lunedì 17 aprile 2017

Egon Müller - GM

Il primo a vincere il titolo più ambito con una macchina motorizzata GM.
The first to win the most coveted title on a GM powered machine.

mercoledì 12 aprile 2017

Scott Autrey - SR Jawa; Bruce Penhall - Weslake; Dennis Sigalos - Weslake

Tre piloti che guidarono l'invasione americana iniziata negli anni '70.
Three riders who lead America's speedway invasion which began in the '70s.


lunedì 10 aprile 2017

giovedì 6 aprile 2017

1936 World Championship (part 3)

Championship Round scorers 
Harringay - July 11. Jack Parker 15, Charles 13, Newton 11, Van Praag 11, Cordy Milne 10, Ormston 9, Lees 8, Pitcher 8, Wilkinson 7, Chitty 6, Baltazar Hansen 5, Norman Parker 5, Clibbett 5, Dixon 2, Stobbart 1, Johnson 0.

West Ham - July 14. Langton 15, Huxley 14, Wilkinson 12, Case 11, Jack Parker 10, Pitcher 9, Dixon 8, Atkinson 6, Murphy 5, Clibbett 4, Ormston 4, Chitty 3, Baltazar Hansen 3, Khun 2, Stobbart 1.

Wembley - July 23. Van Praag 15, Huxley 13, Ormston 12, Morian Hansen 11, Wilkinson 10, Charles 9, Lees 9, Abbott 7, Johnson 7, Norman Parker 6, Cordy Milne 5, Clibbett 4, Murphy 4, Atkinson 3, Dixon 1.

New Cross - July 29. Newton 14, Langton 13, Harrison 13, Jack Milne 10, Case 9, Jack Parker 9, Norman Parker 8, Morian Hansen 8, Kilmister 7, Johnson 6, Van Praag 6, Baltazar Hansen 5, Phillips 4, Stobbart 3, Lloyd 3, Pitcher 2.

Belle Vue - August 8. Langton 15, Newton 14, Harrison 13, Charles 10, Johnson 9, Huxley 8, Phillips 8, Jack Milne 8, Lees 7, Wilkinson 7, Kitchen 6, Abbott 5, Dixon 4, Chitty 3, Murphy 2, Gordon Byers 2, Stobbart 1, Khun 0.

Wimbledon - August 10. Van Praag 15, Langton 14, Ormston 11, Case 9, Phillips 9, Cordy Milne 8, Jack Milne 8, Morian Hansen 8, Kitchen 7, Harrison 6, Atkinson 5, Lees 4, Pitcher 4, Huxley 4, Kilmister 4, Khun 4.

Hackney Wick - August 14. Charles 15, Jack Parker 13, Newton 12, Morian Hansen 12, Kitchen 9, Cordy Milne 9, Case 8, Jack Milne 8, Harrison 7, Chitty 6, Atkinson 6, Phillips 5, Baltazar Hansen 4, Clibbett 3, Kilmister 2, Murphy 2.

The full list of qualifying scorers were: Langton 13, Charles 12, Newton 12, Jack Parker 12, Van Praag 12, Morian Hansen 10, Harrison 10, Huxley 10, Wilkinson 10, Case 9, Ormston 9, Cordy Milne 9, Jack Milne 9, Lees 7, Phillips 7, Abbott 7. Reserves: Johnson 7, Pitcher 7. Non-qualifiers: Atkinson 6, Norman Parker 6, Baltazar Hansen 5, Clibbett 5, Chitty 5, Kilmister 5, Dixon 4, Murphy 4, Stobbart 3, Khun 3, Tate 2.

Of the qualifiers, only Newton could be classed as a youngster, as all the others had started their careers in the 1920's. The Milnes and Morian Hansen were the only non-British Empire qualifiers. Abbott's injury prevented him from taking his place in the Final and his place went to Ron Johnson. A bigger shock was that Jack Parker had hurt his wrist before the Final and he was replaced by Arthur Atkinson. Norman Parker and Baltazar Hansen stepped up to the reserve spots.

The big day arrived and 74,000 people packed into Wembley Stadium, the largest speedway crowd ever at that point. Admission costs ranged from 1/3 (6p) for unreserved standing spaces at 10/6 (52p) for the best seats in the house. There were discounted rates for party bookings from supporters' clubs.
Eric Langton celebrated his 29th birthday on the day of the Final. 
An unusual and potentially catastrophic event happened on the day of the Final. The BBC announced on the radio that the Final had been cancelled. Where they got their information from heaven knows but they had to announce the truth at fifteen minute intervals throughout the day to prevent fans from not travelling to the event.

The Final itself is well covered in books by Robert Bamford and Glynn Shailes and by John Chaplin which give the details race by race so there is no need to repeat them here.

Frank Charles declared his intent in heat one, winning in a track record time of 73.6 seconds. The Wembley rider followed this win a win in heat five and looked like the man to beat. However Charles ran a shock last in heat nine and his chances were over.

Cordy Milne greatly impressed the crowd with some terrific riding, scoring eleven points for fourth overall on the night and in the competition as a whole. George Newton's chances were blown by a fall in heat one, while Bill Pitcher earned the dubious honour of being the first man to be excluded from a World Championship race in a World Final for touching the tapes at the start of heat twelve.

Man of the evening was Bluey Wilkinson, who raced to a brilliant maximum. However, the popular Aussie was denied victory due to the iniquitous bonus points system which meant that he only came third in the final reckoning.

That left the title to be fought between two riders - Lionel Van Praag and Eric Langton. The two riders met in the last programmed race of the night with Van Praag needing a win to secure a run off. He achieved this and the stage was set for a showdown of enormous proportions.

Legend has it that Langton and Van Praag met before the race and came up with a rather spurious gentlemans' agreement. Concerned about the cut-throat nature of the race they were about to have, allegedly the pair agreed that the person who got the first bend in front would be allowed to win untroubled by the other. Unfortunately Langton went through the tapes to spoil things rather. The ACU steward, Mr. J. O'Neill, allowed Langton back in - a controversial decision if ever there was one! In the rerun, the story goes, Langton led from the start but was passed by Van Praag. At the end of the race, a furious Langton confronted Van Praag , who said the deal was invalidated by Langton's tape-breaking offence!

So Lionel Van Praag entered the record books as the first ever winner of the World Speedway Championship. The most important thing , however, is that the championship had been a roaring success and, apart from a brief interruption by Herr Hitler, has been with us ever since.

previously issued on The Speedway Researcher, Vol. 5 No. 4 March 2003 and Vol. 6 No. 1 June 2003

mercoledì 5 aprile 2017

1936 World Championship (part 2)

The foreigh riders who had been imported for the championship made a mixed impression. Mossman rode at West Ham and, although he only scored four points, reminded many of the legendary 'Sprouts' Elder. Cecil de la Porte was drawn at Belle Vue and missed his first two rides. He won heat nine as the only finisher, in a time ten seconds slower than Bluey Wilkinson's in heat one!
At Harringay Baltazar and Kalle Hansen used borrowed machines. Baltazar, however, scored a lively ten points.
At Hackney Wick neither of the Spaniards knew how to do clutch starts and were quite dreadful. Unfortunately, Jose broke a finger on his left hand.

The big shock of the qualifying rounds was the elimination of West Ham captain 'Tiger' Stevenson after a poor performance at New Cross. Other riders were a tad luckier. A rather dubious practice existed whereby riders who missed their qualifying rounds were able to swap places with other riders. Therefore Ron Johnson, who broke a rib in the England v Australia test match missed his round at Wimbledon but rode at Wembley five days later scoring a flawless maximum. The swapping practice was outlawed by the ACU for the championship round.

There were other shock non-qualifiers for the championship round. One of the title favourites, Max Grosskreutz, had been injured before the rounds took place and had to miss out. Notable riders who failed to negotiate the first stage succesfully were Stan Greatrex, the New Cross rider who had actually been born in Russia, Bill Kitchen (who appeared as a substitute rider in the championship round) and Tommy Croombs.

Qualifying Round Scorers
West Ham (26/5) Jack Parker 12, Jack Milne 11, Bob Harrison 10, Bill Kitchen 7, Gordon Byers 7, Eric Collins 6, Putt Mossman 4, Billy Dallison 3, Billy Lamont 2.
Belle Vue (30/5) Bluey Wilkinson 12, Lionel Van Praag 11, Rol Stobart 10, Mick Murphy (aka as Jack Glass) 9, Gerhard Ahrens 7, Jack Sharp 4, Cecil de la Porte 4, George Wilks 4, Alfred Rumrich 1.
Harringay (6/6) Frank Charles 10, Baltazar Hansen 10, Ginger Lees 10, Wally Kilmister 10, Eric Gregory 7, Stan Greatrex 7, Stan Dell 6, George Greenwood 4, Kalle Hansen 3.
Hackney Wick (19/6) Arthur Atkinson 11, Jack Ormston 11, Norman Parker 9, Geoff Pymar 7, Les Wotton 7, Cliff Parkinson 6, Dicky Smythe 4, Juan Vinals 0, Jose Vinals 0.
Wimbledon (20/6) Fred Tate 11, Dicky Case 10, Morian Hansen 9, George Newton 9, Bill Clibbett 8, Jack 'Bronco' Dixon 7, Ernie Evans 4, Tommy Price 4, Les Bowden 0.
Wembley (25/6) Ron Johnson 12, Wal Phillips 11, Bill Pitcher 9, Eric Langton 9, Wal Morton 6, Oliver Langton 5, Charlie Spinks 4, Torsten Sjöberg 4.
New Cross (1/7) Joe Abbott 12, Cordy Milne 11, Vic Huxley 9, Wally Lloyd 7, Eric Chitty 5, Gus Khun 5, Harold 'Tiger' Stevenson 4, Tommy Allott 4, Ferdinand Meyner 0.

The championship round began at Harringay on July 11, which saw four of the qualifying round's unbeaten riders come together. At the end of the meeting only one remained - home rider Jack Parker. Misfortune was suffered by Bluey Wilkinson who fell once and came last in another. These dropped points were to prove costly in the long run for the West Ham man. Another rider to experience problems was New Cross hero Ron Johnson, who fell twice.

Three nights later at West Ham, Jack Parker dropped five points in a meeting won by Eric Langton who scored a brilliant maximum. Lionel Van Praag won the next round on his home track, Wembley, with both Frank Charles and Cordy Milne experiencing problems along the way.

At New Cross on July 29, youngster George Newton stunned his elder compatriots to win the round with fourteen points. Another shock was the performance of 'Uncle' Bob Harrison of Belle Vue, who finished third. Lionel Van Praag had three engine failures in his opening three rides, then won his last two outings. Jack Milne also experienced engine trouble which restricted his scoring, whilst home favourite Ron Johnson, had a patchy evening.

The next round was at Belle Vue where there was both good and bad news for the 35,000 Aces fans who packed Hyde Road. The meeting was won by home rider Eric Langton who produced several spectacular overtaking moves on his way to a fifteen point maximum. Unfortunately another Aces rider, 'Iron Man' Joe Abbott broke an arm. It ruled him out of the championship which he had gone well in up to that point. George Newton and Bob Harrison again performed well, finishing second and third respectively.

So far the championship round meetings had been exciting. However this was soon to end with a night's entertainment described by the Speedway News as 'tepid'. They were referring to the Wimbledon round held on August 10 in which most races were ridden in silence as the crowd had little enthusiasm for the event. Dons' number one, Vic Huxley, had a poor night scoring only four points whilst Norman Parker had to withdraw with a foot injury. Lionel Van Praag won from Eric Langton with Jack Ormston turning in a lively performance to finish third.

The final round was held at Hackney Wick. It was won by Wembley's Frank Charles although George Newton was unlucky to fall in one race which dropped his tally to 12 points on the night. Jack Parker was second with George Newton in third place.

martedì 4 aprile 2017

1936 World Championship (part 1)

Mark Sawbridge compiled an in depth article on the first FIM inscribed Speedway World Championship.
The article appears by kind permission of Graham Fraser who is joint editor of The Speedway Researcher.

In 1936, the Autocycle Union (ACU) decided that it was time to introduce a world championship for speedway racing.
It was considered by many that the existing 'Star' Championship had run its course and that the British Individual Championship, in reality a match race title, was so unpopular that its replacement was inevitable and this innovation would be embraced by supporters and riders alike.

The ACU approached the FIM (the world governing body, then called the FCIM) which decided at their Madrid Conference in April 1936 to approve the scheme. There were some dissenting voices amongst its 18 nations represented but they were over-ruled by the approving nations. The event was called the 'World's Championship'.

This was not the first 'world championship' that had been held, but it was the first FIM sponsored event. Previous attempts at running a 'World Final' included an effort by Australian promoter A. J. Hunting to run an event in Buenos Aires, which had been sponsored by the National Tobacco Company. In 1931 a similar event was held in Paris, sponsored by the Brampton Chain Company which was won by 'Cyclone' Billy Lamont. In the same year an event billed as the World Championship was staged in the UK and has been reported in The Speedway Researcher.

For the 1936 championship there was £3,256 prize money on offer - an enormous amount at the time when the country was in the grip of a depression. The winner was to receive £500 with second and third receiving £250 and £50 respectively.

There were two rounds - a 'qualifying' and a 'championship' round. The ACU decided that in the qualifying round there would be three riders in each race. The rationale was that the amount of money on offer would make the racing too cut-throat for four riders races. This was an enormous mistake as supporters and riders alike universally derided the qualifying meetings. If a rider fell or had an engine failure, the others in the race were happy to tootle round for some easy money. Thankfully, four riders races were allowed for the championship rounds.

Another controversial item was the bonus point system. Points from the qualifying and championship rounds were added together, divided by the points available, and then divided again by seven and then taken to the nearest whole number. This system was modified for the 1937 and 1938 championships but the bonus point system was discontinued after the war. The championship generated much interest in Britain and abroad. One man from the USA applied for 500 tickets to satisfy demand from supporters from the club he was running.

The championship took on a cosmopolitan look right from the outset. As well as a large number of English and Australian riders, there were two New Zealanders (Jack Hobson and Wally Kilmister), two Romanians (N. Ionescu-Cristea and Ovidiu Ionescu), the Milnes (Cordy and Jack) and Putt Mossman from the USA, the Hansens (Morian, Kalle and Baltazar) from Denmark, Ferdinand Meyner from France, Jose and Juan Vinals from Spain, B. Carlsson and Torsten Sjöberg from Sweden, Alfred Rumrich and Gerhard Ahrens from Germany, Canada's Eric Chitty and the delightfully named Cecil de La Porte from South Africa. There was also a Welshman, Syd Griffiths of Harringay. There was considerable talk that the USA touring team would take part, but only the aforementioned stuntman Putt Mossman made it in the end.

The qualifying rounds were staged on each First Division track, with no rider being drawn at home. As I mentioned earlier, the meetings were generally duller than ditchwater. To compensate, the promoters rather astutely booked all-star second halves, which provided more entertainment that the main event. This did, however, lead to two terrible accidents.
The first at West Ham, where Jack Milne suffered a severed thumb. An apocryphal story at the time is that Milne was told by the doctors, whilst he was lying in his hospital bed, that he would never ride again, as the colourful American would be unable to grip the handlebars. Milne was in a cast iron bed and told the doctors that if he could grip the end of the bed, he could grip the handlebars, and would ride again. After a few weeks, the bed was indeed grasped and Milne was soon back on a bike again.
The other accident was quite appalling. In the Wimbledon round the young Fred Tate stunned the crowd by winning the meeting beating such notables as Dicky Case, Morian Hansen and George Newton. However, in the second half Tate fell and suffered severe facial injures. Tate spent months in hospital and had to have plastic surgery to rebuild part of his face. It was the end of a promising career, as Tate never rode again.

Following on quickly from the Dusty Haigh tragedy at Hackney Wick and with memories of Tom Farndon's death in people's minds, these accidents resulted in calls for a review of the safety of the sport.