"Hi John Stock, I am not sure that a Penhall tribute article should become a forum for a self-indulgent series of personal reminiscences from me, but suffice to say ... 1 - I was a sports editor with the Essex Chronicle Series in Chelmsford before scaling back those commitments when I became general manager at King's Lynn, and then went into promoting full-time in 1980 ... 2 - it's true my wife Lin 'visualised' Les on the rostrum ... 3. Yes, we live on the Gold Coast in Queensland. Always happy to engage with speedway folk, and if you or anybody else want to expand on any topic then please feel free to send a private message via Facebook or by email "
"As much as I enjoyed reading Tracy Holmes excellent article and the well thought out comments many others made, I do feel it is a futile discussion to argue who is the greatest. Ivan himself said if there was no Barry Briggs there would be no Ivan Mauger, He said he spent hours working out how to beat Briggo because he knew that he had to do that to become World Champion. Equally Briggo was inspired by Ronnie Moore. Equally other riders like Bruce Penhall, Eric Gundersen and Hans Neilsen looked at Ivan's techniques and took then to the next level,, then others followed their skills.
In short every great rider learns from his predecessors and inspires his successors. You have to compare like with like and I don't think it is realistic to compare different generations of riders. The most you can say, in my opinion is that Ivan was the best rider of his generation, as long as you allow the previous generation to claim Briggs , Fundin and Moore, and class Penhall and Gundersen as following generations. In short just enjoy them all for what they were. "
"I agree with Ivor Craine that handicap racing can add interest to speedway by placing top riders at a disadvantage wherein they have no choice but to come from behind to win. Most of my speedway spectating has been in California, where league racing has been a rare novelty and, like Australia, individual meetings with a mixture of scratch and handicap heats were once the rule. Riders like Rick Woods, Mike Bast, Bruce Penhall, and the Moran brothers started as far back as seventy yards, with riders of varied abilities spread out in ten-yard intervals between them and the gate. In recent years, however, handicap racing has mostly disappeared here. While providing excitement in individual meetings,
I don't know how well handicapping would work in team matches, or whether it would revive speedway in the UK. Apparently it was tried decades ago and wasn't successful.
As for why speedway isn't as well-attended now as it was in the '70s and '80s, I can only give my impressions from my experience in California, but some of the same problems might exist in other speedway countries as well. It's too expensive. For my wife and I to go to a single speedway meeting would cost 48.00 USD just to cover the cost of parking and two tickets. Add about 10.00 USD for gasoline to get there. If we want to eat something instead of going all evening without food, that's another 20.00 USD. We can do this once in a while, but neither we, nor many other people, can afford to do it every week. Nearly double it if someone has a couple of kids.
I appreciate that riders deserve to be generously compensated for the risks they take to entertain us, and promoters need to make a profit. I don't think it's greedy riders or promoters that have brought about the high cost of attending speedway, I think it's lawyers and insurance companies that have driven the cost up. Unfortunately, I can't imagine what can be done about it.
Modern speedway bikes seem to be best suited to hard, slick tracks, which results in less passing. I see this in the Grand Prix, as well as domestic meetings here in California. In the '60s, '70s, and '80s, the fence would attain a solid covering of track surface and have to be scraped off with shovels after nearly every heat. You could sit ten rows up the grandstand in the bends and get plastered with shale. Now you can sit in the front row and hardly ever get touched, and the fence stays clean (and we don't use dirt deflectors here). Slick track conditions seem to suit the bikes and modern riding style. Riders stay half-sideways all the way down the straightaway and blast around the bends very stylishly at full throttle like those old model airplanes on a string, but passing seems to be more difficult than it used to be when there was grip.
There are too many races! This seems counter intuitive; after all, the more racing the better, right? Well, not necessarily. In previous decades, when speedway was at its peak of popularity here, an evening's program consisted of about twenty-four races: qualifying heats, semi-finals, and "main events" (finals). There was an interval of about fifteen to twenty minutes during which there would be a few junior races (kids on mini-bikes or miniature speedway bikes) or other entertainment (frizbee dogs, a guy doing wheelies on a motocross bike, etc.). The night's entertainment would start at 8:00 and be over by 10:00 or 10:30.
Today, in addition to a long series of heats, semi-finals, and finals for the elite and up-and-coming riders, there's a seemingly endless procession of amateur riders' heats, kids' races ranging from speedway juniors to toddlers on tiny bikes, and sidecars. Forty to fifty races spread over three-and-a half hours or more is not unusual. There are breaks for track maintenance, but formal intervals are no more. It's not only mind-numbing, but butt-numbing, and those who don't reside locally still have a long drive ahead. It's just too much!
Returning to the original topic, handicap racing as a means to help bring crowds back: I like handicap racing and miss it. It can be quite exciting. But I don't think it would be adaptable to league racing, and history supports that. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it! "
"I would like to thank my dear speedway friends who have helped me with this latest project. Yous are FAB!!! I now need 75 Reading, 76 Ipswich, 78 Reading, 81 Reading, 82 Kings Lynn and 85 Bradford. If anyone can help, please e-mail me and of course, if I can help you out, we can make a trade. Cheers !!!"
"An excellent evening was had by all I met up with people not seen for 40 years and we just talked like it was at the last meeting and we had come to the next week. Bo's talk about Tommy was funny memorable and sad all in one, no one left till the very end Bo was talking to people all night great guy. A very big thank you must go to Jon Stevens for setting up this evening getting all the riders together and showing his great collection of Wimbledon body colours, can't wait for the next one."
"Absolutely superb stats Ivor. If I would have had to have guessed at when attendances were at their highest, both in the UK and globally, I would have gone for round about 1949. Were the first division clubs Haringay, Wembley, Wimbledon, West Ham & New Cross? As you say we will NEVER see those times again."