Ivan Mauger and The CZ Golden Helmet. Zlata Prilba.
If the World Final was tennis' Wimbledon, The Pardubice staged CZ Golden Helmet [ Zlata Prilba ] was The French Open. Pete Sampras won 7 Wimbledons but never won the French Open. Ivan Mauger won 6 World Finals and he never won the CZ Golden Helmet. One bloke told me that Ivan never won it because "he was not interested in it !".
This guy was THE hardest 'Mauger is god' fanatic I have ever met. He suffered from 'Mauger blindness' and could not live with the fact that his hero did not ever win this amazing race. He was and maybe still is one of those who actually believe the nonsense that, 'Mauger won everything there was to win' and that , 'if Mauger did not win it, it was not worth winning'. If anyone questions the importance of this meeting on the Speedway calendar, ask Jason Doyle, winner of the 2018 Helmet for his opinion. Lets do Ivan's Zlata Prilba history.
1967 saw Ivan's first appearance. It was September 10, less than a week before the World Final. Rain did its best to dampen proceedings but this, ofcourse was no problem for Ivan who safely qualified for the 6 man, 6 lap Grand Final. Result;
Ove Fundin, Barry Briggs, Antonin Kasper, Leif Enecrona, Eddie Reeves, IVAN MAUGER.
1968 saw Ivan as World Speedway Champion and eager to lift the Grand Prize. October 20 was the late staging because of the political situation in the country. For those who don't know, Google 'Prague Spring'. Again, Ivan makes the Grand Final, only to loop the gate and be excluded. The re-run saw the crash that claimed the life of Lubos Tomicek. Result;
Leif Enecrona, Ove Fundin, Frantisek Ledecky, Jaroslav Volf fall. Lubos Tomicek fall. IVAN MAUGER ex.
1969. Double World Champion he may have been, but on October 5, the fog at Gatwick airport could not have cleared less ! [ get it ? haha ] Well I thought it was funny. Yes, Ivan, Barry Briggs, Freddie Timmo and Eddie Reeves were fog bound. Eventually, they got airborne but by the time they got all the way to Pardubice, it was all over. Meeting organizers had done their best to delay the start but ran out of time. Grand Final result;
Gennadi Kurilenko, Valeri Klementiev, Miloslav Verner, Garry Middleton, Jan Holub, Leif Enecrona.
1970 and on September 27, the now triple World Champion was red-hot favourite. Making the Grand Final was no problem but his lightning gate technique went AWOL and he was unable to recover. Result;
Ole Olsen, Miloslav Verner, Vladimir Gordeev, IVAN MAUGER, Hans Jurgen Fritz, Valeri Klementiev.
1971. September 19 sees the new World Champion, Ole Olsen win his second Helmet, after surviving a shocker first turn that spelled the end for Ivan. He gated alongside Olsen only for Hans Jurgen Fritz from the inside to take them all out. By the time Ivan recovered, he was well out of it. Result;
Ole Olsen, Jim Airey, Hans Jurgen Fritz, Vaclav Verner, IVAN MAUGER, Milan Spinka.
1972. October 1 and Ivan goes to into the meeting as 4 times World Champion. World number 3, Olsen goes with him but sadly missing was Barry Briggs, recovering after that Wembley World Final disaster. In the Grand Final, Olsen did not put a foot wrong and held off every one of Ivan's persistent challenges over the 6 laps. Result;
Ole Olsen, IVAN MAUGER, Georgi Ivanov, Milan Spinka, Jan Holub. Jiri Stancl fall.
1973. Helmet number 25 was fought for on September 23. Ivan had lost his World Title at Chorzow, beaten twice by Polish star Jerzy Szczakiel and the World number 2 was desperate for this Golden masterpiece. He arrived with fellow Kiwis Barry Briggs and Dave Gifford. Also his Exeter team mate, Scott Autrey. Ivan safely qualified for the Grand Final but along with Ole Olsen was outgated by CZ ace, Milan Spinka and Russian Georgi Ivanov. Spinka did everything right but Ivanov stuffed it on the last bend. Olsen avoided the carnage as did Mauger but Spinka was the worthy winner. Result;
Milan Spinka, Ole Olsen, IVAN MAUGER, Jiri Stancl, Jan Verner. Georgi Ivanov fall.
1974. Ivan had an interesting season, winner of the New Zealand Championship, the Brandonapolis and he captained Exeter to win the British League. But in the World Speedway Final, he was 2nd to Anders Michanek and in the World Longtrack Final on the same weekend, he was 2nd again, this time to Egon Muller. Later in the BLRC, again it was 2nd, behind Peter Collins. This years Zlata Prilba was his best shot of the 70s because Ole Olsen was injured and unable to ride. It was September 22 and more good news for Ivan came when Milan Spinka failed to qualify for the Grand Final. If you have a copy of the Barry Briggs book, 'Trackin with Briggo', pages 32 & 33 capture the Grand Final in all it's glory. And it's all on you-tube. This was Ivan's surely ! Especially as he made the gate. But he was not in the lead for long as Russian World Finalist Mikhail Krasnov stormed ahead. Ivan then found himself in a battle with Jiri Stancl and Viktor Kalmykov. His experience and determination paid off successfully and he regained the lead from Krasnov who was later forced out with engine failure as was Kalmykov. Ivan had the lead into the last turn but Stancl found the grip he needed to steal himself for the pass that would snatch victory on the run to the flag. Result;
Jiri Stancl, IVAN MAUGER, Georgi Ivanov, Vaclav Verner. Mikhail Krasnov ef. Viktor Kalmykov ef.
1975. Could anyone stop Ole Olsen ? He had won the Internationale and was unbeaten at the Wembley World Final. Busting to make up for last years disappointment, the World Champion went to Pardubice on October 5, all the more fired up. He and Ivan had no trouble making the Grand Final along with last years winner, Jiri Stancl. Ivan's fans jumped for joy when he made the gate but going into the third lap, Ole pounced and Ivan's dream went bye bye baby ! Result;
Ole Olsen, IVAN MAUGER, Jiri Stancl, Edward Jancarz, Jan Klokocka, Jan Hadek.
Could Ole go on to win the BLRC as well ? Sadly, we will never know as the death of his close friend Gary Peterson saw him a non starter.
1976. October 3 and the 'Big 3', Olsen, Mauger and Stancl all safely qualify for the Grand Final. A power blackout meant it would be a white flag start. Vaclav Verner was first away but Olsen was quick to change that. Then Mauger took over and the crowd went wild as the two giants swapped the lead. Did the two get lost in their personal battle ? Jiri Stancl stalked the pair and made his move on the third lap. He picked off Mauger then Olsen and it was all over. Result;
Jiri Stancl, Ole Olsen, IVAN MAUGER, Vaclav Verner, Jan Klokocka, Ales Dryml.
So Ivan was on the podium five years straight. Just never as winner. That situation could not stay that way, surely ?!
1977 and Ivan was now 5 times the Speedway Champion of the World. Exactly one month later on October 2, he found himself in the same conditions having to prepare for another wet one. But the skies did clear and despite a rare engine failure, Ivan got to the Grand Final, yet again with Olsen and Stancl. Tapes up and Olsen shot into the lead with Ivan right behind him. Stancl then took care of the World Champion and Ales Dryml followed suit. Result;
Ole Olsen, Jiri Stancl, Ales Dryml, IVAN MAUGER, Petr Ondrasik, Barry Briggs.
1978. Not a happy trip for Ivan who found himself ill on October 1. He took his place but was in no condition, failing to qualify even for the Consolation Final. As for the Grand Final, the now 3 time World Champion Ole Olsen was outdone as was British Champion Mike Lee. See it on You-tube, magic ! Result;
Jiri Stancl, Mike Lee, Ole Olsen, John Davis, Emil Sova, Vaclav Verner.
1979. Fifty years since the first ever Zlata Prilba and on September 30, bright sunshine welcomed all the fans, guests and riders. And the now 6 times World Speedway Champion, Ivan Mauger lined up as one of the red-hot favourites with Ole Olsen, Mike Lee and Jiri Stancl. However, Ivan failed to qualify. He did however win the Consolation Final from Petr Ondrasik, Ales Dryml, Emil Sova, Milan Spinka and Larry Ross. The Grand Final saw Mitch Shirra away first but quickly taken by Mike Lee, who held the lead for two laps before Ole Olsen did what he did best. Result;
Ole Olsen, Mike Lee, Jiri Stancl, John Davis, Mitch Shirra, Lillebror Johansson.
1980. Not such a happy year for Ivan, troubled by ill health much of the time and failing to qualify for the World Final after 14 consecutive appearances. So he lined up at Pardubice on Sept 28, hoping for a Golden change. Alas, [ Wor lass ? What's she been up to now ? ] it was not to be. After problems aplenty, he got to the Grand Final only to be well last coming out of the first turn and he pulled out. Result;
Ole Olsen, Ales Dryml, Bobby Schwartz, Jiri Stancl, Zdenek Kudrna, IVAN MAUGER nf.
1981. This as it turned out would have been Ivan's last shot at the Golden Helmet. However, 7 days before the start, he got shockingly injured at the World Longtrack Final. And that was that!
On September 27, with Ole Olsen failing to qualify for the Grand Final, Jiri Stancl proved yet again his mastery for the 6 man, 6 lap marathon. Result;
Jiri Stancl, Ales Dryml, Viktor Kuznetsov, Toni Kasper, Dennis Sigalos, Mike Lee.
Jiri Stancl got his 5th Helmet in 1982. Dennis Sigalos winning in 1983 and John Davis in 1984. Ole Olsen's record of that staggering 7 wins, survives to this day. Jiri Stancl 5, Leigh Adams 4, Tony Rickardsson 3. As for Ivan Mauger, from the 13 years he was able to attend, he made 11 Grand Finals. 3 times 2nd & twice 3rd. Was he bothered ? OH YES !!! See if you can find mention of it in his book, 'The Will to Win'. It is there, honest.
I do hope you have enjoyed this insight into one of Speedway's 'Grand Slam' events that somehow eluded THE greatest rider of the 70s. For me, it adds to the magic of his career, just like the Pete Sampras analogy.
For those who see this as 'Mauger bashing', yes, I get accused of that now and again, [ NEVAAA ! ]there is a cure for 'Mauger blindness'. It's called opening your eyes and minds to realize that Ivan was never an unbeatable, superhuman god. He was a human being who like all of us, made mistakes but what he did in the Speedway World was magic ! His focus was second to none and his professionalism transformed the sport. To that memory, I salute the man ! Thank you linesmen, thank you ball-boys. Oh hang on, ya canna say that these days man ...
This article was first published on 6th January 2019
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