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Speedway Memories
By Nick Nicolaides

I'll introduce myself. Nick Nicolaides of Southern California. I have been in So. California since 1927.

After I was discharged from the Marine Corp in 1947 I went to school on the GI Bill. I started racing motorcycles at 5H Ranch track in Sunvalley, Calif., in 1948, just north of Burbank, Calif. In a rather short period of time I progressed enough to get a sponsor, Bud White Motorcycles in Glendale CA. Bud was a dealer for Frank Cooper who was the So. Cal. distributor for AJS and Matchless motorcycles.

Bud had a '1930 a something' version JAP Speedway bike. Early in the season of 1949 he finally let me try the bike at Lincoln Park Speedway in East LA. I raced there every week and had the luxury of competing with some of the best riders in the world. Jack and Cordy Milne, Lammy Lamaerux and Jimmy Gibb.

In 1950 I won the Championship in speedway at Lincoln Park. After the season and during the winter Jack Milne corresponded with Ronnie Green, the promoter at Wimbledon, England. The two of them and with the help of Paddy O'Donaugh in Dublin Ireland created a sponsorship for the American Team to ride at Shellbourne Speedway in Dublin, Ire. for the 1951 season.

The American team members were: Nick Nicolaides, Captain, Ernie Roccio, Johnny Roccio, Johnny Gibson, Roy Andreas, Lloyd Campbell, Royal Carroll Jr. and Don Hawley. Rather early in the season Royal Carroll quit and went back home. Manuel Trujillo, a drag legger came over and took Royal's place on the team. Shortly thereafter Roy Andreas called it quits. Jimmy Gibb came over and took Roy's place in the line up. Then we had a good competitive team.

We raced every Sunday afternoon at Shelbourne Park Speedway right to the very end of the season. During that 6 month long regular season we only lost to the visiting team two times. During the week we would race at various tracks in England. We raced on all division tracks, first, second and third. Of course every track was new to us and some tracks had some peculiar designs that unless you were familiar with them you would have some difficulty getting around.

Aldershot was like a tear drop, a nice big sweeping turn at one end and a dead sharp hairpin at the other end. The captain of Aldershot was Trevor Redmond and he told us about that sharp turn before the races started. But every one of us tried to go in too fast and would over shoot the turn. Trevor was a great competitor and a wonderful individual.

Cardiff was another track that required special techniques. It was a nice large track with high banked turns. To do well at Cardiff your racing path needed to be the shape of an American football. and if your rear wheel didn't hit the fence when you turned to go the other direction you probably weren't doing very well. It was a large track and a very fast ride and four laps would have you breathing heavily in no time.

 

This article was first published on 14th April 2013


 

  • Brian Buck:

    "Very interesting recollections. I remember he American team coming to the Perry Barr track in Birmingham that season when although they were well beaten, they put up a good performance and their team included plenty of colourful personalities. Birmingham wanted to sign Ernie Roccio and he took part in a number of second half races before he encountered a problem with the immigration board and had to return to the USA. Apparently, he needed a work permit to ride in this country and didn't have one and was riding supposedly as an amateur whilst on "holiday." By the time the issue was resolved, Wimbledon moved in an got him to sign for them. Sadly, Ernie later lost his life in a crash at West Ham. "

  • Richard Hodgson:

    "Great article which ended rather suddenly. I hope this indicates that it is just part 1 of a series. I saw Nick riding for Wimbledon at Bristol on 23rd March 1951 alongside the Roccio brothers."

  • John Hyam:

    "Re: Ernie Roccio, Birmingham and Wimbledon: It was in 1950 that Birmingham and Wimbledon were in the chase to sign Ernie Roccio. He arrived in the UK on the same boat as another American, Bud Reda, who rode second-halfs at Wimbledon and other UK tracks, and also briefly in Ireland at Shelbourne Park, and in Holland. There was a 1950 dispute between Wimbledon and Birmingham in regard to Roccio. It culminated in him being refused permission to race in the UK and returning to the USA. Wimbledon eventually won the chase for his signature after they were granted the Ministry of Labour permit to use him.

    When the Shelbourne Park-based USA team raced in the UK in 1951, Roccio was already an established member of the Wimbledon team and I doubt very much if Birmingham would then be able to have signed him. I was delighted to see Nick Nicholaides' article on the 1951 USA team which raced in the UK. Some years ago he co-operated with me when I wrote an article on Ernie Roccio for 'Classic Speedway'. Unfortunately, I then lost contact with Nick. I was very pleased to see that he is still around."

  • Brandon Roccio:

    "Very interesting. Jonny Roccio is my Grandfather and Ernie Roccio is my great uncle. As they, and many of their friends have long passed, information has been difficult to obtain about their racing careers. If anyone has any information or photos I would be exptremely appreciative if we could get in contact. Email: broc311@gmail.com"

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