Fay Taylour was the most successful woman speedway rider - ever. Her short but meteoric career spanned just a few years in the late 1920s until women were banned from the Speedway in 1930. In these few years Fay made a name for herself first in Trials riding, in which she won several Gold Medals, and then in Speedway, one of the toughest of all sports on a motorcycle. Fay competed against, and beat, most of the well known male speedway riders in the UK, Australia and New Zealand and became something of a legend - the Queen of Speedway!
Brian Belton has now produced the definitive biography of the lady racer. Read our review of the book.
"Great article - brought some memories flooding back. One More Lap, the Middlesbrough fanzine you mention, used to sponsor the juniors at Cleveland Park. We had a pretty good team in those days and have continued to support junior speedway since August 2002 with the Boro Bears and now at Redcar with the Cleveland Bays and Tees Valley Tigers.
Chris Readshaw used to live in the same street as me and I once bumped into him in the newsagents and said:" You don't often bump into too many King's Lynn reserves in a Stockton-on-Tees newsagents on a Sunday morning!". Middlesbrough let Chris go because they reckoned he needed a better mechanic than his father Brian was. He was working for a car auction company. Craig Rathbone now works as a telephone engineer for NTL. Jason Handley turned down the option of a speedway career with Middlesbrough to support his father's haulage business in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria, but the old bugger still rides on the grass!"
"Of course I was disappointed to be left out and was determined to show that I deserved a
place. To win a Grand Prix is great and this one, in front of such a big Danish crowd, was
The Olympic Stadium in Munich was the venue for the 1989 World Final. Hans Nielsen
triumphed on a track that was rather too narrow for great racing. Graham Burrows
was present all those years ago to capture these pictures of the circuit.
The Reserve/Junior Leagues of the eighties and nineties were often criticised
for failing to produce any real talent and for spawning a generation of
"professional juniors". The leagues last operated in 1992, so we thought we'd
look at the riders that appeared in the leagues that season. Which ones made it
and which ones disappeared without trace?
Dedicated fans of the sport are out spreading the speedway message at public
gatherings throughout the country. Robert J. Rogers was on hand
with his camera at the London City Airshow to capture pictures of speedway's
representation on the day.
"Excellent site & article, I to went to Hyde Road with my family in the 60s the days when you had to reserve seats because of its poularity. I went again in the 80s and to the last ever meeting. Hyde Road was the only place to see speedway, big wide track, plenty of passing. I miss the place, the best Saturday night out."
Ian followed in his father's footsteps and became a promoter of some repute. He founded
the Glasgow Tigers who celebrate their 60th anniversary this season and for many years
was in charge of the Edinburgh Monarchs. Find out what else he's done in this short
overview of his amazing life.
Ian is probably best remembered for his promotion of the Monarchs at Old Meadowbank.
We've uncovered some more pictures of that famous old stadium and have added these to
the site. The stadium was demolished at the end of the 1967 season and some of these
snaps show the place being decommissioned.
Don has followed Liverpool, Belle Vue, Southampton and Poole over the years
and his team reflects that. Malcolm Simmons, currently hogging the headlines
with his sensational auto-biography, is amongst the seven.
Moore Park speedway in New Zealand has a new website. The track is named after
the legendary Ronnie Moore MBE and there's plenty of information about the man himself
on the site. The address is moorepark.co.nz.
Sandracing seems to have died out a little bit in recent years but is apparently
still very popular in Guernsey. Photographer Andrew Le Poidevin has some pictures
on his website at
guernseymotorsport.com that may be of interest to some.
Mike Sired is looking for programmes from meetings at Rowley Park (Adelaide) from
the 1971-1973 era. Full details on our Can You Help?
"It was great to read your interview with Dave Gifford, whose comments brought back fond memories of his sense of humor. In 1971, when he spent the season racing in California, Dave worked at my dad's Triumph/Norton shop and lived with us in our spare room. I was a 16-year-old aspiring novice speedway rider who idolized him and probably tested his patience hanging about all the time, but he was always friendly and spent a couple of practice sessions on the dry lake beds coaching me at speedway. I never made good as a rider, but I'll always remember his kindness in putting up with me! I'm really happy to hear he's doing well today."
"Another one bites the dust! Driving past the old Cradley stadium that lay an empty waste land for ten years after its closure, it makes you wonder where our sport is going. I feel sorry for the Exeter fans, remembering the great days of Scott Autrey and Ivan Mauger it almost brings a tear to your eye wondering if the great days will ever return to speedway. Having been to Cardiff this weekend, there may be some glimmer of hope that the heydays will return. Nice to have some photos to remember Exeter and now a trip down to Plymouth looks favourite?"
"I myself look back with very fond memories, but when I look at speedway today and maybe the future I despair. Riders being kept out of team places by 0.05 of a point, how stupid is that. Speedway is a simple sport, 'start and keep turning left' this was told to me by Frank Smart, yes what a character and entertainer - whoops sorry I'm going back again. Speedway needs to simplify team make ups, cut out the complications and get on with speedway as it used to be."
"When I was a child I used to avidly watch Dr Who on BBC, which went on and on for years. Sometimes with slight resurgence, then slipped into a dire slump in viewing numbers and was dumped. Then just recently the BBC reintroduced Dr Who, tighter scripts, better visuals, compact one or two parters only. Now I am hooked again, different doctor, pretty assistant, a tardis that nearly works properly.
So what's my point? Speedway has been about for 80 years approx, it has seen very high attendences and very low ones too. I subscribe to the Backtrack magazine because it covers the 70s and 80s, a time when I used to go to speedway sometimes four times a week, Crayford, Wimbledon, Hackney, Eastbourne, Canterbury, White City plus various other tracks. I also subscribe to Speedway Star to keep up to date on a weekly basis. I ceased going to speedway on a regular basis when Wimbledon closed in the 90s.
My resurgence came through Sky showing Elite League racing, proper live meetings, previously I had seen a couple of grand prix highlights on chanel 4 but did not like the old system, much prefer the current system and hope the qualification is extended to allow more new faces. So Sky are doing the biz with the Elite and the Grand Prix, what about the Premier league on BBC or ITV? They can't afford football, but could probably buy every speedway meeting held in this country. I know Anglia Tv used to show speedway live many years ago. Wimbledon's reopening was great news but the racing not that great, tried it three times and was not impressed. Although it seems strange going to Eastbourne on a Saturday and I don't go every week, I consider it my team. Arena Essex is closer to home but the race night is not possible for me to attend.
With regard to characters in speedway, they are there, if not on the track, look on the terraces, the pits, the managers and most referees certainly make funny decisions.
Finally the riders, last night I witnessed Jason Crump, (first time I have seen him live) score a faultless maximum at Eastbourne beating Nikki Pedersen four times, and Louis Bridger hopefully a future world champion. So going back to Dr Who, it was on the long drive back to my home in Sidcup that I realised I had not videoed the second part of Dr Who! "
Chris Seaward suggests that speedway fans spend too much time looking
backwards rather than contemplating the future. Is it time for a new generation of fans
to emerge and herald in a whole new era for the sport?
After Cardiff, there's little doubt that Parken is the next best Grand Prix stadium.
The Danish football ground boasts excellent modern facilities, as can be seen in these pictures
taken by our old friend Harry Ward.
"Having just read Dave Green's proposal to equip speedway bikes with electric motors, I must conclude that, like Jonathan Swift with his proposal to use Irish children as a food supplement, Mr. Green is joking.
While admitting that noise has become a problem for speedway with the encroachment of housing developmnets on stadia, I still lament the introduction of silencers in the mid-1970s. I think there's more to speedway than simply 'who finishes first'. The sport also has an aesthetic component, which includes the beauty of a rider sliding around a bend, the plume of shale issuing from his rear wheel (somewhat diminished today by shallow tracks and those funny little fender things on the back), the smell of fuel, oil, and damp shale, and not least of all -- the roar of those thoroughbred engines. It's nothing today like the music of the unmuffled JAPs and Jawas of old, but at least there's still something left.
Electric motors will probably never be able to produce the torque necessary to spin the back wheel -- essential to speedway unless the tracks are to be paved and the technique to be changed to the Japanese style. One advantage, however, would be that a faster rider could come up behind a rival and shout 'get out of my way!'. On the other hand, riders would be able to hear insults yelled by spectators."
"In 1947-1948 I with others, attended a Supporters Club Dance at Stratford Town Hall. Most of the big name riders were there. During the course of the evening, a few of us were descending the rather wide staircase from the first floor down to the ground floor. On the sub-level, we came across a rather worse for wear, Eric Chitty, getting, as he said, a breath of fresh air. Eric just stopped and spoke freely with us. He was attracted by the girls and girls were attracted by him. He looked much better in that light grey suit than in his leathers, with that flowing fair hair.
During the course of conversation I casually mentioned to Eric 'How come that you live right over in Isleworth, Middlesex. I would have thought that suburban Essex would have been more suitable. Eric smiled and said 'Well. I'll tell you a secret. After the war there was talk that I would be allocated to Wembley'. Jack Parker thought the same thing. 'Well, Isleworth is very handy for Wembley. Thanks for having me, I enjoyed it very much'.
I met Eric Chitty several times after that. I can assure you, he was a man apart, a very special guy. Who knows whether the great man was joking, or whether his statement was based upon the anomolies of those post-war rider allocations. Most of the London-based riders I had spoken with, always had a dream of riding for the Wembley Lions. It could be that Eric Chitty was no exception. Thank God it did not happen. Just to think of post-war West Ham Speedway, without the singing Canadian Captain, is just too awful to contemplate. West Ham Speedway is forever. "
Former Newcastle and Berwick rider Dave Gifford relates more tales from his
colourful career as he pays tribute to Torbjorn Harrysson. 'Harry' lodged with Giffy back in the sixties
and proved to be good company. Giffy recalls the special 'tuning' that Harry performed before facing
Barry Briggs and how a night out with Ove Fundin ended in a police cell.
Stephen is taking his first steps as a rider in the sport and he's selected a team of riders that
have inspired him. Leigh Lanham is amongst his seven.
Does anyone have any knowledge of a short film named "Goodbye Uncle" that includes scenes
shot at Blantyre speedway in 1980? It seems that Steve Lawson and Bobby Beaton both
featured. More details on the
Scottish Screen website.
Get in touch if this rings any bells.
Thanks to Ron Malm and Alan Garner for pointing out that the Sydney Showground
we featured on the site is the new stadium, not the legendary Aussie venue. Apparently the
new track has only ever staged two speedway meetings! Apologies for the mistake.
Chris Spires has been track photographer at Sheffield for the past 18 seasons. You can now view his work on
his new website.
Speedway Hotties is a new
forum where girls and boys can discuss their favourite riders.
"Thanks for those priceless memories! The thought of Peter Craven sliding his bicycle around the corner on the way home from work is pure gold. Despite being made fun of by others, I am sure that your encouragement was just what he needed. And I bet he smiled right back!"
"Thanks for the insight into the Chads, up to now for me they have always been just a name in old Speedway books, it is nice to have details of them, very good item. Just a suggestion, as the Paul O'Grady show is on Channel Four, and Paul seems mad on anything Liverpool, he likes to mention his younger days, perhaps if this item was sent to his website, Liverpool speedway might get a mention?"
"Interesting to read about Liverpool, especially Charlie Oates, who I had the privilage to meet up at Buxton while he was over for the Peter Craven Memorial at Liverpool Cathedral. I was setting my bike up by the pits for a second half ride when Charlie introduced himself and soon we were deep in conversation about Speedway and life in general. He soon spotted Guy Allott, the next thing they were trying to borrow a bike each and show us "young uns" how it should be done. After the meeting we swapped addresses and kept in touch, Charlie would always ask if I was in the GP yet (ha ha) and tell me about his plans to have another skid on the beach near his home on the Isle of Man. Usually with each letter he would send over a pack of Manx kippers as well! In return I would send him some North Staffs Oatcakes, and tell him that no, I wasn't in the GP this year, maybe next. Sadly Charlie died last year, but I'll never forget what a character he was, with a passion for Speedway and life .Wouldn't it be nice if there was a plaque or something near Ainsdale Beach, where I think his ashes were scattered, to celebrate his life and contribution to Speedway? "
"Fascinating pictures of Smallmead being built and from the opening night at the Stadium. Just take a look at that packed back straight! I have plenty of memories of being in there in its heydey. It was like a football crowd for Reading/Swindon derbies. I never went to the opening night (against Hull I believe - 50-28 to Reading?), but went to the second match, which was Reading v Swindon. I knew a few people who went to the opening night. I remember they said that a bus in the car park began to sink!"
"I just found your site (I'm in Southern California) and am looking forward to reading everything. So far, I've only read your "Dream Team" page, and I agree totally with your comments about Kenny Carter. I was in the L.A. Coliseum for the World Final in 1982, and I thought then that Carter's exclusion from the heat where he clashed with Penhall was wrong. I've recently watched the video of the race over and over. It looks like the two of them were both at each other from the pits bend all the way to the crash, but I don't think Penhall was innocent, and there was certainly enough doubt that Carter should have been in the rerun. Watching the video of him pleading with the referee afterwards is pitiful. I think he was being truthful, and I really feel sorry for him. Even though I'm American, I feel Carter was treated unfairly, and I would have been happy to have seen him win the title that night. His tragic end a few years later was a shock. I had no idea he was so tortured inside. If only someone had been able to intervene and talk to him."