Dream Team : Mark Eve
I first went to Speedway in the late-sixties at Waterden Road, home of my beloved Hackney Hawks. It was the start of a love affair that would continue until their demise, however since my first venture on that Friday night I have been hooked on this fantastic sport. Growing up in the London area meant I had the option to visit tracks such as Wimbledon, West Ham, Romford, Wembley, Crayford, etc. to feed my addiction. I have followed the Hawks around the country from Exeter to Sheffield and Poole to Cradley Heath, a lot of low's but you only remember the high's and there was enough of them.
A true professional who always used the track to his advantage. He always seemed to have the time to pass other riders, setting them up for a pass inside or out. His Wembley World Finals are proof of his greatness. Hackney was not his favourite track but his leadership whilst at Wolves and Coventry was always first class. He also nurtured a lot of young talent whilst at those teams.
All grace and power, a top rider who bullied his way to the front during races, never reckless just raw power. His clashes with Olsen at the Daily Express Spring Classic are legendary. I see a lot of him in the great Tony Rickardsson he never knew when he was beaten. If he had stayed in the sport he would have been a truely great superstar.
One of the greatest natural riders I have had the privilege to see. He is poetry in motion, stylish, smooth and totally professional. I have followed him from his early days at Poole and watched him blossom into one of the finest riders in the sport. He may be destined never to win the big one, but for me he will always be the "Big One". His manoeuvres and passing in and out of the bends are of the highest calibre and worth the admission alone.
We traditionally opened our season at Hackney with the fixture against Kings Lynn and more often than not it was Betts 12 points (Maximum). He was one of the smoothest riders of his day. No fuss, just wait for the tapes and bang he was gone. Even his passing was class he just rode passed you. I believe he should have achieved more and never got the credit he deserved - an honest professional.
The most exciting rider of his era, the memories of his blasts around the boards are too numerous to mention, he never gave an inch and never knew when he was beaten. Richly deserved his World crown and would have had many more but for injuries and that ability to miss a start when he didn't want to!!! His all action style is now copied by the likes of Crump, Jonsson, Harris, Nicholls, etc, some legacy!
If only this man had obtained good machinery he would have won the World title. His style was rough and powerful, his commitment first class, he was pure entertainment in almost every race. There was never first bend bunching at Hackney when Zenon was in the race he had the ability to create a large gap from nothing and leave the opposition in his wake. Poor machinery may dim the memory of him but it will never fade.
Hackney "LEGEND" Thommo embodied everything good about Hackney, and speedway in general. Another Hawk saddled with machinery gremlins, he still gave 110% in every race and what races, his blast around Mauger and Autrey to deny them the title and win the meeting will never be forgotten! Two testimonials, what a loyal servant. He will always be Mr Hackney for me!
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This article was first published on 21st February 2008
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