Ian Harwood continues his popular series that takes a personal look back at speedway in the seventies. In 1973 ITV started taking a serious interest in the sport and there were a couple of legendary run-offs.
"1967, 3rd June, my neighbour took us back to Meadowbank, I had been before with him, August 1965, but being only 9/10 years old, was too busy making a pest of myself. Now I was wee bit older and wiser. The first thing that hit me was the smell, aroma, the riders starting up their bikes and 3 riders coming over to us stating something about gate 2 having a problem (nieghbour was a starting marshall) - Reidar, Douggie, and George Hunter. I was vey impressed my neighbour knew these people and they knew him, even more so after the racing was finished. Ever since I have been addicted to speedway, there is no other sport as engrossing, long may it continue, Meadowbank so sorely missed, the atmosphere, crowds, mostly the racing and presentation."
"I certainly remember Nelson stadium. In 1968 I went to support Belle Vue Colts at the venue. At that time the Aces second string were riding high, unbeaten and ultimately won the title that year. Travelling confidently we then found that the track was a little (?) different to what we had been used to seeing at Hyde Road! It was many years ago but I can still see the bricks sticking up on the corners now, and the away riders were suitably subdued as a result. Colts went down by 14 points, only Taffy Owen able to cope with the conditions.........he scored 13 pts from 5 rides."
"Only recently got into speedway and being a Boston lad I'm gutted I never got to see any speedway in my local town. We brought the Braves back for it a bit a few years back but it never really hit off. My Dad was a big fan back when this stadium was around, so sad I can't even visit the stadium where it once stood. "
"Very interesting. Jonny Roccio is my Grandfather and Ernie Roccio is my great uncle. As they, and many of their friends have long passed, information has been difficult to obtain about their racing careers. If anyone has any information or photos I would be exptremely appreciative if we could get in contact. Email: email@example.com"
"Wilmslow Hammers 48 Belle Vue 48; SUN 28 April 1962; Hammers in photo and points scored: A Lewis1, J Percival 5, P Lomas (capt) 13, C Brecknell 1, R Holllins 5, M Page7, J Mottershead 9, J Wright 2, A Willcocks 3, M.Lees 2. To make the match more interesting Wilmslow took all outside gates. Harry Marsh did not ride in this meeting, he retired from racing in 1957."
"Cribby was one of my favourite riders at Poole, where I was introduced to the sport by my Dad in about 1961 (gulp!). A true giant, both literally and metaphorically. Irony is that I now live in the land of his birth! Tim Court - I think we went to school together in Wimborne ..."
This circuit is situated in Central Finland, about 350 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle. There are two tracks, the full size track for 500 cc racing and a smaller track inside the larger track, used by juniors using 80 cc bikes.
The track record is 61.56 seconds held by Kai Laukkanen (2005-07-16). There is only one meeting, over a weekend, here each year, around the third week of July each year. It is the Finnish Kaupunki Cup, which seems to be a pairs meeting between Finnish tracks.
Thanks to John Middlemiss for the photographs and this information.
"My Mum & Dad knew Ken as they were keen Leicester Hunters & then Lions speedway fans, then dad started taking me to Blackbird Rd when it reopened again in 68. I then initially met John (Johnnie Mac) McKinley when we both used to belong to Leicester Monarchs cycle speedway. (Found an old pic of John from when I was taking photos for the club at the british cycle speedway final at Leicester in 1979).
I then tried my luck at speedway and Ken gave me some very good tips and advice on training days at Long Eaton. Never saw him ride in his glory days, saw him ride at a Golden Greats meeting in the 80's at Coventry that I went to with my parents. I did only meet Ken a couple of times but will always remember him as a knowledgable speedway man who offered a young wannabe like myself advice in a good way that made you listen and appreciate that he knew what he was talking about. I also remember John ended up working at Jordan motors in Leicester and also went on to ride speedway."
"As a kid in the East End, in the forties and fifties, I used to go to West Ham to the speedway [ and the dogs] every week. Great fan of Eric Chitty and Malcolm Craven, would like to know more about their lives, families, careers, later years, and, sadly, their deaths. Funnily,we now live in Ontario [re Eric Chitty.]. My dad was a huge fan of Bluey Wilkinson [and Mick the Miller, greyhound, pre-war of course]"
"Please can I assure Martin Wilkins that I bear Norman Strachan no malice whatsoever. These are my reflections on my memories from being a child. I have nothing but admiration for anyone that hurls themselves sideways round a speedway track on a motorcycle with no brakes."
"I followed Wimbledon from 1960 until its closure, my favourite rider was Ronnie Moore. I always thought Gary Everitt would come good, such a sad loss to the sport. I miss speedway now, no clubs close to my home in Sutton."
"I was Mike Howe's mechanic, he was signed to Milton Keynes, who went bust then would only loan him. This contract effectively meant that he would have to be purchased or transfered and cost money. He was on loan to Belle Vue and Peterborough that season. Peterborough decided they no longer required his services, then he could not get another ride. I know that he was under pressure from his day job, his parents,and finacially from the costs of racing, the time he was putting in. I guess he had done his part, turned up, nice bikes, rode well, shown promise, commitment and still could not get a ride. I know I am biased but the guy had talent and the politics of a sport and its promoters robbed him of a chance. I know that Lee Coleman broke or cracked his neck in a practice at Peterborough and retired."
"An excellent look back at the late 60's / early 70's. I was a West Ham fan then, and ultimately Hackney, but did lots of away trips with the Hawks, the Belle Vue one being of prime importance. What great days, never to be relived sadly, but happy memories nonetheless."
"I do enjoy these articles, however I do find the constant jibes about Norman Strachan a little distasteful. Norman came to my club Newport in 1968, although never a world beater was a solid 6 point second string . However in 1969 he was averaging over 8 a match and riding the best speedway of his career. Until a match with Sheffield when Arnold Haley clashed with him at Newport, a really nasty crash. Norman was out for a while but when he came back sadly was never quite the same and maybe went on racing longer than he should have, in my view Haley left a legacy on Norman. So I would ask the writer not to be so damning of Norman when he never seen him at his best on another track."
"I remember attending a Golden Greats meeting at Coventry with both my parents. Ken McKinlay got on a bike for a ride round. A couple of match races involving PC were great entertainment. I even have some photo's of the day and I think the programme hidden away somewhere. I also attended the World Final at Odsal and was glad I took my camera as I have some good photo's to look back on with fond memories."
The next chapter in Ian Harwood's popular series in which he takes a very personal look back at his formative speedway experiences. Watching Peter Collins and Ivan Mauger each week wasn't a bad way to spend a childhood!
"Great article! I am just so sick and tired of the sexism that is in speedway and almost all motorsport. How are we going to get women into the sport if we give them the impression that they are only objects of male desire? I watch a lot of speedway with my girlfriend but she hates watching the GP's and The SEC, it makes her just so sad and that's probably what a lot of women feel. It's just horrible the way it is right now."
"Re: Harry Marsh 'Pedalling to Glory': His father Frank Marsh was a highly respected midget car driver 1934-39 and linked to the Elto midget cars which were then being promoted by then Belle Vue speedway promoter the legendary E O Spence. Many of the Belle Vue midget car drivers were also speedway riders. There is much about Frank Marsh on the internet - he even has his own page. This can be found by a Google search Frank Marsh midget car racing."
"Glad to hear you enoyed your visit Tommy but please note (though in the town of Sittingbourne) the track is called Kent Speedway - this is because the track in Iwade has the 'Sittingbourne' name... I appreciate a bit confusing but it is important NOT to call Central Park, 'Sittingbourne'..."
"Knew him when he was a kid riding a mac 101 minibike in the 125cc class at Elsinore for his early mentor Ron Stewert. Knew him when he hit So Cal Speedway tracks and after his racing days. Kept wanting to get back up to OC and look him up. Sorry I didn't do so. Godspeed Danny."