intensive treatment trying to get fit."

Malcolm was in heat 4 with Doug Wyer, John Louis and Bob Kilby. When the tapes went up, so did he, up and over.

"I couldn't hold on and went over. My shoulder never did work right again. I still can't lift high enough to change a lightbulb."

It was a tragic end to his Title hopes that year.

For the record, the World Final scorechart was; Ivan Mauger 14. Peter Collins 13. Ole Olsen 12. Mike Lee 12. Finn Thomsen 10. Bengt Jansson 9. Egon Muller 8. Anders Michanek 8. The only rider to beat Mauger was Thomsen in round two.

1978, yet again, Simmo and PC were neck & neck. The Internationale at Wimbledon saw them run-off for the Title along with John Davis. A magnificent win from the back for PC from Simmo. The World Pairs Final was held in Chorzow and Simmo who was paired with Gordon Kennett, took the Gold Medals beating Ivan Mauger in the run-off. Despite Ivan's hilarious shenanigans before the start.

Wembley would host the World Final and again, the dream was Mauger, Olsen, Collins, Simmons now joined by British Champion, Mike Lee as the main contenders. What could go wrong? 1976, Olsen out. 1977, Simmons out. 1978, Collins out!

A nightmare British Final with engine troubles saw the upset of the year. All the others got through and Simmo was right up for it.

"Everything was right, right up until the night. I know speedway riders have three bikes in the pits and they are usually all the same but warming up before the meeting, my best bike blew up, it just went bang, and really knocked me. My second bike was probably as good but it knocked me there and then for six. I had five mediocre rides. The Weslakes were going good that year and again I felt like I could win it but when it blew up in the pits it just got to me. A really strong character would have just gone out but it did me. I ran five seconds on a bike that was as good but I had my preference on what bike I wanted to ride. At the time, I was devasted, I felt my world had blown up with that engine."

So instead of five firsts and becoming Champion of the World, as he so very well could have been, Simmo had five seconds and scored ten points. Scorechart; Ole Olsen 13, Gordon Kennett 12, Scott Autrey 11, Dave Jessup 11, Jerzy Rembas 11, Malcolm Simmons 10, Mike Lee 9, Ivan Mauger 8.

That was Simmo's last World Final. And he wasn't alone with engine problems that night. Olsen was not happy in his first two rides while Mauger just wasn't up for it despite making the gate in four of his five heats. His motor was dying from the second he dropped the clutch in round one and had he not fallen, he'd have come home last. Dave Jessup had his famous engine failure well clear in round one and I will detail that next time. But Simmo had one bike blow before the start and his next bike was as he said, "probably as good." Would Mauger have been knocked the way Simmo was ? I doubt it. He'd have thrown a cover over it and got on with the task at hand.

Malcom Simmons did exactly what Ivan Mauger had told him to. Straightened up to fly right, and he did indeed become that World Title contender. So why didn't he win? I believe sabotage cost him a Gold Medal run-off with Collins, the result I wouldn't pick. Then injury cost him a shot. Finally, he shot himself. But let's not forget what a magnificent rider he was, a true 'Superstar'!

Simmo's 3 World Finals do not compare with Ivan's 14. But here is a mouth watering stat.

From their three clashes; Simmo 2, Ivan 1.

1975. Heat 2. Mauger, Simmons, T Jansson, Wilson.
1976. Heat 10. Simmons, Mauger, Autrey, Stancl.
1978. Heat 13. Jessup, Simmons, Stancl, Mauger.

He met Collins just twice and it's one all.

1975. Heat 20. Olsen, Simmons, Collins, Val Gordeev.
1976. Heat 7. Collins, Simmons, Louis, Rembas.

These last words are his,

"My achievements are as good as Peter's apart from winning one World Final."

 

This article was first published on 16th June 2024

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