The World Pairs Final 1989
How's this for confidence? Defending World Champions Denmark, Hans Nielsen/Erik Gundersen turned down the opportunity to be seeded direct to the World Final. With a Semi-Final at Fjelsted on home soil, they chose instead to support the local club, put on a show and get paid to practice. An effortless win showed yet again who the whole world were up against. At the same meeting, the Kiwis Mitch Shirra and Gary Allan were 6th and KO'd. For the first time since 1975, New Zealand would not be represented at the Final.
Now, I had to feel sorry for Australia at Fjelsted. Troy Butler and Stephen Davies scored 32 points and finished 4th. Just 2 points behind Finland. Under this system, 4th place meant going to the Final. However, because this year one team was seeded, someone had to miss the boat. Why this Semi with the Danes in it? Dunno but Australia rode their Boomerangs off for nowt! "Victims of the system Moxey."
The Yanks had drawn the Semi in Yugoslavia but with the political situation that had been boiling for most of the decade getting to a new level of terror, Sam Ermolenko and new partner Ronnie Correy did not want to go. They were replaced by Lance King and Rick Miller. Not a happy trip as they too were eliminated.
England took the seeded spot, Kelvin Tatum and Simon Cross but injury meant Cross missed the journey, replaced by Paul Thorp. Leszno, Poland played host to the World Final on August 5 and 50,000 fans packed the arena for a sizzling afternoons entertainment.
Not the best start for England in heat 1 as Tatum won but Thorp started with a duck. Worse for the home crowd in heat 2 as their team of Piotr Swist and Roman Jankowski too were last. [And it never got any better. The Poles were humiliated ending the day last, Jankowski failing to score on his home track! ] No sweat for Denmark ofcourse and in heat 3, the Swedes by Jonsson and Nilsen got their flying start. Heat 4 produced the upset of the day, Nielsen was beaten by an opponent! Pardon me? True!!! Gundersen won it and lowered the track record in the process but Paul 'The Lionheart' Thorp held out the Main Dane all the way, much to the delight of everyone there, except the Danes.
Next big race was heat 9, England V Sweden. Tatum won it from the tapes while the Swedes blocked Thorp. Try as he did, unable to break through the Yellow & Blue. Heat 11 saw the Danes have roast Swede. Things livened up a bit more when Hungarian star, Antal Kosco put it over Nilsen and Jonsson in heat 13, lucky for some. And heat 14 saw Nielsen take charge but 'the Jormans' Karl Maier and Gerd Riss held out Gundersen! Heat 15, Thorp got the win but Finland's Kai Niemi held out Tatum. So with the top teams in the Final group, heat 18, Denmark had 42 points, Sweden 37 and the Poms on 35. Only Toxic Shock Syndrome could stop the Danish Demolition and when Nielsen hit the first turn in front, it was all over. Jonsson and Nilsen held out Tatum with Gundersen paying for a naff gate. Thorp was forced to retire and Denmark were 6 times World Pairs Champions. New records of 5 times each for Hans Nielsen and Erik Gundersen. And for the same pair, a new record of 4 in a row.
Sweden and England fought well and hard but they and the rest of the Speedway world could only wonder what it could take to break the Demoralizing Danish Delight.
On September 17, The World Team Cup Final was held at Bradford in England. In the first heat, Erik Gundersen had his career and so very nearly his life come to an end. You-Tube it and see for yourself just how horrific this one was. Imagine the 90s without Erik Gundersen. I mean, imagine the 80s without Bruce Penhall. Oh, hang on ...
1 Tatum Kocso Maier Adorjan Riss Thorp
1st Denmark 48
2nd Sweden 44
3rd England 37
4th West Germany 36
5th Finland 31
6th CZ 25
7th Hungary 22
8th Italy 15
9th Poland 11
This article was first published on 7th December 2014
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