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DVD Review: World Finals of the 90s Plus!

The last five World Finals are the subject of "World Finals of the 90s Plus!", a new two-disk DVD box set from Retro Speedway. This is a follow up to their previous productions covering the World Finals of the 70s and 80s. The "Plus" in the title is a signal that in addition to the final itself, there's some bonus action from qualifying rounds thrown in too.

Although the World Final had lost some of its luster by the nineties, it's remarkable just how much happened during the last few stagings of the sport's biggest night.

This article does contain 'spoliers', so look away now if you don't want to know the scores.

The first DVD starts with some of the qualifying action for the 1990 championship, including those great entertainers Les and Neil Collins in a British Final duel around Brandon. Nordic Final and Overseas Final races are also shown as we see how the riders made it to the final, which will be staged at Bradford's Odsal Stadium for the second time.

That final was the last World Final to be staged in Britain and although Odsal was a poor substitute for Wembley, there's no doubt that it produced some spectacular racing that evening.

We see every race as Shawn Moran recovers from a poor first ride to end up on 13 points, the same total as the rather unfancied Per Jonsson. The two men end up in a run off for the big prize, while a young Todd Wiltshire finishes in third place in only his third season of European racing, a remarkable achievement. Per Jonsson leads from the tapes in the run-off to win his only world crown.

A retrospective punishment for a drugs offence casts a shadow over Moran's second place finish, with his silver medal being expunged from official records, though there's no suggestion that his excellent performance on the night was medicinally enhanced.

Into 1991 and there's once again coverage of the British and Overseas Finals. Kelvin Tatum is crowned the Overseas champ and declares himself "really chuffed".

The final that year was staged at Ullevi and Peter York is our commentator, with Ole Olsen by his side as expert summariser.

Jan O Pedersen chose that evening to produce his best ever performance on the world stage. Wearing a special pair of lightweight leathers, he storms to wins in his first four races. We see him sitting in the car park before his final race, head in hands, contemplating the enormity of what a win in his next race would mean.

He makes no mistake, despite a late challenge from compatriot Hans Nielsen, clinching an imperious 15 point maximum and the championship of the world.

It's cruelly ironic that both Pedersen and his predecessor Jonsson, were to suffer career ending injuries and thus denied future opportunities to clinch a second title.

The 1992 final was held in Wroclaw, the meeting being delayed due to bad weather and in conditions far from ideal for an event of this magnitude.

Our coverage starts from heat 5 and is from the Eurosport broadcast of the meeting, commentary being provided by Chris Carter.

The night of course belonged to Britain's Gary Havelock, despite an early set back when he picked up a nasty knock in heat eight in a clash with Sam Tesar and Jimmy Nilsen. Havvy limps back to the pits and then claims second place in the re-run, behind 'Slammer' Drabik.

Havvy can then do nothing but watch as the heavens open again and rain literally bounces off the track.

After another lengthy delay, he proves to be the most gutsy and determined man on track, finishing on 14 points, remarkably three more than his nearest challenger.

The 1993 final was intended to be the last one ever, with a Grand Prix series scheduled to launch the following year. That was later delayed, so the '93 event was actually the penultimate final.

Staged at Pocking in Germany, the meeting is best remembered for a clash between Sam Ermolenko and Hans Nielsen in heat 16. Both men were in contention for the title and the referee elected to exclude Hans from the re-run and effectively end his title chances. The commentary is in Polish but you can form your own view on whether you agree with the decision.

'Sudden' Sam comes off again in the re-run, losing a chain, but eventually completes his fourth race win of the evening. Those 12 points proving to be sufficient to win his only title, a last place finish in his fifth race not harming his chances.

1994 genuinely was the last year in which a traditional World Final was staged. Fittingly the great Dave Lanning is behind the mic and our guide to the action.

There's added interest as it's announced that the top 10 finishers will be automatic qualifiers for the inaugural Grand Prix series.

Defending champion Ermolenko falls in a clash with Mark Loram and starts with a duck egg, only managing to accrue five points over the course of the evening. Tomasz Gollob is another to take a nasty fall and has to withdraw after two pointless rides.

The main talking point is heat 14, where the unbeaten Hans Nielsen and Mark Loram touch on the first bend. The Dane is excluded and the meeting opens up. Craig Boyce wins the re-run to go onto 10 points and into serious contention.

Tony Rickardsson has started with three second places, but unbelievably retains an outside chance of the title.

Boyce and Rickardsson meet in heat 19, with Boycie knowing that a heat win will clinch the title. Rickardsson is in form by now though and easily wins the race, putting them both level on 12 points.

Boyce's failure to win also opens the door for Hans Nielsen to sneak back into contention and he makes no mistake in winning heat 20 to force a three way run-off for the title.

Rickardsson, Boyce and Nielsen line up for the last ever race in a World Final. Dave Lanning tells us that Craig Boyce "has a second bite at the richest plum in speedway".

You don't need us to tell you that he fell short and had to settle for third place behind Tony and Hans.

And with that, the World Final and these DVDs were over. It's been an enjoyable four hours, looking back on some memorable races from some of the best riders the sport has seen. It's an interesting era, where no single rider was able to dominate proceedings and there's a mix of the big stars from the 80s, those who would become the Grand Prix stars of the future and a few whose careers were tragically cut short through injury.

Available now from Retro-Speedway.com

 

This article was first published on 31st March 2020

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