"Years ago I did raking at Rye House plus I doubled up at Hackney whenever there was a shortage of track staff. You were not paid but did get free entry, a programme and at the interval a cup of tea. From what I remember the rules were 5 minutes from the start of one race until the start of the next which would include any track preparation that needed to take place with only a extra time given if a rider had two rides on the trot, starting gate malfunctions or fence repairs.
These days you have to wait for riders to go back to the pits after an unsatisfactory start, wait ages for any air fence repairs (old days you just put the kick board back).
For us olduns who cannot get to watch live speedway the solution is simple, get a sky or virgin box and subscribe to watch speedway, that way you can live pause or record and watch at a time to suit you. I've been informed that you cannot do that if you stream a match which means you are back to watching them take two hours to run a meeting.
These days I am quite happy to record the highlights of the British League matches (when they decide to show a league match) and Grand Prix's on Quest which ironically with the league matches, unless there's loads of re-runs or delays you get to see all 15 heats in an hour programme and I subscribe to Premier Sports to watch the Swedish (Tues &Thurs) and Danish (Wed) where even if there is a delay due to the weather they will still show all the match, even though you do tend to be watching the same riders in both leagues most of the times.
Interesting enough for those who don't follow the Danish league they have 5 riders in a 14 heat format which makes it a bit awkward if somebody gets injured.
Having moaned about all that Speedway is still a great sport. Perhaps they should take a leaf out of footballs pages and have a ladies speedway league, how many of us would watch that?"
"I suspect the demise of rakers was to save on staff costs & free entries. I raked at Powderhall many years ago and I do think that rakers can refresh a surface in.very short time working with one track grader. Rakers have to forget about filling programmes and get out as soon as the last bikes go past.
I do not think the multiple tractors etc move much dirt in towards the white line to be honest. Rakers are better on wet nights as they can get druse Shale on to the slick bits and shift any slop as needed. Might be worthwhile giving rakers a try again - you would only need two at each end if the flag marshals at each bend joined in."
"I think the enquirer answers his own question as Malcolm Craven was the only Craven who rode for West Ham and could have performed at this time. Details of the years the various Cravens rode can be found on The Speedway Researcher web site."
"I'm making a short film about motorcycle stunt riders and am looking to find out more about Bill Deegan's Hell Riders - especially their last years in the late 70s I believe. Does anyone know anyone who was with them, or can direct me to any descendants of Bill, or perhaps knows where I can find photos or videos from the shows? Thank you!"
"I cannot believe the dog track has closed. I have been working away for a long time, but I have come home now . I was talking to my grandsons and I told them we should go. So I checked it out and I could not believe it was not there anymore. I used to go three times a week for years, well it will save me a few quid ha ha"
"A "minor miracle" indeed John. A little while back I published a brief article in the World Speedway Riders' Association magazine ("Tapes Up") about my memories of going to see Oxford Cheetahs when I was a student there. I concluded it by wishing the campaign to re-open Oxford every success in re-establishing one of the most well-known brands in the history of British Speedway, but I have to admit I never thought it would happen. Now it has.
Congratulations to you and your fellow campaigners,John. It's a real boost for the sport and gives hope to Coventry, Reading etc.
In August I'll be returning to see the Cheetahs, exactly 50 years since my last visit, accompanied by a friend who was a fellow student, who I've also not seen for 50 years! Should be a great night. "
Based on the best information available (the Speedway Control Bureau regulations) we've added a programme generator for the new Premiership Pairs competition. Gate positions appear to be decided on heat colours, with the Red and Blue pair being able to place either rider on gate 1 or 3. The same would apply for the white/yellow pair and gates 2 and 4.
We've had a surprising number of requests for a programme generator that can be used while watching the Danish League meetings on Premier Sports. The good news is that we have been able to make one available. Special thanks to Terry Akiens for his assistance with this. We hope to have one available for the Premiership Pairs meetings later in the season.
"My dad, Fred RIGG rode for the DUKES, the Shay, Halifax, West Yorkshire. He was born 1925 and died 2014. I used to watch the DUKES at Halifax when I was 14 but shortly after they went to Bradford ( I think). I have no records of him having rode speedway in the 1950s. There was an Eddie RIGG ( ?) but don't know of him. I would love to find something with his name or details on it. Can you help? "
"Hi Andrew just seen your reply. I have been back watching for about 8 years. One of my daughters got me back in to going, we are in the South Stand as it exits turn 2. That's incredible about your sister and parents - such a small world."
"The Ipswich rider is 1957 World finalist Norwegian Aage Hansen. He is on face book. Aage was reported to have knocked a whole second off the Ipswich track record in an unofficial practice session in 1957 and scored 11 in his first meeting."
Wednesday was a real night to remember in Oxford as the Cheetahs raced back into action at their spiritual home. John Fray was one of those who never gave up hope and was lucky enough to secure a ticket for the grand reopening meeting.
"My wife and I have Grandchildren in NZ and we visit - covid permiting - for 4 or 5 months each UK winter. Having known Fred and Carol since the late 60's we always visit them at their home outside Napier. Fred is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.
I rode with him in a few Grasstracks. During one he rode Bill Davies Douglas. Danny and Lee Dunton, Jim Gregory and John Stallworthy were also riding. Fred has a big collection of Vintage and Classic bikes as well as his last speedway ride, his ESO-JAP.
Last time we visited, his lovely mum Dot greeted us pushing a wheelbarrow full of stable sweepings. She had just finished 'Mucking out' the stalls. Like all true eccentrics she was wearing a nice skirt and blouse, a twin string pearl neclace and wellies! Dot's life had just improved as she had had her cararact done.
Note the singular - she only had sight in one eye! She had terrible trouble convincing the surgeons to do it. If it went wrong, she would have been blind. She, with typical Kiwi forthrightness said " I'm bloody well blind as it is - you can't make it much worse! "
So they did it - successfully. Cant wait until we can get together again, hopefully in 2022."
"Lovely to finally learn more about my Dad, Angus McGuire and his speedway days. He rode with the Liverpool Chads for late 1949 and through 1950. Then with the Fleetwood Flyers during late 1950 and 1951. He loved motorcycles for the rest of his life and could fix any of them."
"In 1971 the Oxford Section of the VMCC ran a Vintage Grass Track ot the Sports Trust playing fields in Kidlington. We had help from the Oxford Ixion MCC, borrowing their ropes and stakes to mark out the circuit, A bumper entry included Bill Davies, Rick (Fred) Timmo, Danny Dunton, Lee Dunton, Jim Gregory, John Stallworthy, Titch Allen, founder of the VMCC, Roger Gagg and yours truly. As well as George Bason with a 250 Triumph! I remember George as a very polite and well turned out chap. He spent a lot of time speaking with Bill Davies and John Browne of Carterton. John Brown was one of the founders of the Oxford Speedway at Cowley pre war. He and George went back a long way. Happy Memories."
"I remember a little about Jack racing at Western Springs NZ with his sister as pusher. I still remember last time I seen Jack he was on top of a steel beam welding at shopping centre in Otara South Auckland. How did I know him? I was in his class at Penrose High School. RIP Jack"
" Such a wonderful thing, to still see, my dear departed Dad's article here still, he passed away in 2012. He loved West Ham, I'm 59 now and used to go in the early seventies, actually just before the ground at Custom House was redeveloped. He was passionate about letting people know about the old days and ways, I remember him telling me how Prince Regents Lane was crowded like a football match on race days in those times. Paints some many wonderful pictures. He was involved in the disaster fund for the West Ham team, when their van crashed in Belgian. I remember talking to Garry Hay on the phone, such a thrill for a young lad! We also met Len Silver at Hackney, when Dad did some advertising for him, I remember, the GO-Hackney pointers! Happy Days, keep up the good work."
"Nice piece about a great meeting, the greatest individual meeting in the world. First time I was there was 1986. I had been racing the famous Dr. Joe Bailey 1926 TT Douglas - Briggo rode it a couple of times - in an International Vintage Road Race at the Autodrom in Most, followed the next weekend by an 11 kilometre tarmac hillclimb at Sternberk. I got on the box in both events - it was a really fast bike - second at most, winner at Sternberk.
I was travelling with my wife, our 3 year old and a twelve week old baby. We got to Pardubice in time for the last heats and the two finals. A very young Tomas Topinka won that year. Many Czechs were interested in the old Douglas and after meeting some enthusiasts and getting contact details for the Zlata Prilba club I blagged a ride for 5 Brit veteran riders on Vintage bikes the following year. The riders were myself, Douglas, Roy Nowell, Douglas, Dave Kirby, Rudge, Dave Sparks, JAP and Dickie Brown, Martin JAP. Rudolph Havelka, technical guy in charge of the Zlata Prilba clubs workshops and a fine rider joined us on an early ESO. We must have put on a good show as we were invited back many times as well as getting a skid at the Lubos Tomicek Memorial meeting at the Marketa Stadion in Prague on the Monday night.
In 1986 I fell off in front of a full Stadium during our race at the Golden Helmet. 60,000 fans - they make for a great atmosphere. I have a picture of my wife wearing Jeremy Doncasters Golden Helmet during the after race party.
Wonderful memories. Your 1938 query, Gunzenhauser started IIRC, but failed to finish. The race for the Golden Helmet was run, in those days, around the racecourse used for the Czech Grand National horse race. IIRC one lap was 4 kms, and ten laps were run. It was very fast and dangerous. There is a memorial garden for the six riders who lost their lives racing there. Franta Juhan, Gunzenhausers teamate under the British designer and team manager George Patchett, won on another Jawa. Gunzenhauser took the OHC model leaving the slower, but as it turned out, more reliable OHV bike to Juhan. In 1996 Franta Juhan's brother and Frankie Juhan, Franta's son, sponsored a Memorial Meeting at Pardubice, won by Todd Wiltshire. The Vintage bikes were there too, and it became the start of the Oldtimer Euro Series of Speedway and Longtrack events of which I and a dozen other Brits became a large part of. Great times.."
"I had the pleasure of working with Bob Leverenz at Radio Rentals in Adelaide. I was very impressed in his demeanour and he had a great influence on my decision to become a freemason. (I went on to become Grand Master 2003 - 2006) His philosophies on life were absorbed and never forgotten. A former member of Glenelg Lodge and the Lodge of Sportsmen. "
"Best wishes to Barry Grindrod. Barry - do you remember Stock Car - The Magazinbe for the Sport, which Geoffrey Kingscott and myself edited for The British Stock Car promoters Asssociation (Charles Ochiltree in effect)? You were the magazine's man at Nelson, as I remember. I also visited Nelson for speedway. If memory serves me right Long Eaton got a rare Division Two away point at Seedhill. Saturday May 3rd 1969. A 38-38 draw. Pete Gay and Tony Lomas both got 11 points for the Rangers. Alan Knapkin with 12 was the top scorer for the Admirals."
"Lovely. seems you had a great time. My first time was at Rye House aged 10 stood by the fence and got smothered in wet cinders, not sure but seem to remember Ronnie More made a guest appearance at Rye House.Thanks for your story. "
"I was PR for the Admirals working full time as a journalist on the Lancashire Evening Telegraph. I used to be big mates with Stu Riley. I lost track of Stu many, many years ago. Anybody know where he is or what has happened to him. Better still are you out there Stu?"
"My father Ernie Deighton rode at Rye House before WW2. My nan Deighton showed me the magazine with my Dad's name in he was known as 'young Deighton', might your old records have any photos or information on my Dad? "
"hi Mike Thanks for your update. have a Motorcycle magazine from the sixties with a photo of your Kermond but it was called a Hynes in the caption. Kermond is a mystery and very little is known after he returned to Australia. I have done a lot of research on Dave Hynes, Huck Fynn and Arthur Payne all mates together. Arthur is 98 and has a good memory."
"Mark Halliwell..only just seen your comment !...you were indeed that person who introduced me to speedway so thanks for that...I hadn't been to any meetings since 1993 but have attended some Belle Vue meetings again this year with my youngest son and been pretty impressed..my sister married ex rider Glenn Doyle and she and my parents have lived in Australia for over 20 years now, 30 years in her case so you could say your introduction to speedway for us changed our lives !"
"Great article Tony. Like you, I knew Noel Clarke well, I fixed him up with two bikes in his collection, the S45 ESO with the leading link forks and the 2 speed gearbox and an Erskine Staride. I got the ESO from Antonin Kasper, a great rider in his day and Tony Kasper the GP riders dad.
I also had a Kerman. IIRC Phil Kerman built his stuff at the Peamore Garage just outside Exeter. Bob Jones needed a new tank one night at Exeter and he got one from Phil Kerman, with a little badge on the right side, Peamore Garage Exeter. I eventually found the correct tank for my Kerman. Alec Gooch at Ipswich now has it when I retired from riding and sold everything up.
My Kerman was mis-identified by Ernie Lessiter, as a Hynes. Ernie had one and when he saw mine he took a look at the repair on the right side chainstay, just in front of the wheel fixing and said " you 'ave an 'ines there boy - mine broke in the same place! "
The Hynes and Kerman forks were, AFAIK, identical. The spring bolts came out through the top crown as they went up and down over the bumps and had no diagonal bracing on the front. Both had only two bolt front engine plates, both were made out of very lightweight tubing. I broke a fork slider during a Vintage Grass Track final in Sussex, bloody lucky I felt it wobble and could pull off the track. I had my Kerman for thirty years and won many, many races with it. I built a Vintage GT bike from a wartime 350 Triumph. I modified the frame using the fork/head angle from the Kerman. Again, very successful.
"In reply to Jeff Gayle. The riders named did ride in the UK in the pioneer days. Dab was Boston's initials d stood for David. There are some records of Murch, Boston and Remington in the Speedway Researcher records. They did not become star men and their stay appears to have been relatively short lived. The best Amaricans were Sprouts Elder and Ray Tauser. There is an excellent short documentary onTauser. Re Bill Bragg - he rode for a short spell in the pioneer days. Not seen any references I can recall about him being a promoter. I think there were promoters with the family name Bragg But I don't know if they had any connection to Bill Bragg."
Tracy Holmes on Ronnie Moore's comeback to British Speedway in 1969.
Jeff Gayle [ email@example.com ] has some queries for our knowledgeable visitors:
"I was told that three riders from the USA rode at various tracks in 1929, they included Red Murch; Dab Baston and Chick Remington, is this true? Also is the Bill Bragg rider for various teams the same one who became a Promoter?"
John Fray has been in touch with us many times over the years, sharing updates on the Save Oxford Stadium campaign and the coverage it was receiving in the Oxford Mail. This week John got the news he's been hoping to hear for 14 long years.
"What fantastic pictures bringing back so many memories. I have never seen these before but I can confirm that it is definitely Kingsmead stadium, by the time that speedway started the little covered stand behind the goals were removed. Used to play football at Brett's and it didn't have the covered areas behind the goals, although it did have the best playing surface around - it was like a billiard table! "
"Pretty convinced that was Kingsmead for the noise test. I don't ever remember the shed / stand behind the goal but certainly judging by the main grandstand, the fence and the clubhouse on its right which can also be seen in pictures of football matches since 1958 looks like the Malt House in Northlane in the pic where Martyn Piddock has dropped it."
2021 pictures of the Media Prima Arena at Redcar. The facilities have been gradually developed over the years and with one of the best tracks in the Championship it's an excellent modern speedway stadium.
"UNCLE LEN - Just a few lines, if I may, to comment on the impending departure of Len Silver from our beloved sport after 75 years. You'll be sadly missed Len, a showman supreme, a very knowledgeable person where speedway is concerned, what you don't know about it isn't worth knowing. Many many thanks for all the wonderful years of entertainment at the still missed Hackney, thank you for your time as England team manager, but above all thank you for being you. Aside from Johnnie Hoskins you were the most important person in our sport. Good luck to you for the future."
"What a fantastic time we had back in 1968, us lads at the then Canterbury Motor Cycle Club were commandeered to help build the fence round the track. I can remember nailing the boards to the posts and then painting them white. and how lucky I thought I was to be asked to stand behind the bikes at the start of each race ( all old Japs at that time). I remember one evening when Ken Vale had a problem with his clutch, he shouted to me "quick hold on on to my bike and let me go as soon as the tapes go up". I must have got it right as he won the race and gave me the thumbs up as him came by. WONDERFUL GREAT MEMORIES."
"Yes I remember you Shelley, my Dad was friends with your Dad, we have been to many away days together. I started going to Hackney back in 1975 when we were the Hawks, those were amazing days - Dave Morton, Keith White, Zenon Plech (RIP). One thing always reminds me of those days - every time I hear the magnificent seven play."
"Great article as always Tracy but we should mention Viktor Kuznetsov's brilliant 1986 World final effort of 10 points and 5th equal. Outscoring the defending champ Gunderson, Shirra, Morton and Ermolenko."
"I used to Love the Speedway In Norwich. My friends farther used to take me as I had no Dad to go with. We stopped going when it moved to Kings Lynn, and I now live in Australia and still remember those Saturday nights, the noise, smells and excitement. Sometimes I wish we could go back to those days. I used to hear the bands playing in the clubhouse after the racing,and it gave me a taste for playing guitar, which I do now in Australia and I've had some success with a band we formed here in Australia.When I was young, I wanted to either be a Speedway rider or a Rock Star, I guess I managed to achieve the latter!"
"Glen - spot on re landlords and the lack of foresight by promoters back in the days. I worked in the City for a good many years, and well remember in 1975 at the bottom of the market then after over two years of decline, that shares in the GRA could be purchased for just 16p each. They owned not only Wembley, but Harringay and White City, and a few other provincial stadia.
Speedway was booming at that time, and it wasn't beyond the realms of reality that the most successful promoters, or indeed the BSPA as an entity, could have got their heads together and started buying stakes in certain stadiums, as it was property investments that collapsed the most between 1972 and 1975. All hindsight now of course, but what a firmer footing it would have put the sport on."
"Speedway in the U.K. has been held back by being at the whim of private landlords. Community owned stadia such as in Poland, Sweden and Denmark you see a totally different approach to the sport which is there for the benefit of all. Our boom times were never transferred into property ownership as promoters were happy to take money out of the sport and could operate meetings with little investment. Maybe it gave us here a false sense of quite how big the sport was back in the 70's but as times changed so did people's expectations and sadly those that ran the sport didn't or couldn't adapt."
"A sad day indeed David and with Newcastle and Birmingham bemoaning poor attendances there could be more closures on the way. You've made some constructive proposals. I'll comment on just one and that is the idea of a league merger.
In 1965 the British League of 18 teams was formed as the powers that be at the time realised the continuation of a National League with just 6 teams was not viable.They made their peace with the Provincial League and British Speedway thrived from that point onwards.
In 2021 there are many other pressures on the sport but David is absolutely right that the current Premier League is just not viable. Virtually all its riders are doubling up in the Championship so there is no real difference in standard between the two leagues. Understandably riders want to ride for two teams to earn enough money but if one league of 18 teams was formed each team would have many more fixtures as David suggests and in turn fans would get greater variety.
As it is Premier League fans see each team at least twice during a short season and then more of the same for those going through to the play-offs. Action needs to be taken and fast as David suggests, otherwise the spiral of decline will never be halted."
"I agree with David's views on the whole. Pay structure first and foremost. Riders in 2 leagues a no no!. Halt to fixed race days. Don't pander to Polish Speedway, riders ride here or not. Amalgamate leagues, pay scale as to experience.
My look on how I think it should be. 3 Area leagues, Northern, Midlands and Southern. 6/7 teams in each. Fixtures through April May June. One fixture per week 1H then 1A - some fans cannot afford home meets every week.
Try 6 man teams covering usual 15 heat format, riders to cover R/R position. for more tactical opportunities. Injured Rider Replacement to remain. Guests only to come from other area leagues. Area Cup competitions.
From July, top 2 from each league form Premier Comp. next 2 Championship Comp. Last 2 or 3 form last comp to be arranged.* *(Fans have commented that 3 team matches gain more visiting fans)
Overall teams could get approx. 10 / 12 Area league matches, at least 2 cup matches, 10 Prem/Champ/Other matches. Total 11 home and 11 away matches approx. Play offs if needed. (never like playoffs myself). "
Very sad news today with the death of Ian Hoskins being announced. The legendary promoter allowed us to publish some extracts from his autobiography a number of years back. In this one he tells us about the birth of the Glasgow Tigers.
Ian was probably best remembered for his involvement with the Edinburgh Monarchs throughout the 1960s. In this extract he recalls the extraordinary 1964 season when the Provincial League broke away from the control board.
"It seems like I was tempting fate by writing this article.The Eagles are no longer "flying high".They have withdrawn from all competitions with immediate effect, unable to overcome significant debt problems. Their Managing Director has given a lengthy explanation, but it seems the main problem was lack of paying customers. Over 90 years of Speedway at Arlington have come to a sudden stop and there must be question marks about whether Eastbourne will re-open next year. A black day for British Speedway.Birmingham and Newcastle have been making similar noises so even more closures would not come as a surprise. "
"Speedway's Black Hole? Dave's article reiterates what all us seasoned speedway goers have pointed out over the years, all we wanted was a team to support, weekly meetings and no rider control, so why is it the speedway authorities can't achieve this, Sweden and Poland have.
The nearest track to me is Sittingbourne and having just hit the big 70 I don't plan on renewing my driving licence, so why would I want to fork out £50 odd to watch 45 minutes of racing with a bunch of veteran racing on a poor racing circuit when I can subscribe for just £9.95 a month to watch top flight excellent live speedway on Premier Sports from the comfort of my armchair being able to pause and cut out th e boring bits with their weekly Polish and twice weekly Swedish top flight leagues and watch the highlights of Eurosports British Premiership on Quest when they deem to show a match. Even the GP's I'm happy to just watch the finals on you-tube.
We've now lost Eastbourne and reading the question and answer interview given by the management you can understand why they're packing up. If rumours are correct it seems Newcastle and some others may go the same way. Only good bit of news seem to be there is a possibility that Oxford may reopen. The new Belle Vue track is excellent and Wolverhampton still throws up good racing.
I hope British Speedway can get back to it's great days but I fear we've lost too many stadiums for that to happen and with the promoters only having their own interests at heart, nothing's going to change. As Dave points out we need one league, race nights to suit promotions and perhaps second half junior racing to bring on new talent. "
Updated track photographs from West Row, home of the Mildenhall Fen Tigers. These pictures were taken at last weekend's abandoned British Under 19 Final. The young riders were unable to deal with the difficult track conditions.
Friends of Speedway wish to announce that the 15th California-in-England Speedway Reunion will take place on 19th September 2021 between 11am and 4pm. It will be held in California Country Park [RG40 4HT].
"What a rider Martyn Piddock was and could have been. Tragically killed in the Lokeren disaster. I remember him appearing at Middlesbrough's Cleveland Park with Canterbury and also for Young England and he always scored well. Absolutely tragic what happened to him and some of his fellow team mates at West Ham his parent club. "
"I used to follow Glasgow Tigers at White City when I was about 10 years old. I remember the manager was Dick Stewart and one of the riders was Eddie Lack whom my father knew well. I am 82 now, time flies eh,"
More pictures, this time from an exhibition that's currently ruuning at Summerlee Museum in Coatbridge.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to part-sponsor the British Youth Speedway Championship) are pleased to announce the 82nd edition of their magazine the Voice which is packed full of interest and enjoyment. This issue is another huge 24 pages, which will keep your interest for hours!
In this issue Charles Mckay speaks of Speedway Covid Compliant Style. Philip Dalling tells the tale of Ted Connor deserving recognition as an Architect of speedway's revival. Sue Towner is on her Soapbox again plus a book review. Slider talks of Speedway and the Seaside. Tony Webb spills the beans on Steve Langton striking gold at last. Plus more to keep you interested for hours.
Available from Friends of Speedway; 117 Church Lane, Chessington, Surrey KT9 2DP. Please send your cheque for £12 made out to the above for four issues of the Voice to Stu Towner at the above address or ring 0208-397 6599/07860 135939 for more information.
"How your article brought back so many memories - Joe Crowther, Will Lowther, Eddie Lack, Junior Bainbridge, Gruff Garland, Wal Morton, and so many others. I was at White City Stadium when the speedway re-opened after the war with guests Ron Johnson and Bill Kitchen, Any chance of an old programme of that era?"
Tony Webb looks back at some of the Aussies who have made their mark at Ipswich. First up is Vic Sage, the first Australian to ride for the Witches.
Jim Henry of the Speedway Researcher has contributed an excellent article on Shawfield Speedway to the Rutherglen Heritage website. Shawfield was, of course, the home of the Glasgow Tigers in the 80s and 90s. Jim's article will bring back many happy memories.
"His name was William 'Ginger' O'Beirne. He died on 15.11.2014 and sadly I guess nobody ever took the time to interview him about his speedway career. It seems he ran a motorcycle shop near Dalymount Park, called Bohemian Motors after the local football team Bohemians. Known locally as 'da Bo's '. Quite by chance many years ago I had a few beers in the Bohemian Bar over the road from the stadium and around the corner from Ginger's shop, which probably at the time he was still running."
"I was at the 1952 World Final at Wembley and remember it like yesterday. Jack Young was imperious and if my memory serves me right he only dropped one point in his last ride to Wembley rider Bob Oakley when he only needed second. I still love the Sport and can only agree that the one night format for the World Final produced tension and drama that could not happen in today's format. Those World Finals were great nights and never to be forgotten. "
"I never noticed that it was only the novice races that the times were not recorded. could well have been a ploy by Geoff Woodcock the manager not to discourage the novices as there was a big margin in the quality of the riders from world class to one year novices. Overall I think it was a bold and brave project to encourage the youth, the like we have never seen since. Reg Fearman tells me that Woodcock was involved with Isle of Wight in later years."
"When Irish eyes were smiling. An interesting article, but i couldn't help feeling slightly confused and the rider Ginger had his name spelt in 3 different ways in the article. And as far as I know, all were incorrect !!!"
"Brilliant stuff Ian! I read Ian's piece when it first appeared and a few days later (yesterday) went to Kings Lynn for a match against Ipswich. There was rider replacement but this was expected and was fine. However, the overall situation was something of a shambles from a spectator view and it seems that the reason was because the meeting was being shown on TV.
Whilst accepting that TV fees are essential to finance the sport at the moment there has to be some regard for the paying public who attend. I recall in the past that it was quite usual for televised meetings to have substantially reduced entrance charges, no doubt encouraged by the TV operator who preferred to show a crowded rather than empty stadium. On this occasion there was no concession and the whole meeting seemed quite obviously to be operated for the convenience of the TV schedule. The meeting started some 20+ minutes late for no apparent reason (as it happens there were three attempts to run heat 1, although in part due to what at first sight seemed a very serious injury, in the event it was bad but not life threatening).
It was also noted that the track seemed at the start to be rather a ploughed field and after heat 4/5 a water sprayer and two raking tractors raced on to comments as to whether we were going to have tractor races, although the racing surface certainly improved from that point. The time spent spent seemed to suggest there had been little thought about this earlier, odd for Kings Lynn. What was extremely annoying was long delays (up to ten minutes) between some heats when we were told afterwards that this was to fit TV breaks and then having the two minute warning on almost as a race finished.
Frankly no one seemed to know what was going on even to the extent that at one point a TV interview was blocking the path of the ambulance leaving the track, fortunately not on its way to a hospital but I doubt that was known. All of this made for a very disjointed meeting despite the efforts of some and some good racing which, if the process had been sharper would have added even more to the entertainment value. It seems to me another symptom of a lack of organisation and thought. Let's be fair TV presents cricket with regular breaks that do not hold up end changes etc. so it does not have to interrupt the flow for the live audience. On the other hand if everyone had been aware and offered a reduction then the problems might be expected and accepted but that was not the case.
As for Ian's report - a double header against the same team? - what he says goes to the heart of how our sport is run and puts things simply as they are. As it happens the very best meeting I ever saw (in over 50+ years) was the second part of a double header on a Bank Holiday afternoon at Custom House (West Ham), which, coincidently, was against Kings Lynn. Fantastic racing (four abreast in many heats) with the final heat (13 in those days) starting at level pegging and the late Dave Lanning saying that there would be no winners and losers with the only winner being speedway racing, and if anyone had ever seen or ever saw a meeting as good as this they would be the luckiest spectator on earth. Does anyone else remember this (the first match was against, I think Edinburgh Monarchs - I do recall Reider Eide was riding. P.S. West Ham "won" the match. "
"As the promoter who recruited Ray (Morton) on his 16th birthday, I have only fond memories of him and his family. He was a cheeky, cheerful character brimming with personality and although he had a decent career I feel he might have achieved more.
He and his dad used to roll up to our junior training school days and meetings at King's Lynn full of optimism, and signing him was a no-brainer. In his first official public appearance he pulled off a cutback which was reminiscent of the ones Michae l Lee performed on Ray Wilson on his senior debut a decade earlier. Later as a nominated rider in the days the top-flight clubs first mandated use of a British junior, he displayed a lot of promise, never more so than against Belle Vue one time when he led namesake Chris Morton, then one of the world's best, for three and three quarter laps at Saddlebow Road.
Moments like that identify a rider's potential and had we not sold up at Lynn he would have continued to progress there for sure. Instead the new promotion allowed him to move on, after which perhaps he didn't quite fulfil his potential. Mind you, he enjoyed himself greatly and entertained a lot of people. When the Speedway Star ran a feature inviting riders to name their dream team, he chose me as his team manager. Smart boy. "
"A very interesting article. I've always wondered why speedway never lasted or really caught the public's appreciation in Ireland, North or South, to the extent that tarmac racing did and continues to do so. "
"You can see the Chapelizod heat details on the Speedway Researcher web site. Having gathered some Irish meeting details I have noticed a lack of records of timess, for the races involving Irish novices. I have concluded, maybe wrongly, that times were not announced as the times were quite far adrift from those recorded by the visiting riders. I would welcome any thoughts on the matter. I would, as always, welcome any information which can fill gaps in our records of meetings staged in Ireland both in Dublin and Belfast."
"Jack Arnott, thanks for the correction on my spelling for PAKOWHAI. We are still keen to give his monument a clean up. we were told the to check with family which we have had no success on. He had a child who was born about 1924, however our researh did not come up with anyone."
Tony Webb looks back 70 years to probably the most memorable season of speedway in Ireland.
Philip Dalling has identified the mystery rider we featured the other week:
"It's the late Ray Binfield. Originally from Earls Barton in Northamptonshire. First appeared in 1951, riding for Long Eaton Juniors v Aldershot 'Juniors' (who included top men Trevor Redmond and Basil Harris!) Binfield recorded two wins as Aldershot 'Juniors' won 55-31. On the same evening the Archers has a disastrous night at Cardiff, with Bob Ibbotson and Fred Siggins both taken to hospital. "
"Intereting article - when I saw that there are just six teams in the Elite League it took me back to the last year of the NL in 1964 - they couldn't continue and had to amalgamate with the then PL to form the British League."
"Regarding the rider Jack Arnott who tragically lost his life. You write that his Parents lived at ''Pakownai'' in Hawkes Bay NZ. It was most likely Pakowhai very near to Hastings Hawkes Bay and just 10 minutes from where I live because if you google the other name it doesn't exist. Jack most likely would be credited as the first ever rider from this region. "
"I remember that I had a soft back book on Graham's life and career which I probably purchased in the early 1970's but for the life of me I cannot find it. I saw him ride for a Coventry select side minus Nigel Boocock and Ron Mountford at Liverpool in 1960. "
"Thanks Graeme and Matt, Great to stimulate interest in past mysteries and get welcome feed back. I will keep digging! There is another Queensland based rider Harold Hard luck Stevens, who I think died in a road accident 1937-38 that I am researching. He was actually born in UK, Arthur Yenson and Fred Hore are two more UK riders who were the first to ride in Australia."
"I believe the people referred to are 3 different people. The first person, who rode at Deagon in the mid-1920s was Wilfrid Allen, born in Kidderminster Eng, but lived most of his life in NZ. Only briefly rode in Australia, and rode in the UK in 1931, but rode in NZ in the 1920s and 30s and died in NZ in 1976.
Jack Allen who rode in Australia through the 1920s and 30s, went to China, and klled himself in 1937 was a different person. Jack was riding in Queensland at the same time that Wilfrid was riding in NZ.
The Midget Car "Bill Allen" is a bigger mystery. All the claims that he raced midget cars in the USA, including racing in the 1932 Indy 500, aren't verified as far as I know. I think all that is proven is that he raced midget cars in Australia. The rest of his "career" in midget cars seems to have come from him and I've never seen any historical information about him in the USA or NZ."
"Great to read the article by Tony Webb regarding the two Bill Allens. If it's any help with his continued investigation, (and it's the same family), Bill's birth and census record has him being born with the unusual first name spelling of Wilfrid with an i. The family lived in 1911 at an address called Longcroft in the village of Wolverley. His father was also Wilfrid, his mother was Lucy and his sister, born in 1903, was also Lucy. Wilf senior was listed as a market gardener on the census."
"David Pickles re your comments on my articles on speedway in Asia. thanks for your encouragement. I have always believed that if the speedway powers that be had taken advantage of two great leaders, Ivan Mauger and John Berry then speedway would not be in the state it finds itself. Both men had a global appreciation of the potential of speedway far above all others, they were not one eyed for the advantages for their home patch like the Danes and the Poles, they had the vision that it could be a world wide sport without parochial overtones. but this did not suit the establishment who carried on a downward spiral."
"Couldn't agree more Tony Webb. Asia in general is a wilderness where our sport is concerned, and I remember the story well 13 years back. Ivan Mauger was a speedway genius at all levels and if the support had continued there is no doubt that speedway would now have a major foothold in that region.
It's a great pity the FIM aren't more outward looking as I firmly believe that China could be the key to success, but it would take much talking with the Chinese Government, and the FIM and the organisers of the Grand Prix series to bite the bullet and simply slot it in, preferably in Beijing for one trial round one year and see what happens. Just out of sheer population and numbers and curiosity makes me believe that a GP in China would be a huge success and would maybe ignite the interest of the press to give our sport the publicity it richly deserves."
"Hi Colin, I used to live across from you in Waghorne St Ahuriri Napier NZ, was always interested in your speedway bike and sport also went to watch you at track when it was down by Anderson Park end of Taradale, Kennedy Rd's. Worked In Port Headland 2013 for 2 years but lived in Perth. I hope this reaches you."
"Hello Les, I still remember the thrill of the 5-1 partnership with Dave Gooderham in the last race! I believe I knew your nan who had a Yorkshire Terrier I think it was and lived in Chartham. All the best, Robbie"
"Firstly, many many thanks to Tony Webb for a series of fascinating and factual articles on the attempts to get speedway going into Asia, particularly Malaysia in modern days.
I have long thought that Asia, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Singapore, etc could actually turn into hotbeds for our sport, but every time anything is started it always seems to fall by the wayside. Sadly and politically, China is currently ruling itself out of any serious attempt. Who out of us wouldn't want to visit China and view their cultural heritage and maybe see the vast potential for speedway racing there? Sadly, those in charge seem to make it all fall on deaf ears.
The pandemic now has put paid to any hopes of expansion of our beloved sport on a worldwide stage. Years back I thought of a possible Grand Prix at the Stade de France in Paris, where speedway has been held in the past to moderate success. For the next few years, this looks as far as we can possibly go, and dreams of conquering Asia must just be held as that - dreams.
One day though our great and famous historical sport must and will make the breakthrough it so richly deserves. Many thanks to the greatest rider I've ever had the privilige to see, the unique Ivan Mauger, for all his efforts to spread our sport worldwide. One day it will happen and be a fitting tribute to him. "
"Colin came to our house several times whilst at Crewe, my Dad was groundsman for the BR sportsground and was involved in the Speedway security. Good memories of those days visiting the track as an adolescent!!"
"You may already know this but thought I would let you know about Ernie Baker. Ernie passed away on the 17/4/2021 after a battle with cancer. I worked with Ernie from 1980 to 1994 but we all kept in touch & had reunions & the last time I saw Ernie was in 2019. He told me some great story's but sadly most are not printable."
"Ole was a great speedway rider for our Bees but he also bought the World title to Coventry in 1978 which I had the honour to witness at Wembley (with the twin towers) plus many other honours. He also was a great team man. Alan was our No 2 and he and Ole made umpteen 5-1's so Alan was also one of our best too, It took guts to ride a bike without brakes so Alan well done for all your service to Coventry Bees, The Bees will never be forgotten."
"Having recently purchased the new 'Saving Speedway' book by Philip Dalling, I can confirm that it is a quality and very well researched book. I started spectating in the PL years and it was an exceptional time for the sport. A very, very small mistake I spotted - Colin McKee was riding for the short lived Sunderland Saints team at Wolverhampton, see the body colour. The man in overalls in the Wolves team photo, is Mike Lawrence, track curator and former rider. Highly recommended book for fans of that era.."
"This story appeared in the Dagenham Echo. The trophy was presented to Herbert after the final meeting of the 1936 season on 15/11/1936. I typed up the story with a photo of Les Thornton I found in the Daily Mirror, to go into a little project I am working on. I hope it answered his Grand daughter's question"
"I remember Olle from my days supporting West Ham during their brief appearance during the 1970s. Far and away my favourite rider, a proper number one who could beat anybody around Custom House and usually did. You could not mistake him in his bright red leathers and I still have a little speedway model that I painted up to look just like him during my airfix model years. What a career, what a rider. Happy memories"
There was very sad news yesterday with the passing of legendary Swedish rider Olle Nygren. It was actually ten years ago this week that we published this article by
Dudley Jones on the great man. It seems appropriate to bring it back to the top of the site today.
"We were really excited about seeing Joe in his first match. We'd seen him without actually knowing who he was doing laps after matches at the end of the previous season. He was very impressive, very controlled, and looked very quick. It was some time before we knew he was only fifteen then. He made his debut for Belle Vue the following year just a few days after his sixteenth birthday, and just a few days after that was entered in the British quarter-final at Middlesbrough. There was no excuse not to go, so in the car straight after work and across the M62 and up the A1 we went. I don't have the programme anymore but memory tells me Joe missed qualifying by just a point. Afterwards he said he thought it would be easier because it was National League. He'd only been a professional speedway rider for a week!!"
"Mariusz Dubielewicz on The World Final That Never Was: Said that Van Praag could be not be in heat 10 and 11. The World Finals in those years were NOT set up as we know them today, For instance Jack Milne in 1938 rode in heats 3,8,10,11 and 19. Van Praag rode is heats 1,5,9,11 and 17."
"Re The Final That Never Was I assume the 1939 final would have used same format as 1938 - see Wembley 1938 file on Speedway Researcher web site - and some of the riders did have 2 races in a row in that event."
Incredibly it's been 32 years since Joe Screen made his first appearance for the Belle Vue Aces. Let's take a look back at Good Friday 1989 when the Aces took on the Bradford Dukes.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to part-sponsor the British Youth Speedway Championship) are pleased to announce the 80th edition of their magazine the Voice which is packed full of interest and enjoyment. This issue is a huge 28 pages, which will keep your interest for hours!
In this issue Charles McKay says 'Sorry, there is no money left' and his Customer Relations article. Philip Dalling speaks of the Austrian Champion Alfred Sitzwohl who had a 'milky diet'. Sue Towner on her Soapbox again attacking the re-development of Rye House, plus her Treasurer's Report. John Hyam on Wal Morton. Slider says, 'Speedway from Hero to Zero. Ron Jones delves into the products produced by The Stadium Press at Brandon Stadium. Antonio Lindback says good bye. Sidecar Speedway and Bibliophile's Corner. Plus more to keep you interested.
Available from Friends of Speedway; 117 Church Lane, Chessington, Surrey KT9 2DP. Please send your cheque for £12 made out to the above for four issues of the Voice to Stu Towner at the above address or ring 0208-397 6599/07860 135939 for more information.
"Great fun and I immediately remembered my young years. Also with dice and bonus points for a real value of riders I played parallel a fantasy world championship with all possible qualifying rounds. Here unfotunately I noticed a little bug: Lionel Van Praag couldn't ride both in heats 10 and 11. Overall a great idea!"
"I did not realise there was such animosity from Alan. I was priviliged to watch his team riding with Ole and he was superb at it and I for one did realise he was he was good enough and FAST enough to carry this off and as he says had the NUTS to do it, hats off to you Alan!"
Tony Webb tells us that speedway bikes are now officially pieces of art, particularly Graham Warren's 1947 machine which is currently on display in Melbourne's Gallery of Modern Art.
Toni Clifford [ firstname.lastname@example.org ] needs our help:
Toni's Grandfather was called Henry Barker and may have ridden speedway at New Cross and other venues. Searches so far have drawn a blank, does anyone remember a rider of that name? It's likely to have been in the late forties, or early fifties.
"I would like to add my condolences on the death of Peter Colvin. I first met Peter when we were both students at Strathclyde way back in the late 60's / early 70s. It was always a pleasure to talk to Peter and draw upon his knowledge of years gone by. I for one will miss him and he is a massive loss not only to his immediate family but also to the rest of the Speedway fraternity everywhere."
"Tracy does it again! What a really interesting comparison from different eras, and a rather good way of looking at how Ivan & Hans stacked up against each other, even though they never competed against each other at a World Final. More of this, please."
"Excellent article David, remembering as you do the mid sixties-the first BL season in 1965 for example, it makes me weep to see the current state of British speedway. Although I now live in Canada, I have thought of visiting England just to see the tracks that I didn't go to which were operating in 1968 when I left and still are at the same venue. These are Brough Park, Monmore Green and Kings Lynn. My mates have said to me don't come over just for that-best to remember the photos of how they were. BTW an excellent book re the depths of mid fifties speedway and how it made a major comeback try and get "Saving Speedway" by Philip Dalling an excellent book."
We were very sorry to hear that Peter Colvin passed away shortly before Christmas. Peter was a Glasgow based historian who contributed quite a number of articles to the site over the years. His Snapshots of Yesteryear series was particularly popular, where he drew inspiration from a photograph and shared some associated recollections.
He also enjoyed a moment in the spotlight when he triumphed over the Eggheads on the BBC quiz show. Peter is in the bottom of the picture shown.
As a tribute to Peter, here are some of his best Snapshots columns, starting with this one which featured the opening meeting at Berrington Lough, the narrow straights at Paisley and the first Glasgow Tigers team he watched.
Peter first watched speedway at White City in Glasgow, the spiritual home of the Tigers. In this article Peter commented on some pictures from the mid sixties.
Malc Wilson [ email@example.com ] is looking for some help:
"I am trying to fill in some gaps in my memory. My Dad had a friend in the forces named Sid Strellitz who had a motor bike shop on the Barking Road in Plaistow E13. We spent a weekend at his place in the 1950s. I also seem to remember that he was once a speedway rider which set me thinking that some of your more senior fellows may remember him - if, in fact he had been a speedway rider? Can any one remember him?"
"Tremendous book- I agree wholeheartedly with Jim Henry's comments. BTW -a tip of the hat to you Jim Henry, Philip mentioned to me that only you and I picked out Stan Bradbury in the Motherwell photo. I also agree with your comments re the the SAL- up the Monarchs!!"
"Again another good article by Dave Pickles. Riders will go where the money is and Polish Speedway want to be the best so more people will subscribe to watch it. I think it will be good for British, Swedish and other leagues in the long run as it will force them to produce and bring on their own riders. What is probably forgotten is that back in the early 70's British Speedway did more or less the same thing. When Britain could field a top class side a fair percentage of top British league riders were Swedish and for a season commuting riders were banned.
I think British Speedway needs to go back to pre 1968, one league, the current fifteen heat formula with the second half individual racing with juniors partaking. I would say do away with maximum team averages so no levelling up of team strengths and let teams pay what they can afford, this would do away with doubling up. Race days would need to be on whatever day suits the individual tracks.
The way we watch speedway has changed, you can now watch the top riders live at tracks you probably would never get a chance to visit, in the comfort of your own home at a fraction of the price of actually going to watch it live. The GP's, Polish and Swedish speedway have shown us that even during lockdown you still get excellent racing and British speedway needs to try and attract these sort of supporters to subscribe to watch British speedway. Lets hope 2021 sees the virus gone and we can get back to doing the things we love. "
"Just to bore you with one more show of support of DJ, a couple of us Leicester lads decided we would go to Ipswich to watch him race against Tiger for golden helmet ( Sheffield was the opposition on the night). We got stuck in traffic and arrived running through the gates just in time to see the 3rd and deciding race which Tiger won! We then had to suffer watching a dire meeting after, which Sheffield got about 23 I think. How many supporters would do that these days to show support of there fave rider? lol"
"Philip and John's book is a great read and well worth the plaudits of the reviewer. It is especially good to see an overview of the Southern Area League and I hope it might encourage readers to have a look at what we have on The Speedway Researcher web site by way of meeting details. Suffice it to say there are a few gaps in the records and if anyone can provide missing details I would be delighted. I started watchng speedway in 1961 and the book's overview of the Provincial League is enjoyable as it transported me back to the happy days of the 1960s. If you are looking for a Christmas treat for a speedway fan, the book will fit the bill for sure.."
One more Christmas present idea for the speedway fan in your life, or to add to your own collection. These DVDs dedicated to the career of the great Wiggy will appeal to speedway, grasstrack and longtrack fans alike.
Tracy Holmes brings his series on the BLRC to an end, looking at the 1984 final at Belle Vue.
Thanks to Tracy for yet another excellent series of articles.
Thanks to Jim Henry for letting us know about an interesting documentary about US pioneer rider Ray Tauscher (better know as Tauser in the UK). It's 17 minutes long and can be viewed at raytauscher.com
"I've replied on many an article. Ian's, same age as me by the way, story is of another supporter who's sadly lost his love of British Speedway. In it's heyday the speedway supporter could expect a match every week on the same race night with the same seven riders (more or less) turning out for their team (only).
The reason for the decline has been covered many times on this site. At one time it would have been the ambition for every foreign and commonwealth rider who wanted to be the best to compete in the British League. It is easy to look at the past through rose tinted glasses but British Speedway was good back in the day. Speedway is still exciting but to see fantastic racing with the world's best riders you need to subscribe or watch it on Freeview Sports or You Tube.
With the Polish Speedway you see and hear the atmosphere of large cheering crowds displaying their teams colours. After the coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions have finished I think things will only get worse for British Speedway as the people who have got their fix of watching speedway on their tellies or computers will continue to subscribe to watch it, I know I will next year. Unfortunately I don't think it will be British Speedway people will be subscribing to, anybody who watched the broadcast of the Under 21's at Berwick will know what I mean, totally amateurish production, poor r acing and they couldn't even get the meeting finished.
British Speedway has and is run amateurishly for so many years now, a good example, cancellation of the British? final (won by an Aussie) and the moving of the Speedway of Nations (a dummed down World Cup). And something I've pointed out many a time is that in all sports they aim to be the best, British Speedway has been 'be the best' but then lose riders the following season. No other sport does this and non have suffered from having dominant participants.
I hope Ian gets to see some live speedway, I wish I could but sadly there's no tracks I can get to. Lets hope this antivirus works and we can all get back to enjoying the things we do. Thank you to SpeedwayPlus for the interesting articles and memories shared by your readers. "
"I enjoyed the recent piece about Once a Jolly Swagman, which has also had several showings on Talking Pictures channel on tv. I first went to New Cross in 1951! Another film from the same era that has appeared on there is There Is Another Sun, in which there is a lot of footage from Walthamstow Speedway."
"Regarding deejays book, being a big fan of his I ordered it straight away, as the reviewer says it's more a summary of his carreer but a thouroughly good read. Was hoping I got a mention being his number 1 supporter in the North lol (says me tongue in cheek). Always got time for me and couple of times waved me in the pits to warm his bike up or drop me off at a train station like Sheffield after the meeting if I went on public transport. So try the book people you will enjoy and to Dave thanks for the memories."
"I quite liked Kirkmanshume Lane, although by the time I paid my first visit the backstraight spectator accommodation had been demolished and, yes, some parts of the remaining facilities were certainly down at heel.
It is a couple of years since I visited the new National Stadium. It is magnificent and the racing, whether seen live or on television, is excellent. But I missed the ability to drift around the stadium, which has usually been permitted at speedway tracks. It was possible to stand on the bends or the back straight and still get full access to the grandstant bars. These were a meeting place for a significant number of former Belle Vue riders (and riders from other tracks). I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Powell, Arthur Wright, Peter Williams, Jim Yacobi, Roy Pecock and others. "
"I've enjoyed Tracy Holmes' pieces on the BLRCs.I was interested in the comment from Frank McLean about the crowd being down on previous years. I've just published a piece on "The Decline of British Speedway" suggesting it started somewhere in the mid-80's. However maybe it started earlier.Tracy asks the question "Had the magic already started to fade?" Whatever the truth about the dates, the 64000 dollar question is why did it fade? The subject of future articles no doubt."
"Remember this meeting very well as my wife went in to labour in the early afternoon (we lived about 6 miles from Hyde Road) and off to hospital we went. My daughter entered the world at 6pm and I spent around couple of hours there and then got myself off to Belle Vue arriving at heat 9. Quite apt that Les C won as I was originally a Leicester lad and still a Lions fan. Fourty years on and I was taking Kerry my daughter to Torun for this year's GP to celebrate her 40th until Boris put a stop to it by sticking Polska on the quarantine list and we couldn't go because of self isolation (over £600 down the swanee)."
Jeff Scott is back with a second book devoted to the traveling circus that is the Speedway Grand Prix series. It's a follow up to last year's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Speedway Grand Prix, this time covering the 2019 season.
Some pictures of Sheffield's Owlerton Stadium that were taken by Robert Brocklehurst in the 1960s.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to part sponsor the British Youth Speedway Championship) are pleased to announce the 79th edition of their magazine the Voice which is packed full of interest and enjoyment. This issue is a huge 28 pages, which will keep your interest for hours!
In this issue Charles McKay says 'Of course it's legal' and 'We are following official advice.' Sue Towner on her Soapbox again plus pens a review of the Dave Jessup book. John Hyam on Squire Split Waterman. Roy Delaney looks at Here and Then. Slider says, 'The time to Panic is Now! Stuart Staite-Aris speaks of Alf Mattson. TAG Allison reports on Reg Luckhurst's attempt at Spanish speedway. Plus more to keep you interested.
Available from Friends of Speedway; 117 Church Lane, Chessington, Surrey KT9 2DP. Please send your cheque for £12 made out to the above for four issues of the Voice to Stu Towner at the above address or ring 0208-397 6599/07860 135939 for more information.
"Nice summary, including the stats, of an event that maybe hasn't always got the visibility in the UK that it deserved, as it quite clearly *is* a big open meeting. And it's brought to mind those years, especially in the 70's, when there would be tons of open meetings, which were always a good indicator of which riders were really at the top of their game that season."
"My brother in law used to take me to see the Aces on a Saturday, Sandor was my favourite as he once sat me on his bike, a Jawa and asked me would I like to ride it, I of course said yes and told me to come back when I was old enough. I was 10 and I'll always remember him. "
"What I didn't know then I know now about all these riders when I burst upon the scene in 78 just how long of a head start they had on me. Powderhall was a great Stadium to track was tricky but once you learned it it was a fairly good track. The stadium was better than most British League tracks in the 1st division. I have to give my thanks to the Scottish people without them I would have never had a Speedway career. "
"I was lucky enough to get to know Toby really well through my association with Jimmy Nilsen and Per Jonsson in the 80's and 90's. He was massive influence on both their careers and was always there to support at important meetings. Dave has captured the way Toby talked perfectly It was like hearing Toby all over again. I will always remember when he came to our hotel room during the 2 day world final in Amsterdam. We had a box of beer in the room and over the space of an hour Toby opened about seven separate cans as he forgot where he'd put the last one so opened another. We forgave him for that as his stories of his life and riding career had us laughing he was great company. He died much too young."
"We started watching Hull Vikings when they opened on 1971, and as a treat (I was 8) we got taken to see or hero Reg Wilson rding for Sheffield. I can stil remember how open mouthed we were at Jim Airey hammering round that track - I don't think I have ever seen anyone faster. Owlerton is a sad sight despite recent 1st-bend "improvements" (which have taken away standing capacity) - all the back straight is closed to spectators and the bank of seating in the main stand is long gone. "
Doris Lambert inherited an old scrapbook filled with speedway photographs when her Dad died in 1984. A recent house move forced her into a clear out and she was keen to ensure that her Dad's book went to a good home. Thankfully she has passed it on to us.
Thanks to Doris and her Dad, we can bring you some great autographed photographs of the New Cross Rangers team of 1936.
"Hi. Still bored with Covid? We have now needs lists for meeting details in the UK 1933 - 1939 on The Speedway Researcher web site. Any help to fill gaps would be welcomed. On a different note - the visits to Argentina in the pioneer days by riders from Manchester are available on The Speedway Researcher website. The credit for this very fulsome record as to go to George Carswell who worked with Bob Ozanne. Much of the information has been drawn from contemporary sources in Argentina which George has had translated into English. This is an amazing bit work which deserves to be better known."
"Sverre rode the outside at Custom House like no one else - it was his 'Home' if he gated send or third you would hear the crowd shouting 'Come on Sverre' Dad would say 'Wait till he gets to the outside - 'He'll win' - HE DID - Saw him once at The Shay in Halifax [Baking about 5-6ft from white line to fence - Sverre got 13 from 5 rides - just got straight to the fens THEN turn left and flew down the straits - could never understand how he did so well at Wimbledon -when he came to Custom House - he must have thought 'Wow' now I can show them - HE DID - his races were worth the admittance cost."
" Congratulations on gathering all this historica information on speedway. At 85 never expected to see a photo of myself at 20 participating in speedway racing. I am now a competitive cyclist and currently the South African and provincial road and individual time trial champion in my age category. Good luck with your future endeavors. "
"Lovely story. Dave Gifford is my long lost cousin. His mum Evelyn was my Dad's sister. I am now 65. I don't think I ever met Dave.. Before I was married my surnam was Addley. If you are still in contact with him please send my regards. "
"Newspaper article in 1933 states Arthur Handley - Ace Handley - was a dirt bike rider in Liverpool, UK and had travelled with the team to Australia. No date given. Arthur - Ace - was Wall of Death Rider 1930 - 1938 until his untimely death in Jamaica in 1938. Alan Mercer and former Wall of Death Riders have greatly helped me in obtaining information about my great uncle. Is Arthur/Ace Handley noted in your records? Thank you."
"Bob Sanford's account is correct. I attended the same church with Bob and Gary in Van Nuys around 1984, and we became friends. I was a public relations professional and tried to help them. Gary was being villainized in the news media. There was an aggressive district attorney that was looking to get reelected, and he was pushing the agenda to prosecute Gary and Bob over ADS. Bob, I still have the New Testament you gave me signed by Porter Barrington, who wrote the master outlline, and who's wife successfully used ADS until her family made her stop. Gary and Bob were good guys.
The story of how Gary came across ADS is fascinating. Gary called me late one night and said he was leaving the country, would never get a fair trial, and did not want to go to jail. I didn't blame him. Last time I ever talked to him. He was so fun. He loved the circus and took my son and I to a circus where he arranged for me to be the guest circus master. I still have the picture he took of me on the circus stage. Rest in peace, sweet Gary!"
"What an excellent article. I saw this World Final meeting on telly and remember the clash between Szczakiel and Mauger. I'd known nothing about the quality of Polish riders except Zenon Plech. At that meeting Ivan Mauger was the best rider on display and watching the run-off he had the speed and ability to pass Jerzy, however Mauger made a misjudged move resulting in him falling, it was Mauger's bad luck not Jerzy's good luck, especially as he was leading at the time.
It would have been argued that as it was in Poland he would have had an advantage because there was a lot of controversy at that time that riders from communist countries were said to be state sponsored with the best bikes and that track preparation would have been done to suit them. It been said about any sport that sometimes you need a bit of luck , he was in the right place at the right time and should be acknowledged on his merit for being World Championship.
There's been a few stories of riders where luck, both good and bad have played their part for World Champions, Dave Jessup when a 15p clip caused him to breakdown and lose the World Championship and Sam Ermolenko where if you watch the race when Hans Nielsen was excluded for bringing him down it appears just before the incident Ermolenko's bike seemed to be slowing/cutting out, whatever your view on what counts as luck you cannot take away that the people we've talked about deserved their Crown.
Another rider with a similar story to Jerzy's and perhaps by most to be a 'lucky' World Champion is Egon Muller, winner in 1983, won in his native country Germany, he did not win a medal in any other Individual Speedway World Championships. It is alleged that he had more practice than the other competitors and the track was prepared as a long track (he was World Long Track World Champion 3 times, an honour shared by Mauger). Unlike Jerzy, Egon Muller had some British League experience riding for Coatbridge and Hull.
A reason that people perceive Szczakiel and Muller as lucky/not worthy World Champions is that most World Champions would have been dominant in British Speedway the years they became World Champion. A good example of this is Anders Michanek, won practically every British tracks individual meeting in 1973, World Champion in 1974. R.I.P Jerzy "
"Fantastic article, Tracy, one of your very best, clearly bringing your passion for your favourite, Jerzy, to the place that it deserves, and setting the record straight, once and for all. The record books will always say 1973 World Speedway Champion, and the story behind the story has done his career justice."
"Ian, interesting reading. Yes 2012 was looking good re the new Norwich Speedway but as you say it came to nothing and as Trevor Hedge stated they missed the best chance to restart since 1965. Ove agreed to ride my JAP as a publicity stunt to promote the start up at any track we could fix it up with. I had arranged Poole, Ipswich and Somerset before plans collapsed. Such a shame.
I liked the older way of speedway, the spotlights on, riders coming out on track looking for their bike as they fastened their helmet, gas goggles down being pushed off by two chaps in boiler suits. the chrome, the noise and smell. I think the promoters stopped all the razamataz because they thought there were too many chaps [all volunteers] from the chap who pushed the bikes out onto track, the helmet colour chap, the pushers off getting in for nothing, Now they ride straight out of the pits, all the razamataz gone."
"Really enjoyed the article. While Terry Betts may have been in dispute with Norwich at the start of 1964 , wasn't he banned for nine months by the SCB for missing meetings at the 1963? This led to a number of approaches from Provincial League teams, including Glasgow, all of which he rejected. Was Ove Fundin considering retiring at he end of 1964 or at least no longer coming to the UK and had he already told Norwich about this? Might have influenced the decision to sell the site as crowds were likely to fall off badly if he didn't return. Still a sad day when The Firs closed. "
With tyres very much back in the news, it seems a good time to bring this 2009 article from Colin Richardson back to the top of the site. He expertly explained some of the technical changes to machines and tyres over the years.
Thanks to Dave Hobson for this magnificent shot of the 1973 BLRC trophy. Ivan Mauger was the winner that year and this forms part of the collection at www.ivanmauger.net
"Possibly my favourite ever meeting. A large contingent of Glasgow Tigers fans gathered in the small stand on the 2nd bend and it was shaking with the volume of noise coming from the Tigers fans, who hadn't had too much to celebrate in recent times. Jimmy Mac did us proud that night and his rostrum place was well and truly deserved, and he was cheered every inch of the way there as we celebrated well into the night."
"Re: 'Suitable for crimewatch' -
1933, Lismore, NSW. Well known speedway rider, Arthur Kidd (18) shot at his wife Una Kidd with intent to murder. After an argument Kidd met his wife in the street and fired at her with a sawn off pea rifle
A sawn off pea rifle, whatever that might be, was also the weapon of choice in 1941, when former speedway rider, Roy Hindle (38) was charged with the murder of William James (22), son of an MP at South Maitland railway works.
After a series of arguments between the two colleagues, eye witness, Thomas Griffiths, said Hindle fired at point blank range. In s defence Hindle said he only meant to frighten James.
"Re your article on Olsen and his less able team mates, you haven't got a clue what it takes to team ride. First of all you have to be a good waiter then have the nuts to ride faster round the outside, sometimes on difficult tracks. Then he had the gall to say 'I win the race, it makes my score look better' and that goes for all his ex team so called mates."
"George Todd, Wall of Death Rider 1929 - 1960s My late father was a famous wall of death rider. One newspaper article in the 1930s said he was a famous London speedway rider. Although he left lots of movie film of speedway the riders are too far away to be identified. Can you tell me whether you have come across him?"
"As the Covid shutdown continues we at The SpeedwayResearcher web site continue to add to the records of speedway racing in the UK. Work is progressing on the more recent era and it is hoped that the 1981 season details will be added in due course. Work is progressing apace on the pre war era but there are still a fair few gaps to fill.
Often we have details of the race 1 - 3 and heat times and are seeking the 4th placed man. Second half details are often a bit sketchy and need to be completed. Can you help us fill these gaps? If the answer is yes - we would love to hear from you.
We currently have list of the information we are seeking for 1938 and 1939 seasons? Hopefully we will be producing needs lists for 1937 in the very near future and a needs list for 1936 is quite well advanced. We are quite happy to acknowledge any help but, equally, we do not disclose sources if you wish to remain anonymous . The Speedway Researcher web site has recently introduced a feature called collectors corner. See the site for details. As ever - any help is welcome."
John Chaplin and Maurice Ramsay put together their own vision of how the 1939 World Final may have gone.
Trevor Davies is set to write a biography of Split Waterman. He is keen to hear from supporters who saw him race for Wembley, Harringay, West Ham, Wimbledon, Southampton, Plymouth, New Cross, Ipswich, Belle Vue or England. It is proposed to include a chapter of riders and fans memories of Split Waterman's riding career. Please contact Trevor via firstname.lastname@example.org
"An excellent piece. I regularly watched speedway in the 90s when I was still living near Derby. And later on - I think it was the 40th anniversary meeting - I drove over from the Peak District in early April with snow piled up on the side of the road from Hartington to Leek. Very sad pictures of the demolition process."
Ray Davidson sent us these pictures back in 2011. They were taken at Berwick's rural home in the eighties. The meetings were Steve McDermott's testimonial in 1989 and the visit of Arena Essex in 1986.
This year's California-in-Engalnd Speedway Reunion has been cancelled for obvious reasons. Hopefully the Poppies will be able to get back together again in 2021.
Friends of Speedway (a non-profit making organisation who are proud to part sponsor the British Youth Speedway Championship) are pleased to announce the 78th edition of their magazine the Voice which is packed full of interest and enjoyment. This issue is a huge 24 pages, which will keep your interest for hours!
In this issue Charles Mckay says 'See you at the speedway in 2020? Sue Towner on her Soapbox, with an update on the progress of young Sam Norris. John Hyam on New Cross. Roy Delaney looks at the famous Hawkeye. Slider says, 'Thank You and Good Night - The Supporters Have Left the Building' plus an Obituary to Stoke Speedway. Ron Jones looks at the birth of Dirt Track racing at Coventry. Revival of speedway at Southampton and Oxford? Plus more to keep you interested.
Available from Friends of Speedway; 117 Church Lane, Chessington, Surrey KT9 2DP. Please send your cheque for £12 made out to the above for four issues of the Voice to Stu Towner at the above address or ring 0208-397 6599/07860 135939 for more information.
"Yes it's very sad. Living in London I've made eleven visits to Stoke's Loomer Road over the years, several times stopping off at Alton Towers. I always enjoyed my visits, the journey, the stadium and the racing was good, and had what was probably one of the best track shops around.
The last time I visited there was in 2011 to see Hackney who were based at Rye House in the National League as it was called then.
As the lockdown has eased, people have been working extra hard and being inventive and doing whatever it takes to get their businesses back up and running. With speedway and the BSPA not even attempting to run any form of speedway whether it's individual, three or four team tournaments or even challenge matches people will get used to 'not going.
Pubs have survived and even flurished because as social meeting places they have adapted. I believe British Speedway will spiral even further downwards because people will get used to not going, the thrill of watching a live match will have gone, people will be content to subscribe and watch it live on telly. Unfortunately more Loomer Road's will occur. I've pointed it out many times sport is about competition, not levelling the playing field by penalising the good teams.
Enough said, R.I.P. Stoke speedway and Loomer road, lots of fond memories."
"Information on meetings featuring Sonny Dewhurst can be found on The Speedway Researcher web site. There are A - Z lists of riders iIn most of the track by track files section, which show how many meetings a rider is known to have appeared in any give year. The actual rider details can then be found by visiting the year files."
"I have have been trying to find more about a friend from the late sixties from grass track racing. I've been told he raced speedway in Liverpool in his younger days his names was Sonny Dewhurst his son Stan also rode, any information or stories would be appreciated ."
"With reference to the "Wall of Death" film, mentioned in the OnScreen article, I believe this film is titled "There is Another Sun". It does turn up occasionally on Freeview channel TALKING PICTURES."
"This statement from Tracy really sums it up: "This event would be homed at Belle Vue and would join The Internationale as THE biggest meetings a rider could win in the UK apart from The World Final." I went with my dad to many BLRC's in the '70's and Tracy is spot on in saying that this was a BIG night. But I'd never really thought of it in comparison terms with other meetings, and I can see that, certainly from the inception of the British Leage in '65, the BLRC stood as a 'big 'un' for many years. Under the lights at Hyde Road, end-of-season, packed crowd, best riders in the world bar the odd one or two - fantastic stuff."
"I went to Somerton Park in 1969 for the first in our championship season. Gordon Guasco scored a 12 point max in a 49-29 win then whenTim Stone opened up Hayley Park we went to watch young Martin Willis ride there on several occasions. The sixties and seventies were the halcyon days of speedway in my opinion watching Eric Broadbelt scraping the boards at Poole and winning, top nights."
"Just like to say enjoyed the Bill Andrew article. Remembered him well at Poole giving 100% all the time. In 1968 he held the Pirates together when Gote Nordin went back to Sweden after one meeting, still we found Odd Fossengen that year with his battered old pickup truck and red tank speedway bike. Anybody remember him riding over 2 laps and finishing second with only half of his handlebars, legend! Good times."
"A great article from Alan Pennington. Like him, I wonder now whether I'm going through the motions by watching live speedway. Sadly, the total destruction of Plough Lane, Wimbledon, is now complete and there isn't a track in London or within 50 miles now. This year thanks to the virus we haven't been able to showcase the sport on TV, and quite frankly the Polish stuff without a crowd has been lamentable. I grieve for the sport I love, having spent many happy Tuesday's at West Ham and Friday's at Hackney in the 60's and 70's.
Like Alan, I note the lack of the younger generation at the few meetings I do attend now. Maybe a return to the "old" rules (especially the nonsense at the start - What would Tony Lomas have made of those first out of the gate now?), and the freedom to choose handlebars (remember the wide sweeping cow horns that some used?) would give the sport some of its spectacle back. But, I won't hold my breath.
A once proud and magnificent sport now seems to be slowly dying on the back of political correctness (you aren't excluded now but disqualified), and ridiculous rules courtesy of the BSPA and the FIM which have slowly throttled the life out of it. I shall continue to attend meetings when and where I can, but each year they seem to get less and less important. Nobody though can take away the memories. Thank you speedway for everything."
"Thanks for this brilliant piece which answered many questions for me. I was a 15 yr old Wolves follower at the time and had been to my first meeting at Monmore a few weeks earlier but was not at the meeting where Gary died. I found out the following day seeing it in the Express & Star headline when shopping i n town next day.
It was such a numbing shock I never read the account of the accident.
I became a regular from 1978 with some friends and in one meeting some time after this we were cheering Alan Grahame who was guesting for Wolves that night when one of the older fans stood behind us on the home straight chimed in: "What do you mean 'come on Alan!'? That man killed Gary Peterson!" A woman in their group was visibly distressed and they did not elaborate on how Alan was supposed to have done this. Seeing this piece and attached comments removes the asterisk from Alan Grahame's name for me. Maybe some fans were still traumatised and naturally blamed the survivor in order to cope.
Right up until Wolves were "relegated" to the National League we always seemed one rider short of having a competitive side. I often wondered especially if 1978 would've been quite as disastrous with Gary Peterson alongside Hans Nielsen, Dave Morton and Jimmy Mac and whether he could have emulated his friend Ole Olsen and become Wolves's second World Champion. Or would he have followed Ole to Coventry instead? Alas we shall never know."
"Enjoyed your reminiscences Alan - just one thing Ray Harris -also one of my favourites did ride after Stoke closed, for Newport in 1964 and 1965. In fact Ray scored 7 points at Long Eaton for a Newport away win in 1965 I recall an older speedway fan at that meeting seeing a hectic race with Ray Harris against Ken Adams and saying how great it was to see two old timers giving it their all. I recall that particular race (hitch-hiked up to Long Eaton) - great days and great riders!!"
"Alan's is another sad story of a supporter lost to the sport. Like myself he tells a similar story, a relative or friend persuades you to go speedway and you become hooked. Living in London, Stoke was a track I enjoyed going to, paying many a visit, a couple of times stopping off at Alton Towers with Loomer Road rounding off a wonderful day.
His thoughts on why British Speedway has declined is shared by most of us but I think other factors have contributed, we are told there's not enough riders yet you have track sharing, air fences have reduced the widths of tracks thus reducing racing lines, an example Rye House the last track I was able to get to became poor racing once an air fence was introduced especially when they went Premiership, out to the fence and stay there, no passing unless mistakes were made, ironically Rye had a safer (collapsible) fence than the air fence.
Even if you watched Swedish Speedway on Freeview and Polish on You-tube you were watching the same riders in each league. Fortunately we have the internet with websites such as this where we can share our speedway memories of a time when it was enjoyable, great in these times of coronavirus with self isolating and thank goodness for Zoom and Facebook Messenger. "
Alan has been a fan since the fifties, but fears he has seen has last live meeting now that Stoke Potters are no more. Having seen racing at 74 UK tracks, he's well placed to offer some opinion on the sport.
"Saw a couple of meetings at the Hayley stadium, one against Birmingham the other was the New Year Classic. The Brum meeting had some great racing made even better by the fact that Brum came out on top - this was ridden on a beautiful summers day.
The visit for the New Year Classic was a little different. There had been a lot of rain but the meeting went on even though the track was like a pudding bowl. Racing was very difficult due to the conditions and I had noticed that anyone standing near to the bend three fence got filled in with splattering shale as the riders entered the bend. There were five of us and we wondered around the track watching the racing from different vantage points. I stopped the group at bend three as we chatted. As the riders came round four of us crouched using my brother-in-law as a shield and true to form he got covered from head to toe...as you can imagine we were all very sympathetic.....happy days!"
"Re: "suitable for crimewatch" - Ukrainian Igor Marko who died after a mugging/street robbery in Rivne in 2006. Although over 40 he was still active in the Ukraine. Career highlight was the 1986 European Junior Championship (now called World under 21) which he won from Tony Olsson and Brian Karger. He appeared in Britain in 1990 as part of a USSR touring team."
"Just came across this article. Me and my mate hitch-hiked to Skeggy for a few days back in the 70's. On the Sunday Boston were at home to my beloved Brummies in the second leg of a cup match. We hitched back to New Hammond Beck Road and pitched our tent on an embankment outside the stadium which I think overlooked bends 1 and 2. Our intention was to go into the stadium but we had such a good view we watched from the embankment. We witnessed a great meeting as Boston stormed into a 14 point lead only for Brum to fight back and earn a draw and won the tie on aggregate."
"I remember this meeting has if it was yesterday (not 46 years ago). This was the first time a bunch of us lads (Long Eaton Archers Supporters) had taken our wives/girlfriends to an big individual meeting. We arrived early and went to watch the South London Rangers Cycle Speedway team against a Select Side. An entertaining match, which the Rangers won. I have the program somewhere.
Any way, off to the meeting. My mate Paul's GF (later wife) was a massive John Boulger fan, who fell in his first ride and was unable to continue due to a shoulder injury. It was a great meeting for another Friend (Big Rog) wife, because Peter Collins won it, and she was from Manchester and an Aces Fan.
The fates hadn't finished with us yet. On the way home, the Mini bus broke down. Gary and Tony who drove the bus had to trudge over a mile to the nearest breakdown phone box. After dropping everybody off safely I finally crawled into bed around 5 the following morning. Later I rang my the girlfriend (at the time) Loran up to see how she was, and had to explain to her irate Dad, what had happened to the bus. Any way thanks for reading the story and the memories of an Old Man."