New Zealand and the World Team Cup 1978
With a first round date of Sunday, May 21, it was a definite "no" for an appearance of IVAN MAUGER. The venue was Reading and here is what the reigning World Champion had to say,
"Promoters are adopting a dictatorial attitude. Sunday is my day but the thing which annoys me is that some of those shouting the loudest about me not riding were the instigators in having me thrown out of the team in 1973. It's not a question of money. An article in the Reading programme suggested I should be prepared to ride for the honour of my country. But do the promoters stage the meetings on Sundays for the honour of their country? Of course not. They switched the meeting to Sundays because they reckon on bigger crowds, more money through the gate and into their pockets. I'll ride for the honour of my country if they will let the public in for no more money than it costs them to stage the meeting."
There was good news for NEW ZEALND however when at the start of the year, MITCH SHIRRA cashed in on his NZ citizenship, jumped the ditch and chose to be a KIWI. It seemed to do him the world of good as he won the Australasian Final at Western Springs in February. 'Speedway Star' printed that the NZ team would be; LARRY ROSS, BRUCE CRIBB, MITCH SHIRRA, MIKE FULLERTON and GRAEME STAPLETON the reserve. Sadly, FULLY was out with injury. The programme for the day had ROSS, CRIBB, SHIRRA, STAPLETON with ROGER ABEL as reserve. On the day, with TREVOR REDMOND in command, ABEL had replaced STAPLETON and the reserve was now CLIFF ANDERSON.
This round also had a new look. Scotland had been kicked out of the competition. The USA taking their place. Bert Harkins had this to say,
"It had to happen I suppose but it's still very disappointing. What does seem wrong is a system which contracts the sport rather than allows for expansion. But if I'm perfectly honest, I don't see how America or New Zealand can guarantee five riders for a UK round any more than Scotland can."
This sure was a disgrace. Scotland had as much right to be in the competition as any other country involved. One could not help think that it was all about names, glitz and glamour. Oh dear ...
So came the day. The defending World Team Champions England took on NEW ZEALAND, Australia and the USA. First and second would now go to a new round, the Intercontinental Final in June. Now to the action;
Heat 1. Simmons, SHIRRA, Curoso, Sanders.
1st England 43
2nd Australia 21
3rd USA 20
4th NEW ZEALAND 12
A stroll down the lane for England. Jessup's duck in heat 10 being their only trip along the way. Their strength in depth was massive in the fact that, Mike Lee had been selected but injury caused him to miss the action. Gordon Kennett stepped up from reserve and KAPOW!!! Australia did what they set out to do and qualified but my goodness, they made heavy work of it. John Titman at reserve was their saviour.
The Yanks failed at the last set of hurdles apart from Autrey's win, bringing them to within one point of the Diggers. And the kiwis, as usual, fought hard with little to show for it. But, at least they were there!
England safely made it to the World Team Cup Final, from the Intercontinental Final at Belle Vue. They were joined by Denmark. Australia suffered an 'Ocker shocker', trailing home last behind Sweden. Later in September;
1978 World Team Cup Final. Landshut. West Germany.
Ole Olsen had won his third World Final and now his year was made extra Golden by leading his team to thump the Poms, 37 points to 27. And in Hans Nielsen, scoring 11 out of 12, a Superstar was born. Much to the Dane's delight, it was their first ever win in the World Team Cup and the start of something huge.
This article was first published on 5th January 2017
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