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Riders to Remember: Ivan Miller
By Tracy Holmes

Speedway Star reports on Ivan's UK Arrival

When I was young, I remember going to motocross events in New Zealand and being in awe of Ivan Miller and Peter Ploen. They were in a different class to all the others and stood out as such. Well, as a Star-Struck teenager, that's what I thought at the time.

A favourite YouTube clip for me is, 'Let Suzuki Blow Your Mind'. Ivan doing his thing with some members of NZ band Split Enz playing the music. I'm told it is definitely Tim Finn doing the singing. Just watch Ivan being as breath-taking as the scenery, an advertisement from 1973. If you search google for him, you can see all the relevant info on his motocross career.

Cross referencing different sources, [ I haven't a clue what I just typed ] and checking history books and sites, you can hopefully get an accurate picture. He was NZ motocross champion in 1967/68, 250 and 350 classes. That season, he also rode in Australia and from 1969, the UK. In 1971 he won two Australian Championships, the 500cc and the unlimited class pushing the UK's Randy Owen to second and Australian Gary Flood to third. The 71/72 season saw him winner of the OZ/NZ International series.

I remember reading in a Speedway Star, that I was able to get from the second-hand bookshop, a few weeks after the events, that he had signed to ride for Rayleigh in '72. This had come about after 2nd halves at Wimbledon and Hackney. Len Silver was suitably impressed. I eagerly awaited his meeting results. Here they are now;

V Teeside. May 27.
A pre-match selector race for 2nd reserve, result; T Stone, N Rackett, MILLER, P Claridge.

V Canterbury. May 29.
Heat 2. T Barnwell [R], M Vernam [C], B Hughs [C], MILLER ef
Heat 8. R Gilbertson [C], D Brown [R], T Hubbard [C]. MILLER fall

V Boston. June 17. Speedway Express KO Cup. Round 2, Second leg.
Heat 2. T Beech [R], J Bywater [B], MILLER, R Bales [B]
Heat 8. MILLER, A Price [B], T Featherstone [B]. D Brown [R] ret
Heat 11. R Osborne [B], A Emmett [R], MILLER. A Price [B] fall

V Ellesmere Port. June 24.
Heat 2. C Goad [EP], C Blythe [EP], T Stone [R]. MILLER ret
Heat 4. D Brown [R], C Goad [EP], G Drury [EP], MILLER
Heat 8. MILLER, C Goad [EP], P Claridge [R], G Pusey [EP]
Heat 11. P Tyrer [EP], MILLER, D Brown [R], C Goad [EP

V Birmingham. July 1.
Heat 2. MILLER, T Barnwell [R], M Lanham [B], R Homer [B]
Heat 8. D Brown [R], G Major [B], MILLER. T Shearer [B] ex
Heat 11. MILLER, A Emmett [R], T Shearer [B]. A Browning [B] ef
Heat 12. B Foote [R], G Major [B], M Lanham [B], MILLER

V Berwick. July 15.
Heat 2. MILLER, T Barnwell [R], A Brady [B], G Jones [B]
Heat 8. D Brown [R], A Brady [B], MILLER. D Templeton [B] fall
Heat 11. MILLER, D Templeton [B], B Foote [R]. G Jones [B] f/ex

V Ellesmere Port. July 18.
Heat 2. C Francis [EP], I Gills [EP], T Barnwell [R], MILLER
Heat 6. P Tyrer [EP], C Blythe [EP], B Foote [R], MILLER

V Hull. July 22.
Heat 2. T Barnwell [R], D Wasden [H], MILLER, B Hornby [H]
Heat 8. D Wasden [H], MILLER, P Boston [H]. D Brown [R] fall
Heat 11. T Childs [H], B Foote [R], P Boston [H]. MILLER fall

V Sunderland. Aug 5.
Heat 2. T Beech [R], P Wrathall [S], J Wells [S], MILLER
Heat 8. B Foote [R], G Barclay [S], MILLER, J Wells [S]

And that was it. Why? "I hated it, just thought I would give it a go. Too dangerous for me. Couldn't really get to grips with it and realized that motocross was where I was happiest at."

NZ 72/73 season. Imagine my excitement when the Gisborne Motorcycle Club announced a motocross event featuring Ivan Miller. The day was magic, he won all his races, was presented with the trophy by Dr Peter Eccles-Smith and yes, I got his autograph.

Ivan's career continued as did his success. In the 1970s, he rode in the UK and Europe and was a member of the 1975 British team in the Motocross des Nations. He won the 76/77 NZ 500 cc Champs and was winner of the NZ A grade Open Class 77/78, 79/80, 80/81. Also riding in the USA and Canada.

If Speedway was the night sky, Ivan Miller was one of those shooting stars that flashed across and disappeared just as quick. But he gave it a good go. "Sure did!"

70s New Zealand Speedway had Ivan Mauger. 70s New Zealand Motocross had Ivan Miller. And I've an emoji for this Ivan Thriller!

 

This article was first published on 7th June 2022

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