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DVD Review: Billy Sanders Racing

The career of Billy Sanders is the subject of this new DVD from Retro-Speedway. The Australian is inevitably remembered for the tragic way that his life ended, meaning that the joy he brought to thousands is often overlooked. Hopefully this new DVD, produced some thirty years since his death, can help to refresh a few memories.

One of our concerns about the DVD was whether sufficient footage of Sanders would exist to justify the production. Clearly we'd underestimated both the resourcefulness of Tony McDonald at Retro-speedway and how successful Sanders actually was. His regular appearances in the very biggest meetings means there's plenty of film of him in top-level racing, added to which a good selection of film from Australian meetings has been found. Some of the Aussie film from the early years is a bit grainy, but definitely worthy of inclusion.

The selection of races from early in Billy's career tend to be races that he appeared in, rather than ones in which his skills are shown to best advantage. Indeed he's very much the also-ran in some of the heats, though that's probably a fair reflection of Billy's progression up to that point.

The first big meeting we see him ride in is the 1974 British Final from a packed out Coventry Stadium. Billy doesn't make much of an impact, but it's always fascinating to the see starting procedures in those days. We see rolling starts, tape breaking, tape touching and the role of starting marshal is almost entirely pointless.

As Billy's career develops we see him in regular action in the later stages of World Championships, in World Team Cup action and in a variety of different open meetings.

Of course, his appearances in the World Final are also included. His record at that level was remarkably good and perhaps that's been forgotten a little over time. He finished third in 1980 (behind Lee and Jessup), then went one better in 1983, claiming second prize behind an imperious Egon Muller.

A number of interviews with Sanders are included. He also speaks well in these, clearly an intelligent and articulate man. These give us a bit more of an insight into the man himself.

Billy is best remembered in the UK for his spells (pun intended) with the Ipswich Witches. Sadly, we don't see too many of his races in their colours. There are a few races here and there, plus the rather odd sight of him riding as a guest for great rival King's Lynn at Foxhall Heath. Billy shows little sympathy for the Witches, helping himself to a paid maximum as the Stars triumphed 41-37.

These DVDs from Retro-Speedway always make good use of the 'World of Sport' recordings, voiced by the incomparable Dave Lanning. Dave is on great form in some of these vintage clips, for instance:

On the 1983 World Final at Norden:

"It's got all the glamour of a hick town cattle show".

On the 'Golden Sovereign' individual meeting at Ipswich:

"It's the only prize in speedway that keeps on growing" (on account of the appreciation on the gold sovereign given to the winner)

"One of world speedway's most sought after titles, well in East Anglia at least"

Not be outdone, Billy himself gives us a classic quote at the 1982 Australian Final. The Aussie crowd were unhappy with earlier exclusion of Phil Crump and didn't seem willing to accept Billy as the rightful winner, his fourth title win on the trot. During the presentations, Billy was asked to say a few words to the crowd and let rip with:

"Thank you very much and get stuffed!"

 

There are loads of interesting bits of film thrown in along the way. These include:

  • 16 Lap and 10 Lap races at Ipswich and Liverpool respectively

  • Ole Olsen quitting the Spring Classic at Wimbledon after protests (led by Billy) that he had used a new tyre, quite contrary to the agreed regulations.

  • Test match footage from Australia, with the hosts taking on England and/or the touring British Lions

  • Billy dropping out of the 1981 World Championship race because of a 2 minute exclusion

  • Ivan Mauger letting Billy pass him in the Northern Riders Championship

     

    There's no happy ending to the Sanders story, his decision to take his own life in 1985 brings things to a sudden and definite conclusion. The DVD marks his passing by including footage from the day of his funeral, including Billy taking one final lap of the Foxhall circuit and interviews with John Berry, Peter Collins and Bruce Penhall.

    The production values meet the high standards we've come to expect from Retro, though you always need to remember that the source material was never in HD quality even when it was recorded. The clips are shown in chronological order, nicely edited to include the best and most significant races. While this Billy Sanders DVD might lack the general appeal of the Bruce Penhall one we reviewed recently, it does an excellent job of reminding you just how special a talent Billy was.

    Fans of Billy Sanders will also enjoy Memories of Ipswich Speedway, in which his contribution to the Witches is covered in the context of the Witches' rich history.


    How To Order

    By Phone : 01708 734 502

    By Post : Send a cheque for £16 (payable to Retro Speedway) (add £3.50 if outside UK) to:

    Retro Speedway
    103 Douglas Road
    Hornchurch
    Essex
    RM11 1AW

    Online : At Retro-Speedway.com

     

    This article was first published on 26th July 2015


     

  • Neil:

    "I thought that Billy's famous 'Get Stuffed' speech was at the presentations for the 1983 Aussie Title at Speedway Park, Virginia, SA. The 1982 Title that Billy won was held at Claremont Speedway in WA."

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