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DVD Review: World Finals of the 70s

Former Speedway Mail editor Tony McDonald has carved out something of a niche in the speedway magazine market in recent years with his Backtrack and Classic Speedway magazines. The latest product from his Retro-Speedway concern is a DVD covering all ten World Finals from the 1970s.

McDonald takes on the dual role of narrator and interviewer as he sequentially tells the story of each final - starting and ending with an Ivan Mauger victory in Poland in both 1970 and 1979. Virtually all of the major players in those dramas are interviewed - Briggs, Olsen, Collins, Michanek, Lee, Mauger, Jessup and many others. Those interviews that are audio only are illustrated with hundreds of pictures from the seventies, those photographs themselves are guaranteed to evoke many memories.

The DVD (on two disks) runs to over four hours, not bad value at all at the �16 asking price.

It's unfortunate that no footage exists of the first two finals of the decade, leaving the story to be told through photographs and interviews with the participants. The lack of footage of the 1970 final is a particular shame as Ivan Mauger feels it was the toughest speedway meeting ever and much better than even the 1981 final. As well as the on track action we hear from Ivan about the dirty tricks the riders would experience in Eastern Europe, finding their bikes sitting out in the sun at times, while the local machines were in the shade.

The riders are surprisingly candid throughout, admitting to mistakes they made but often acknowledging that others simply bested them at times. Anders Michanek is probably most honest of all, revealing that he found being World Champion something of a burden and being relieved when that pressure was removed. Ole Olsen also makes the surprise admission that his 1971 win probably came too soon for him.

It's insights like these that make this DVD a must-have for any fan of days gone by. It covers each meeting in sufficient detail to tell its story, but no segment ever outstays its welcome.

The DVD includes footage of all the finals from 1972-1979, usually three or four of the key races and usually featuring legendary speedway voice Dave Lanning on commentary duties. Although the quality of the footage is variable it's always watchable and it's astounding to see 70s speedway from a modern perspective. The starts are farcical, the 1973 final run off between Mauger and Jerzy Szczakiel being particularly notable in this regard. The health and safety considerations are also from a different era entirely - we see a number of riders lying injured on the track and receiving treatment from medical staff, all the time the race continuing around about them.

Like the video quality, the audio quality of the interviews dips at time. It's clear that a number of the interviews were conducted via the telephone or sometimes in a noisy cafe with cups clinking in the background. That's a minor irritation at times, but no more than that.

A popular argument on this website revolves around the preference that some have for a one-off World Final rather than a Grand Prix series. Although in the modern world the GP works well, it simply doesn't come close to the kind of magic you see in these 70s finals. The crowds are huge and loud, the riders are giving every race 100%, nobody is holding back knowing there will be another chance in two weeks time and everybody starts the decisive meeting with an equal chance of winning. There's a real sense of occasion and event that the GP simply can't match.

The revelations from the riders keep coming throughout the four hours. We hear about the Weslake influence on the 1976 final, the truth about Mauger and Olsen's relationship and that Anders Michanek won his only title on a six year old engine.

If you've got any kind of interest in speedway then you'll enjoy this DVD, if you were around the seventies then you will absolutely love it. We look forward to the (surely inevitable) follow up covering the 80s.

How To Order

By Phone : 01708 734 502

By Post : Send a cheque for £16 (payable to Retro Speedway) to:

Retro Speedway
9 Nursery Close
SK13 8PQ

Online : At Retro-Speedway.com


This article was first published on 24th June 2010


  • Tracy Holmes:

    "Brilliant and a dream come true! Only dissapointment for me was in the photo section. It was World Finals I wanted to see, not British League or test matches or other Finals mixed in. The one thing I wanted to highlight was the 1973 Final, my favourite theme. Concerning the run-off; there was no mention as to why there was a run-off in the first place! That both riders had dropped 2 points. After being unbeaten at half time, Jerzy Szczakiel goes down to Grigori Chlinovski and then to Ole Olsen. Only that race is mentioned. Ivan Mauger, the defending Champion had won 4 heats but had been beaten in round 2 by Szczakiel and Pawel Waloszek. Ivan says that he wasnt surprised by Jerzy winning his first couple of heats.

    I wanted more from Ivan on how he made such a hash of their race. It was heat 8 and you can see it on You-tube. Ivan bunnyhops out of the gate and is last into the first corner. It takes him over a lap to pass Valeri Gordeev and then he gets on level terms with the two Poles. But he cant pass them! Jerzy beats him by 8 lengths and Waloszek 6! A great snap of this is found in the book World Speedway Final a history from 1929 by Maurice Jones, on pages 88 & 89. The caption for this is wrong as it says heat 14. Its not! Its heat 8 and you will see Ivan outside the two Poles on the Pits bend. Look closely and you will see Ole Olsen in the background watching from the Pits. For this race to be ignored is a shame because it takes away from the fact that Jerzy won the World Final by beating Ivan TWICE! How good was that? Brilliant and I'm so glad that Ivan acknowleged just how good is opponent really was. And not just on that day."

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