The World Pairs Final 1988
Could any team beat Denmark? Oh how we hoped so! The Danish domination of World Speedway championships was in overcook. But in 1988, there was a very good opportunity for that to be broken with the World Pairs Final being held at the Odsal Stadium, Bradford, UK. And all eyes were on the home team or the Yanks to pull it off. Or maybees even the young Swedes Per Jonsson/Jimmy Nilsen.
With no surprise Semi-Final knock-outs, the selection of England's pair was the talking point. Kelvin Tatum was easily pick number one. Simon Wigg was injured as had been Odsal's own Gary Havelock. So, in form Simon Cross was called up for duty. New Zealand by Mitch Shirra and David Bargh were second to the Danes in their Semi but Bargh was unavailable, having returned to Kiwiland. His replacement was Australian, Alan Rivett. EH? Turned out that Rivett was born in NZ and when offered the place, jumped at it like a Kangaroo on speed.
Bright sunshine met the fans as they rolled up on Sunday July 31, hoping for an entertaining afternoon. And they got it! 'Main Dane' Hans Nielsen continued his clinical form but Gundersen was in trouble. A 'duck' from race one and a single point from his second. He got it right for round three but Tatum and Cross were on target, leading after three races each with 22 points. The Danes had 20, Yanks Shawn Moran/Sam Ermolenko 19, Swedes Jonsson and Nilsen on 18.
The drama continued in heat 11 as Nielsen gated from Nilsen and Jonsson. The Pole Piotr Swist blocked Gundersen. Erik got by but the bad news was being stuck in fourth place and that's where he stayed. His good news however was dropped points by the Yanks and Brits.
Hungarian Antal Kocso holding out 'Sudden Sam' for second place in heat 13 and Shirra zapping the Brits in heat 14. Still, Tatum and Cross held the lead on 38 going into the Final, two points clear of the Danes and Yanks, each with 36. What a methanol fuelled climax, winners take all.
Tatum drew the outside gate, something he was not happy about at all. But before their home crowd, this was England's golden opportunity to end the monopoly. "Roiders comin up to the loine, whose it ganna be, throttle hands itchin ..."
The tapes flew up and all Six Superguns headed for the first turn where Tatum found himself squeezed out. Nielsen held the inside running and blocked Moran. Gundersen rose magnificently to the occasion, got clear of Cross and Ermolenko to head for daylight. Danes in front, Cross got in front of the Yanks but the disheartened and disconsolate Tatum was left at the back, watching it all. British hearts sank as yet again, the unstoppable Danes waltzed away with the goodies. Denmark, World Pairs Champions for the 5th time, four years in a row. Good heavens!
World Pairs Title number 4 each for Nielsen and Gundersen, equalling the record of Peter Collins. The Lions left to lick their wounds, so close and yet so far. The Yanks, their usual "far out man", left singing 'How Bizarre'.
1 Nilsen Castagna Jonsson Kocso Adorjan Furlanetto
1st Denmark 45
2nd England 41
4th New Zealand 32
5th Sweden 29
6th Hungary 25
7th Italy 21
8th West Germany 21
9th Poland 17
This article was first published on 1st December 2014
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