The speedway world is in mourning following the passing of the great Ivan Mauger, six times World Champion and voted Speedway Star magazine's "Man of the Millennium" in 1999.
As you would expect, Ivan has been mentioned many hundreds of times on this website over the years. By way of tribute, here are some of the comments the great man inspired:
"Although a lifelong West Ham fan, and subsequently one of Hackney when the Hammers closed, Mauger was the epitome of skill, class and guile. Has there really ever been a rider to come close to him before or since?"
"Ivan was my king well before joining Exeter. Before that happened I was reading the Daily Express on the lounge floor one day when headline.....Mauger signs for Exeter. I couldn't believe it! Like George Best signing for Exeter City. I am and still are a staunch City fan, but the thing is in those days we had a speedway club competing at the highest level with household names appearing most weeks which was so exciting."
"It was in the summer of 1974 and my cousin who I was staying with during school holidays said "let's go to speedway". I didn't have a clue what that was but that changed real fast the second the first race started! Ivan Mauger in his green and white leathers just inches from where I stood behind the steel fence and I was hooked! What a way to start going to speedway as Exeter won the league that year and Ivan was the world's greatest."
"My all time hero, I remember Ivan going about ten weeks at home without dropping a point until he was beaten by a young Hackney Hawk number one...Colin Pratt. He was beaten shortly afterwards by a Wolverhampton rider...Peter Jarman. I went to Wembley in 1966 to see Ivan win the European Championship and it is the only time I have come out of Wembley a winner as six trips there with Newcastle United have produced nothing!!!"
"Although I only remember the later part of his career, it was always great when he came to town with his Green + White leathers with Exeter. I remember once when Exeter arrived, every rider had their bikes on the back of cars, Ivan turned up in a van and all his bikes were gleaming. I once had a picture taken with Ivan and the Golden Bike but sadly I lost it. Possibly the first rider to ever dominate the sport in a certain era and averaged 11.74 in one league season. World Champion at 39 to record a record sixth title at a time when a host of new stars were breaking through."
"My wife's choice because of his looks. My choice because of his skill. When Ivan, Peter, Ole and Ove won the championship you had to beat everybody. The modern champion could theoretically win without winning a single race. Lets' go back to the old way."
"Quite simply the greatest rider that I have ever had the pleasure to watch - the ultimate professional who dragged the sport up by its bootlaces in the early 70's. Always immaculately turned out leathers and equipment. I always loved those green & white fringed leathers when he was racing for Exeter. As good as Rickardsson obviously was I still feel that he was some way short of Ivan's all round ability, professionalism and mental toughness."
"Simply magic. So very professional. Speedway's king of all time."
"Quite simply, the greatest rider I ever had the pleasure of watching."
"I used to be at Hull Vikings every week but I was a big fan of Ivan before he come to ride for us. I was over the moon a few years ago when he saw me & recognized me! The same when he turned up at Craven Park one Wednesday night in Hull. Ivan Mauger will ALWAYS be my Speedway Idol."
"Nobody compared with Ivan during my time at Newcastle but there is an aspect of his career that is never mentioned, probably because he achieved so much as an individual rider and that is that he was a very good team man and didn't just ride for himself. I partnered Ivan for a season or two, nobody else wanted to because it was so hard to pick up bonus points but in truth as long as you made a reasonable gate he would take care of things and I always considered myself lucky to ride with him. Another thing about Ivan that most people won't know about is how unselfish he was when it came to the choice of gates, he had enough confidence in himself on many occasions to take the worst gate even when it was his turn to pick."
"I remember the buzz around town whenever Ivan Mauger was coming to town, he was almost unbeatable around Dudley Wood and virtually everywhere he went. I also saw him win his sixth and final World title in Poland in 1979."
"Easily the greatest of all time, we loved to hate him but he was fantastic to watch. I actually met him at a race meeting in Melbourne and he was a real nice guy."
"I saw him many times at Edinburgh when he was a 'Diamond' and in retrospect it was blatantly obvious even then he was going to the very top. Usually won his races by around a quarter of a lap unless against the top men when it was only by 30 yards! Probably the best ambassador the sport has ever had. An entertainer in the way that Steve Davis was at his peak i.e. so good that you wanted to see him beaten just to know he was human!"
"Most people are destined never to meet their sporting heroes. I'm not one of them. It's now over thirty years since I met Ivan Mauger, at that time the 4 times World Speedway Champion, at a function organised in aid of the then ailing Paisley Lions, and the memory of meeting him when I was but a boy remains with me today, when my hairline is getting closer to the Bobby Charlton sweepover look, while my waistline these days is a toss up between a Barum and a Dunlop round the middle. Certain events in your life are never forgotten, and the night I met my all time speedway hero, a legend in every sense, is right up there with any other event in my life!"
"The ultimate professional of his era, immaculate equipment and dedication....Rode his luck a little for his fourth, and sixth world crowns, but still should be seen as the greatest of all time."
"Clearly the most dominant rider every to appear in British Speedway, one year he was unbeaten until June, dropped only 5 points all season and 3 were an engine failure - simply the best."
"The all-time best rider, you can name any speedway rider you want past and present and Ivan would still be the number one and captain of the team, that is unquestionable. Pure genius on a speedway bike!"
"If greatness is measured by success, I think you would hard pressed to argue any case against Ivan Mauger. Six world titles is pretty fabulous in itself, but Ivan's carer was about so much more than just amassing those six world championships. He also won world long track titles, pairs, & a WTC title for New Zealand, who had no real right to win it & wouldn't have but for Mauger. He also turned Belle Vue from also rans into multi title winners & then turned Exeter from chumps into champs with a mediocre team & almost did the same to unfashionable Hull. he was a legend as a leader of men, a man who turned team riding into an art form, he also brought the best out of those around him & turned average riders into title winners by instilling belief into them. He thought of everything, it is well documented that when he joined Exeter in 1973, of all his talks over his joining, less than 10% of those discussions centred around money. He left nothing to chance, machinery, management, team mates, travel, fitness, mental strength, the list is endless."
"I have to have Ivan at the top as I grew up with him staying at our house every time he was in London and got to see the way he was on and off the track. The ultimate professional and the catalyst for so many things that go on in the sport now. Superb captain and team man."
"Simply the best speedway rider there has ever been. Pioneered the way for speedway to become a major sporting attraction. Poetry in motion, fast gating and totally balanced, a real professional who could cope with any pressure."
"Amongst many things he was the man who introduced the modern level of professionalism to the sport. Arguably he was not a born natural but this was more than compensated for by the levels of application that he practised. Documentation of such things as gearing, tyre pressures, carburettor jetting and ignition timing settings used at every track were common place in his world. No one has bettered his total of six individual Word Titles."
This article was first published on 16th April 2018
"Wiithout doubt THE greatest speedway rider I have ever had the privilege to see. Even though we all had the pleasure of booing him as youngsters, he grew with us, and as adults we came to appreciate his professionalism and determination. Never to be equalled, it would be fascinating today to see him mix it with the elite. One wonders, what would existing track records stand at today with the likes of Mauger around. Thank you for the fantastic memories Ivan, rest in peace."
"In no way do I dispute that Ivan Mauger was a great rider, However, how does one evaluate any rider as the 'greatest ever'? Certainly he was a leading figure in the late 1960s going into the 1970s. But how can one judge him against others who over the years have also won the 'greatest ever' acclaim.
In the early pioneer days we had riders like Vic Huxley, Lloyd 'Sprouts' Elder moving on into the 1930s with trackman like Tom Farndon, 'Bluey' Wilkinson, Jack Milne, while the post-war era saw the domination at one stage of Vic Duggan along with Jack Parker, Jack Young. And so the eras go on.
The 1950s and 1960s had Ove Fundin, Ronnie Moore, Barry Briggs especially the forefront. And in their times all had the 'greatest ever' tag. Currently there is justified acclaim for the late Ivan Mauger. But with no disrespect was he better rider than for example Vic Huxley?
The unfortunate thing is we can never know how Huxley would have fared in modern times, with modern bikes, and modern track conditions. Alternatively, how would Mauger have fared with the bikes of the late 1920 s and early 1930s, racing on deep cinder tracks. We will never know. Nor how a Huxley-Mauger match race would have resulted.
I am of the opinion that speedway has provided 'greatest' riders of its varying and much changing eras and in their own timespan justified in recognition as the greatest of that period. But speedway aka dirt track racing has over the past 90 plus years evolved so much, greatest-ever riders (if such is the correct definition-can only be judged within their own era. And on that basis I do recognise Ivan Mauger as being the greatest rider of the years when he was engaged at the highest level in modern speedway."
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