New Zealand and the World Team Cup 1986 and Beyond
A revamped World Team Cup saw a GP system with countries split into groups, A - B - C - D. The A team was Denmark, USA, England and Sweden who had fought for the Cup in the 85 Final. There was meant to be a round in each country but the Yanks didn't want it. Apart from the die hard fans, who would pay to see it? So after rounds in Sweden, Denmark and England, the Danish defenders had no problem retaining their Title. The series was a disaster with attendances telling the FIM, they had goofed horrendously! The Yanks got it right for once.
NEW ZEALAND was in group C. MITCH SHIRRA didn't want to know and BRUCE CRIBB was sadly missed.
TREVOR REDMOND was able to assemble a squad thanks to DEREK MCKAY being on holiday, his only experience being back in Kiwiland. ALAN MASON came out of retirement to join CRIBBY at Exeter so he was able to join the team in August. Here is how it all went down;
June 22, Lonigo, Italy.
August 10, Tampere, Finland.
September 7, Debrecen, Hungary.
Without being able to guarantee a team, NEW ZEALAND was out of the competition. LARRY ROSS had retired from the British League. BRUCE CRIBB was injured. That still left MITCH SHIRRA, DAVID BARGH, ALAN MASON and MARK LYNDON. Would have been a great experience to get a run. But would MITCH have shown up?
Oh yes, Denmark won the Gold medals.
The competition returned to a one off Final and NEW ZEALAND were back in the competition. DAVID BARGH was unable to ride in the British League so being stuck at home in Kiwiland, his replacement was ALAN RIVETT. Born in NZ, ALAN was riding for Australia but was talked into representing NZ. [ He would join MITCH SHIRRA in the World Pairs Championship. ] So the KIWIS travelled to Wiener Neustadt, Austria for their Group D round on April 10.
1st Austria 41.
A very encouraging result and while that was their one and only round, it put NZ back on the table and set them up for a place in next year's competition.
1988 World Team Cup Final. Long Beach. California. USA. September 10.
For the Danes, this was their sixth win in succession. But again, I didn't mind this one. Denmark for the second time defeating the Yanks on their home ground. Wiping the smile of Ronald McDonald's face. You want fries with that?
Again, DAVID BARGH was at home, forced out of British League action. But NZ could still front a team for their 2 rounds; March 30. Shumen, Bulgaria and May 17, Elgane, Norway.
MITCH SHIRRA, GARY ALLAN, MARK THORPE, MARK LYNDON and SPENCER TIMMO were all headed to Britain. Maybees it could work? Maybees not though. When NEW ZEALAND failed to arrive in Bulgaria, they were expelled from the Norway round.
1989 World Team Cup Final. Bradford. UK. September 17.
At last, the Danish domination was over. But nobody wanted it to end like this. The career of Erik Gundersen was over. His first heat crash, that very nearly killed him, was so horrendous, the sustained injuries meant he would never ride again.
No place for a KIWI side this year. That was a shame as DAVID BARGH was back in British League action. MITCH SHIRRA, MARK THORPE, GARY ALLAN, MARK LYNDON and SPENCER TIMMO were all in the UK. No shortage of talent there! Just nowhere to put, again.
1990 World Team Cup Final. Pardubice. CZ. September 16.
1991, 1992 and 1993 saw NEW ZEALAND left to wander in the World Team Cup wilderness. Then things changed. The World Pairs Championship was given the axe to make room on the International calendar for the Individual World Speedway Championship GP. So for 1994, the World Team Cup stayed but the system was changed to three man teams, using the Pairs format.
The countries that had been at the previous years World Team Cup Final, USA, Denmark, Sweden and England were all seeded to this years Final in Germany along with the hosts. Seven teams would fight for the last two available places from the Semi Final at Wroclaw, Poland. The KIWI team was MITCH SHIRRA, TONY BRIGGS and reserve MARK THORPE. Yes, that's the same TONY BRIGGS from the 1981 campaign. Sadly, TONY was again injured and unable to take his place. Here's how it went;
1994 World Team Cup Semi Final. Wroclaw. Poland. September 4.
Oh dear. Not a happy day! But at least they were there and gave it a go.
The World Team Cup Final was held at Brokstedt on September 18. Sweden winning from Poland and Denmark.
The KIWI team of MARK THORPE, SPENCER TIMMO and reserve TONY BRIGGS, would have to qualify this time for the Semi Final, from a round in Krsko, Slovenia on July 2, where only first and second would progress. This time, TIMMO was out and BRIGGO got to ride. At the end of the day, the scorechart read;
1st Norway 26. 2nd Ukraine 22. 3rd Slovenia 22. 4th Austria 17. 5th Latvia 16.
Well, it was a step in the right direction.
At the World Cup Final at Bydgoszcz on September 24, Denmark won from England and the USA.
NEW ZEALAND were booked in for a round at Prelog in Croatia on June 2. But again, it was a case of NEW ZEALAND - NO START. No names were printed in the programme. It would have been a case of whoever shows up. Apparently, no-one did.
And that was the last time a KIWI team was booked in for the World Team Cup.
In 2001, the competition became The Speedway World Cup, racing for The Ove Fundin Trophy. NEW ZEALAND has never been entered. Will we ever be? I can't see it but I have been wrong before. True man!
This article was first published on 12th March 2017
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