DVD Review: History of the World Pairs
Retro Speedway's new DVD on the history of the World Pairs championship is a surprisingly interesting reflection on a competition that was often overshadowed by the individual and team world championships.
It takes us from the first official final in 1969 right through to the last one in 1993. Everyone who was anyone rode in the competition during those years and most of them are featured on this new production. Its running time is a massive six hours and it spans three physical disks.
Lovingly created by Tony McDonald, it mixes archive racing action, vintage interviews and a number of new interviews recorded over the last few years. The extended running time is well justified as there are many great races to enjoy and some genuinely fascinating insights from the riders and managers involved in the competition.
Bob Andrews was part of the winning pair in the first official final, riding alongside Ivan Mauger. Bob has a clear recollection of the event, admitting that he was reluctant to even take part, wondering why more obvious selections like Ronnie Moore and Barry Briggs weren't making the trip to Stockholm. He also shares a great anecdote about a shopping expedition the two Kiwi's took, admitting that even the well-travelled Mauger had his eyes opened by what lay behind some of the curtains in the town centre.
The first action we see is from the 1970 final at Rybnik. The Poles win on their home soil and there's footage from Polish television to enjoy. Barry Briggs partnered Mauger for New Zealand that year and admits that they simply didn't make a good pairing.
Anders Michanek monopolised the competition in the mid-seventies, being part of the winning Swedish pair in 1973, 1974 and 1975. The film from the 1974 semi-final in Germany shows some of the riders wearing the body colours of their British clubs, giving the impression that Exeter are racing against Hull rather than New Zealand vs Scotland.
The Scots were regular participants in the competition in the early years and we see Jimmy McMillan and George Hunter mixing it with the best in 1976. Malcolm Simmons and John Louis won the competition that year, being selected in preference to Peter Collins that year's world champion. A remarkable example of the quality the Lions could call on during that decade.
Collins was back in the fold the following year, partnered with Simmo to win at Belle Vue. Collins admits it "was one we should have won and actually did". It didn't stop the selectors from leaving him out again the next year, allowing Simmons to team up with Gordon Kennett for yet another win in Poland.
The English run of success came to an end in 1979 in Vojens. Hans Nielsen and Ole Olsen combined to pip them to the title in a controversial win. In the Danes last race it looked very much like Eddie Jancarz had narrowly defeated Nielsen, but the local timekeeper adjudged that the Danish man had crossed the line first. No less a figure than Dickie Davies describes it as "a remarkable finish". If the result had gone the other way then the Danes would have had to run off against England for the title. Ole Olsen gives his view in a recent interview, though stops short of admitting a mistake had been made - '"I haven't studied it too much, why should I?"
England did regain the title in 1980, before the Americans clinched their first win at Chorzow in 1981.
The tournament broke new ground in 1982 by moving to Liverpool in Australia. The meeting was staged on a track without a safety fence, but that held no fears for the fabulous Schwartz and Sigalos pairing who rode unbeaten to retain the title for the USA. Peter Collins was partnered with Kenny Carter and is very open about the fact there was bad blood between the two long before they even reached Australia. Without a team manager to assist them it's little surprise that they didn't prove to be a winning combination on that occasion.
They had more success the following year, managing to win the trophy in Gothenburg. Collins admits they essentially won it as two individuals and both had been good enough on the day to win on a difficult track that made passing difficult. This final also sees a remarkable incident from Hans Nielsen as he falls over the tapes in a quite extraordinary start.
Peter Collins won the title for the fourth and final time in 1984. This win is probably his best remembered as he combined with boyhood friend Chris Morton to win the title at Lonigo. There's recently discovered film from the meeting on these DVDs and recent interviews with both Collins and Morton.
A new era started in 1985, as the Danes won the first of seven consecutive titles, part of their ongoing domination of the sport at the highest level. There's film from the semi-final at Odsal, still under construction for the world individual final later in the year. English pair Kenny Carter and Kelvin Tatum are interviewed about their thoughts on the track as a world final venue.
The FIM decided to spice things up in 1986 by adopting six rider races. It wasn't enough to stop the Danes from winning, but from the footage on the DVDs it looks highly dangerous, even on a track with plenty of room.
Despite this, they persisted with that format until the 1990 final. A first heat crash at Landshut that year forced them to rethink the policy, but it took a nasty injury to Simon Cross to force the issue. He ran out of room on the back straight and took a nasty whack against the fence. He's interviewed here and considers himself lucky that the Bavarian track doctor had specialist knowledge of back injuries and ensured he was treated correctly on the scene. Despite receiving the best care available, he incurred injuries that left him on the sidelines for many months. He admits that his career effectively ended at that point, never quite being the same rider thereafter.
It was back to four riders in a race in 1991 and Hans Nielsen led the Danes to another win. That was his seventh gold medal in the event, a record haul.
The Danish stranglehold was eventually broken in 1992, thanks to the American's third rider in their 'pair' - Greg Hancock. The FIM had allowed each nation to name a reserve to ensure the meeting didn't become farcical when a rider was injured. Hancock was the American reserve but proved more useful than Ronnie Correy and combined with Sam Ermolenko to relieve the Danes of their crown. Hancock was the American hero, defeating England's Gary Havelock in a run-off for the title. Sadly there's no film of this meeting on the DVDs.
The last World Pairs final was in 1993, with the Swedes winning for the first time since Michanek's glory run in the 70s.
Thereafter the competition was combined with the World Team Cup to free up dates on the international calendar for the incoming Grand Prix series.
Like us, you'll probably be surprised by just how much happened in the Pairs championship over the years. There's plenty on these DVDs to keep you entertained for hours and you'll definitely learn a thing or two from the interviews, with the passing of time the riders feel free to speak candidly and many interesting tales are told.
How To Order
By Phone : 01708 734 502
By Post : Send a cheque for £20 (payable to Retro Speedway) (add £2.50 if outside UK) to:
9 Nursery Close
Online : At Retro-Speedway.com
This article was first published on 17th December 2018
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