CONTROVERSY marked the start of the New Year with news that the England test team had staged a dramatic walk-out after Heat 4 of the Sixth Test at Sydney. It had been the climax to a night of angry protests by England manager John Berry over the state of the Showground track. After a considerable delay, the visitors agreed to continue. Berry explained, ‘I felt we had a duty to the Australian public but I told the England team that they must take no risks nor attempt any passing. I am not prepared to have a death on my conscience. There are dangers in speedway but the conditions exceeded the normal danger limit.’

The home side went on to win the match 62-45 but England were already 5-0 up in the series. Peter Collins was injured in Heat 3 and Chris Pusey in the very next race. Top scorers for the Lions were John Davis (15) and Doug Wyer (10). Phil Herne (16) was the best Australian.

1976 was the year in which British and Icelandic ships clashed at sea in the so-called Cod War, Big Ben stopped working and Britain won the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time. James Hunt became the Formula One World Champion, Jim Callaghan became Prime Minister after Harold Wilson’s resignation, the Inter-City 125 made its first passenger journeys and John Curry won skating gold at the Winter Olympics. Britons were as happy as they had ever been, heatwave conditions persisted throughout the summer and the Government was forced to appoint Denis Howell as the minister to oversee drought management. Oh, and the Cortina Mark IV was introduced…

SpeedwayFiction Speedway like it used to be! Home Speedway Headlines 1976 Year of the burn-up The longest, driest, hottest summer of them all Headlines are added week by week     Scroll down to read the top speedway stories for later weeks     Click each picture for a larger view Week Ending January 3, 1976 SpeedwayFiction

IN the Queen’s New Year’s Day Honours List, World Champion Ivan Mauger was made a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, (MBE). The nomination was made by the New Zealand government for services to his country. In his Speedway Star column, Mauger wrote: ‘ I actually celebrated in mid-air, flying from America to New Zealand with the rest of the World Champions Troupe… it was the best Christmas present I could have received and I honestly cannot tell you how much it means to me.’ In the same issue, Barry Briggs - also an MBE - noted, ‘After I was awarded the MBE two years ago, Ivan said to me, “You can bet I’ll never get one of those. I’ve trodden on too many toes.”’ Extraordinary though his speedway achievements were, the honour was awarded as much for his promotion of the sport off the track. He is, many argue, the greatest ambassador speedway has ever had.

Week Ending January 10, 1976

THE England tourists recovered from the debacle in Sydney to win the final Test Match in Brisbane and take the series with an emphatic 6-1 total. The result of the seventh test, 50-57, owed much to solid performances from stand-in skipper Doug Wyer (13) and Peter Collins (15). Team manager John Berry said, ‘All the Australian team were mounted on Neil Street four-valve conversions and they were very quick from the gate and by Heat 11 they were six points ahead. But as the track dried out, our boys came back into it and were eventually quite comfortable winners.’ England’s other double-figure scorer was John Davis (10) while the top Australian was again Phil Crump who scored 17 points, beaten only by Doug Wyer.

Also this week, John Louis was voted Speedway Star Personality of the Year, heading off Peter Collins. Tommy Jansson was voted Mr London and Best London Junior was Karl Fiala.

Week Ending January 17, 1976

AN unhappy Ole Olsen, following news that the Control Board had upheld the BSPA decision to move him to Hull, announced that he was ‘disappointed and disgusted’ with the ruling and reaffirmed his desire to ride for Coventry. ‘If necessary,’ the Dane threatened, ‘I will take the matter to the civil courts.’ He also revealed that he was considering an offer from American supremo Harry Oxley to ride in the new American League.

Also this week, there were hopes of a return for speedway to Norwich after planning permission was granted to stage eleven Sunday afternoon meetings at Hevingham raceway, just outside the city. The organization involved was Norfolk Speedways, the King’s Lynn promoters. In contrast, a Speedway Control Board appeal committee upheld the Gulf British League promoters’ decision to reject an application for National League membership from Rochdale.

Week Ending January 24, 1976

FOLLOWING a BSPA meeting, the results of the latest Rider Control moves were known and the 1976 team lists were published. The class of the top riders in the Gulf British League would make a modern-day speedway supporter weep. Only White City, (spearheaded by Dag Lovaas and Gordon Kennett) and Cradley United, (fronted by John Boulger and Bernie Persson) remained unchanged from the previous season. Ole Olsen had been allocated to Hull but was refusing to go. The strongest teams looked to be Ipswich, with a heat-leader trio of John Louis, Billy Sanders and Tony Davey, Exeter (Ivan Mauger, Scott Autrey and Kevin Holden), and Belle Vue, (Peter Collins, Chris Morton and Alan Wilkinson). Wimbledon also looked good with Tommy Jansson, Christer Lofqvist and Ed Stangeland but the heart was to be ripped out of that team with Tommy Jansson’s tragic death in Stockholm, in the middle of the season.

Week Ending January 31, 1976

DISCUSSIONS were due to  take place this week which could see Stoke speedway move to Oxford’s Cowley circuit following news that Oxford’s SOS committee were to take over the running of the stadium. That meant that National League speedway was almost certain to begin at Cowley for the 1976 season. Promoter Bob Dugard told Speedway Star, ‘(Stoke) are still looking for a track nearer their home but if that fails, we could be of help until such time as a new site could be found in the Stoke area.’

THERE was bad news from New Zealand where Peter Collins had crashed while going for his second successive maximum in the Test series there, resulting in a broken wrist and a dislocated collarbone. The tourists had thrashed the Kiwis 85-23 in the first match of three and, despite losing Collins towards the end of the meeting, England still won the second Test 84-24.

Week Ending February 7, 1976

MAJOR news this week was the return of speedway to London’s White City Stadium after an absence of 47 years. The arena, once the home of British athletics and, by 1976, the venue for some of the country’s leading greyhound races first staged speedway in 1928 and became a member of the Southern League the following year. Negotiations had been taking place for over twelve months, ever since the Oxford promotion realized their future at Cowley was in jeopardy. Co-promoter Bob Dugard said, ‘It’s a wonderful stadium. I am sure that it will be a tremendous asset to speedway in general.’

ACROSS the world, the final test match between England and New Zealand was rained off in Auckland. The re-staging two days later resulted in another whitewash, the visitors racing to an easy victory, 83-25.

Week Ending February 14, 1976

WITH Britain still in the grip of winter weather, at the far side of the globe, the World Championship was well under way. Australia and New Zealand held their own national rounds as riders from both countries battled for places in the Australasian Final, due at the weekend. Australian Championship was won by Phil Crump who scored a flawless 15-point maximum, beating off strong challenges from John Langfield, Phil Herne and John Boulger, while in New Zealand, the Kiwi Champion was Ivan Mauger who top scored along with Barry Briggs. Both men finished on 14 points but it was Mauger who triumphed in the run-off.

MEANWHILE, a meeting of the BSPA had failed to find a solution to the ongoing ‘Ole Olsen Affair’. The reigning World Champion had refused to accept the move from Wolverhampton to Hull ordered by Rider Control and was insisting that he would only agree to a transfer to Coventry.

Week Ending February 21, 1976

SURPRISE news from Auckland was that John Boulger had won the Australasian Championship ahead of Billy Sanders, Phil Crump and Ivan Mauger. In a night characterised by six separate tape-breaking incidents, Boulger’s only defeat came from Crump in Heat 11. Remarkably, Boulger was one of a minority of riders mounted on standard two-valve Jawa equipment. Ten of the competitors were riding four-valve machines of one type or another. On a well-prepared surface, the track record was equalled and broken on several occasions, the final time of 69.8 seconds going to Ivan Mauger.

IN ENGLAND, Hackney were delighted to confirm the signing of Polish star Zenon Plech for the whole of the 1976 season. His signature had been bought from the Stal Gorzow club in exchange for an agreement to supply some English equipment to the club.  

Week Ending February 28, 1976

AS March began, bosses at Blackbird Road were rocked by the news that Leicester captain Ray Wilson was far from certain to start the season. This was not because of a disagreement with the management but simply because his motorcycle business was doing so well. ‘It’s all a matter of economics,’ Wilson told the Speedway Star. ‘My business is doing well and if I ride this season it will mean putting someone in to look after the business, to make sure it continues to show the progress it has made so far.’ What it boiled down to was that a major sponsorship had just ended for Wilson and he needed a replacement to make racing worthwhile.

ALSO this week, Barrow’s hopes of a return to speedway were dashed by a Cumbria County Council to overrule local planning and refuse Cliffe Hindle permission to open a track just outside the town.

Week Ending March 6, 1976

IN ASSEN, Netherlands, this week, Soviet rider Sergei Tarabanko retained the World Ice Racing Championship with a fine 15-point maximum. He finished ahead of the Czech Milan Spinka (13 points) and Conny Samuelsson of Sweden (13). In the Championship overall, that left a very tight finish, with Tarabanko on 28, Spinka 27 and Samuelsson 26. Viacheslav Dubinin, one of the fancied riders fom the USSR crashed in his first race and took no further part in the meeting.

MEANWHILE, Hull’s manager Ian Thomas appeared to have failed in his bid to lure Ole Olsen into his Vikings team. Thomas had flown out to Los Angeles to make a personal appeal to the Dane in an attempt to bring to an end the long-running saga of Olsen’s refusal to agree with a move ordered by Rider Control.

Week Ending March 13, 1976

AT LAST, the controversial (and very tedious) battle between Hull and Coventry over who would see Ole Olsen riding in their colours in 1976 fizzled out. Hull agreed to release the World Champion whose transfer to Coventry was subsequently sanctioned by the General Council of the BSPA. Meanwhile, Hull went ahead with the signing of American Mike Curuso who was currently riding in Israel for his home nation against a Rest of the World side.

CLOSER to home, there was bad news for readers of the Speedway Star. Citing the ‘spiral of inflation’ as the prime reason, the publishers (Websters in those days) announced a staggering 25 per cent increase in the price, from 15p to 20p! According to This Is Money’s historic inflation calculator, that would be £1.50 at 2016 prices. It compares quite well to the current price of £2.90.

Week Ending March 20, 1976

HALIFAX found themselves struggling for riders  after a disastrous opening meeting in which they narrowly beat Hull by 40-38. Charlie Monk was rushed to hospital with a suspected fractured skull and broken collar bone while Ian Cartwright suffered back injuries in the first heat of the Northern Trophy match. It left the Dukes’ management desperately trying to persuade retired skipper Rick France to don his leathers once again.

MARTIN ASHBY won the first leg of the SMC Golden Helmet match race against Malcolm Simmons but Simmons suffered a string of ill fortune. He broke the rocker arm on his new Weslake while warming up and rode the first heat on Christer Sjosten’s machine. Amazingly, he cracked the frame on this bike and had to race the second heat on another one, borrowed from Pete Smith.

Week Ending March 27, 1976

DESPITE a weekend of discussions, there appeared to be no agreement on terms between Wimbledon and Swedish star Christer Lofqvist. The former Poole and West Ham favourite was reportedly not satisfied with the deal being offered by the Dons who were set to continue using the services of Bo Jansson, elder brother of their Swedish captain, Tommy.

MEANWHILE, up at Sheffield, one of their most ardent supporters, the comedian Freddie Starr had offered a prize of £1000 plus a new machine to the Tigers’ top scoring rider at the end of the season. Team manager Terry Thornhill said, ‘Freddie is one of our keenest fans and this is a really fine gesture on his part.’ It followed the TV star’s earlier gift of a new bike to the top scorer in 1974.

Week Ending April 3, 1976

FOLLOWING their protracted negotiations with Ole Olsen, which had concluded unsuccessfully, Hull’s search for a new number one rider came to an end with the signing of four-times World Champion Barry Briggs. Briggo, who put pen to paper in front of the TV cameras on Yorkshire Television’s local news programme, ‘Calendar’,  said, ‘Because of riding and business commitments in Europe and elsewhere, I shall fly to the meetings at Hull by way of Leeds airport. In fact, I shall be based out of the country and just come back for Hull’s matches and a few other meetings.’

IN GENEVA, Speedway Control Board manager Harry Louis was making an application for special dispensation from the FIM to obtain an international licence so that 17 year-old Michael Lee could ride for England and also compete in the later stages of the World Championship.

Week Ending April 10, 1976

THE news that King’s Lynn’s new sensation Michael Lee was to be included in the field for Wimbledon’s Spring Classic meeting eased doubts about his eligibility for international competition. The Classic was a meeting that required FIM approval and the fact that he had been allowed to compete suggested that the Federation were about to award him his international licence despite his age. Normally, a rider must be 18 years old to qualify.

CONCERN was expressed at the weekend over the new silencers that had just been introduced for speedway competition. Riders were suggesting that JAP and Jawa machines were not performing properly when the silencers were fitted to their exhausts and that they lacked power on the straights. Forty years later, silencers are still controversial and problematic.

Week Ending April 17, 1976

DAVE Jessup was the winner of this year’s Spring Classic meeting at Wimbledon, beating Tommy Jansson by just one point. Jessup lost his only points in his final race of the night, Heat 18, when he came third to Peter Collins and and John Louis. Jansson’s bogey race was in Heat 15 when he gated badly and finished third to Jessup and Phil Crump. First prize was a trophy and a cheque for £500, (equivalent to almost £3800 at 2016 prices) while Jansson picked up £200, (over £1500 in today’s money).

MEANWHILE, in West London, Richard Greer suffered the disappointment of having his brand new Weslake machine stolen from the car park at White City stadium on Easter Monday, during the Rebels’ match against Swindon. Police were looking into the theft.

Week Ending April 24, 1976

THIS week, Coventry were celebrating the signing of Czechoslovakian Champion Jiri Stancl. In fact, the Bees had signed the Iron Curtain rider six weeks previously but had been waiting for approval from the Czech authorities before making the announcement.

THE newly instituted World Championship Preliminary Rounds had turned into the flops of the season as fans voted with their feet and stayed away. With the top 32 British riders already seeded to the Qualifying Rounds which would begin the following week, the Preliminaries had featured largely second strings and reserves. According the the Speedway Star, the rather patronising suggestion had already been made that, if the Preliminary Rounds were retained for 1977, they should be held on National League tracks where fans ‘would be glad to see British League riders in action’.

Week Ending May 1, 1976

SPEEDWAY STAR announced this week that they had reached agreement with the National League promoters to sponsor the Silver Helmet competition throughout the season with a winner’s cheque of £50 every month. The Star was also responsible for sponsorship of the Gulf British League’s Golden Helmet match race series. £50 is roughly equivalent to a prize of £379 at today’s (2016) prices.

ALSO in the news was Dave Jessup who notched up a fine victory in the Warner’s Superama at Hackney. The success followed hot on the heels of the Reading rider’s win in the prestigious Daily Express Spring Classic at Wimbledon. Currently sitting sixth in the Gulf League averages on 11.27, Jessup had just received his call-up for the England team to ride against New Zealand, Australia and Scotland in the World team Cup qualifying round at Ipswich.

Week Ending May 8, 1976

IVAN MAUGER and Barry Briggs were both hit with a ban by the FIM for refusing to ride for their home nation in the World Team Cup at Foxhall Heath. Ipswich promoter John Berry told the Speedway Star, ‘Mauger and Briggs were asked if they wished to race for New Zealand at Ipswich and they said they were not interested… Obviously, I am very disappointed that two riders who have been honoured by the Queen for their services to New Zealand speedway should decide that they do not want to represent their country at Ipswich.’ Harry Louis of the Speedway Control Board made clear the FIM rules that a rider who refuses to turn out for his country is banned from racing elsewhere on the day of the meeting or on one day either side. Neither Briggs nor Mauger would be free to ride in Ole Olsen’s meeting at Vojens in Denmark, for which they had both been booked.

Week Ending May 15, 1976

WORLD CHAMPIONS England were sensationally eliminated from the World Team Cup at Ipswich when they came second to Australia in the United Kingdom qualifying round. The Australians, humiliated by the British Lions during the winter, were thirsting for revenge and took the chances that came their way. The scores were: Australia 40, England 35, Scotland 12, New Zealand 8.

AT HACKNEY, promoter Len Silver was reported to the Speedway Control Board by referee Martin Palmer following an incident in the referee’s box at Swindon. Silver had lost his temper when Hawks’ star Zenon Plech was excluded in heat 13 for foul riding.The Pole had ridden hard under the Robins’ Bob Kilby to take second place on the line but referee Palmer awarded the points to Kilby.

Week Ending May 22, 1976

THE world of speedway was stunned this week by the news that Wimbledon and Smederna star Tommy Jansson had been killed in a track crash during the Swedish Final of the World Championship in Stockholm. The accident occurred during heat four of the meeting when Tommy was in the process of passing Lars Jansson (no relation). The two riders tangled and were hurtled into the fence at around 60 mph. Tommy suffered severe head injuries including a severed artery in his neck and died on the way to hospital. He was just 23 years of age and from Eskilstuna. On his last appearance at Plough Lane, he scored a 15-point maximum in the Marlboroough Southern qualifying round and retained the Golden Helmet match race trophy against Dave Jessup. He was a World Final reserve in 1973 and 1974, a finalist in 1975 and was World Pairs champion with Anders Michanek in 1973 and 1975.

Week Ending May 29, 1976

WITH emotions still very raw at Plough Lane following the death of Tommy Jansson just over a week earlier, the prestigious Embassy Internationale went ahead on May 31 on a Wimbledon track covered in sawdust after hours of steady rain. It was won decisively by Malcolm Simmons who didn’t drop a point all night. Philip Rising wrote in the Speedway Star, ‘He has style, class, an ability to make riding look as easy and relaxing as a stroll in the sunshine.’ Runners-up were Chris Morton (13) and Michael Lee (11).

IN the National League, Joe Owen retained the Speedway Star Silver Helmet, beating Eastbourne’s Steve Weatherly 2-0 in both legs of the May series at Arlington and Brough Park. Owen received a cheque for £100 for his victories in April and May. The June challenger was slated to be John Jackson of Ellesmere Port.

Week Ending June 5, 1976

ELLESMERE PORT’s John Jackson and Chris Turner won the 1976 New National League Pairs Championship from Newcastle in a dramatic final at Belle Vue. Jackson won the race with Turner at the back and Diamonds’ Tom and Joe Owen taking the middle placings but, under a new rule, a tie in the semi-final or final heats would be decided on the race winner. The Owen brothers had been pre-meeting favourites to win the title.

ENGLAND and Denmark headed the qualifiers for the World Pairs Final in Sweden, following the weekend’s semi-final rounds in Hungary and Germany, Malcolm Simmons and John Louis scoring a maximum 30 points.

IN SWEDEN, Tommy Jansson was buried in his home town of Eskilstuna. The funeral service was attended by more than 800 people.

Week Ending June 12, 1976

JOHN BOULGER, who blew up his bikes at the weekend, was forced out of Australia’s team for the World Pairs Final to be held in Eskilstuna, Sweden. The southern hemisphere selectors acted swiftly in calling up Billy Sanders to partner Phil Crump. Sanders travelled out with his Ipswich teammate John Louis who was representing England alongside Malcolm Simmons.

RADIO ONE DJ David Hamilton, himself an avid speedway fan, was booked to play record requests at the Inter-Continental Final at Wembley on June 26. Fans could send their requests to him via the Control Board headquarters in Belgrave Square.

BERWICK promoter Liz Taylor was determined to oppose the return of speedway to Powderhall, Edinburgh, claiming that such a move would lose her Bandits team at least 200 supporters which the Northumberland side could not do without.

Week Ending June 19, 1976

THIS WEEK the news was dominated by international competitions. West German star Egon Müller was crowned the new Continental Champion in Leningrad, Sweden completed a 5-0 thrashing of Poland in their home Test series but the biggest news was of England’s triumph in the World Pairs Final in Eskilstuna. John Louis and Malcolm Simmons rattled off 27 magnificent points to bring the cup home for the first time since 1972. Runners-up were Denmark whose pairing of Ole Olsen and Finn Thomsen scored 23. Other countries taking part were home nation Sweden (22), Australia (16), New Zealand (16), Scotland (12) and Poland (10). IN BRITAIN, Hackney promoter Len Silver was banned from taking an active part in the sport for a month and fined £100, (more than £750 today), for what was reported as ‘an incident’ with referee Martin Palmer during a Swindon v Hackney match in May.

Week Ending June 26, 1976

IT WAS a night of shocks at Wembley when the Inter-Continental Final saw reigning World Champion Ole Olsen go out of the competition along with 1974 champion Anders Michanek. Olsen had won his title at the London venue only nine months previously when Michanek had been the runner-up. Five English riders qualified for the Final in Poland, Peter Collins (the new Inter-Continental Champion), Malcolm Simmons, Chris Morton, Doug Wyer and John Louis. Other qualifiers from the meeting were Ivan Mauger, Phil Crump and Scott Autrey. The result left the Scandinavian countries without a single finalist as, in addition to Olsen and Michanek, out also went Sören Sjösten, Bengt Jansson, Bernt Persson and Dag Lovaas. Two of Australia’s three contenders, John Boulger and Billy Sanders were also bundled out of the competition.   

Week Ending July 3, 1976

NEWS from the Continental Semi-Final of the World Team Cup in Czechoslovakia was that Poland and the USSR had qualified for the Final at White City, London in September. Poland top-scored with 30 points, two ahead of the Soviet Union.

At home, Peterborough’s brilliant 17-year-old Ian Clark broke an arm and a leg in a heat three crash at Alwalton while Boston’s Billy Burton collapsed following a crash at Eastbourne five days earlier. Medics diagnosed a broken hip. In better news, Newcastle’s Joe Owen retained the Silver Helmet at Brough Park, beating John Jackson 2-0 and equalling the Byker track record in the process. Further south, there was talk of speedway coming to Brighton after Eastbourne and White City promoter Bob Dugard announced the opening of negotiations with the owners of a local greyhound stadium.   

Week Ending July 10, 1976

THE SHOCK headline this week was the unilateral decision by the Swedish authorities to forbid the use of four-valve machines in all league matches. The ban included the British Weslake, the Swedish ERM and the Neil Street conversion and was expected to be followed by similar rulings for 1977 in Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia.  The reason cited was that the extra power and speed of the new machines meant that they could not be handled safely. Ole Olsen expressed his own opinion that the increased number of crashes on British tracks was due to the large number of four-valve bikes in use. Meanwhile, in Britain, it was an allegedly hazardous track that caused controversy when Malcolm Simmons, the hot favourite, ruled himself out of the Daily Mirror Grand Prix tournament by with drawing from a qualifying round in Wales. ‘Newport is a dangerous track,’ he told the Speedway Star. ‘It’s time somebody made a stand.’  

Week Ending July 17, 1976

THERE was joy in Geordieland this week as Newcastle’s table-topping Diamonds walked away with the first ever National League Four Team Tournament at King’s Lynn. The Brough Park quartet took the second semi-final with 17 points from Eastbourne (13), Boston (9) and Coatbridge (9). The first semi-final was won by Ellesmere Port (17) from Workington (15), Rye House (10) and Peterborough (5). In the final of the competition, Newcastle were clear winners with 18 points from Eastbourne (13), Ellesmere Port (12) and Workington (5). The Diamonds’ winning riders were the Owen brothers, Tom and Joe, Andy Cusworth, Phil Micheledies and Robbie Blackadder. To add to the delight of the Byker faithful, Joe Owen had also taken a big step towards retaining the Silver Helmet, beating Coatbridge’s Brian Collins 2-1 in the first leg on the Scottish track.

Week Ending July 24, 1976

EVEN missing three of their five World Finalists, England just failed by the narrowest of margins to beat a Rest of the World side in Denmark. The fixture, held at Ole Olsen’s Vojens Speedway Centre, finished 43-41 to the Rest of the World. Peter Collins top-scored for England with 14 points while Olsen himself was the best of the opposition, notching up 12.

ELSEWHERE, Zdislaw Dobrucki was crowned the new Polish Champion in Gorzow, ahead of  defending champion Edward Jancarz and team mate Jerzy Rembas while, in Britain, Joe Owen continued his domination of the Speedway Star Silver Helmet match race challenge. The Newcastle Diamonds’ rider completed his fourth defence of the title at Brough Park, beating Brian Collins and earning himself another £50 bonus.

Week Ending July 31, 1976

THE NEWS this week was all domestic. Belle Vue sat at the head of the Gulf British League on 28 points from 20 meetings, ahead of Coventry on points difference while, in the New National League, Newcastle topped the table much more comfortably, nine points ahead of Ellesmere Port who had one match in hand.

BOSTON’S Rob Hollingworth was named as the August challenger for the Silver Helmet. Both he and holder Joe Owen had been named in the England team to meet Australasia at Newcastle.

PORTSMOUTH speedway fans were dealt a blow when the local council rejected an application to bring the sport to their city. Officials said that increased traffic volume in the area would be detrimental to the local residents and noise on race-nights would be above acceptable limits.

Week Ending August 7, 1976

THERE WAS a big shock for Hull Vikings this week when their German star Egon Müller announced that he was leaving the British League after fulfilling just six weeks of his contract. The reigning 1000-metre champion had originally agreed to ride for the Yorkshire side when he was approached by Barry Briggs in the wake of Ole Olsen’s refusal to join the club. Promoter Ian Thomas told Speedway Star that he would aim to avoid the use of guest riders and had asked the BSPA for special dispensation to continue using Newcastle’s Joe Owen to fill the gap.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Simmons had become the new holder of the Golden Helmet when he beat Hackney’s Dave Morton at Waterden Road the previous Friday. Simmons succeeded Wimbledon’s Tommy Jansson who had been the holder at the time of his death in Stockholm in May.

Week Ending August 14, 1976

SUPPORT was growing among British riders for a ban on four-valve engines to be brought in from the start of the 1977 season. Reading’s John Davis, one of the few competitors to have stuck with the two-valve Jawa told Speedway Star’s Philip Rising, ‘A group of riders talked about a possible ban during the Grand Prix Final at White City and all of us agreed that the four-valve engines should be banned. I think if you took a poll among all the riders in the British League, you’d find that 80 or 90 per cent would support such a move.’ Backing amongst British riders had grown following a proposed ban in Scandinavia and Davis added, ‘We’d all be back to where we were a year ago but at least the boys would be earning money. Everyone is saying the same thing now - they’re spending money as fast as it’s coming in.’

Week Ending August 21, 1976

IN THE Inter-Divisional Knockout Cup, National League Workington toppled King’s Lynn of the British League at Derwent Park. The victory followed the Comets’ first-round win over Ipswich, also of the Gulf British League. The Cumbrian side were managed for the fixture by injured star Lou Sansom.

MEANWHILE, the four-valve saga rumbled on with Ivan Mauger announcing that work was progressing favourably on Jawa’s own version of the powerful machine. ‘Hopefully,’ he wrote, ‘the engine will be ready by the time you read this which will give me a couple of weeks to test it before September’s World final. Without giving away any of the still-top-secret information about the engine, I feel that it combines all the advantages of the other four-valvers on the market and at the same time doesn’t have any of the disadvantages of those already being used.’

Week Ending August 28, 1976

SPEEDWAY STAR produced a 68-page World Final preview edition this week which attracted massive advertising from a host of big-name companies, the like of which would never be seen in today’s publication. Speedway was big news then and the headline stories included testing of the new 4-valve Jawa by Ivan Mauger, Barry Briggs and Ole Olsen, first at Pardubice then at the much smaller, slicker circuit in Prague. The machine performed well but it was thought unlikely that Mauger would use the bike in the forthcoming World Final because it developed too much power!

Also this week came warnings of new legislation on silencers to come into force for the 1977 season. A BSPA sub-committee had been working in conjunction with engineers from Manchester University in a bid to find solutions to the problems identified since the introduction of the first BSPA-approved silencer.

Week Ending September 3, 1976

ONE story dominated all others this week: the crowning of England’s new World Champion, Peter Collins. The 22 year-old from Manchester produced some stunning racing in Chorzow, especially in his first two heats when he failed to make the gate but, as Philip Rising wrote, ‘raced inside and outside his bemused opponents in flashes of authentic brilliance.’ Collins needed only two points from his final race and was content to sit behind Ivan Mauger. ‘I knew second place was enough,’ he told the Speedway Star, ‘and I didn’t think about chasing Ivan. I just wanted to stay where I was … and on the bike.’ The runner-up was fellow Englishman Malcolm Simmons, with Australian Phil Crump taking third place. Ivan Mauger finished in fourth position after suffering an engine failure in his second outing, Poland’s Zenon Plech was fifth and Englishmen John Louis and Doug Wyer took sixth and seventh places.

Week Ending September 11, 1976

ANOTHER milestone was passed by Ivan Mauger this week when the New Zealander became World Long Track Champion for a record-breaking third time. He ended the reign of West Germany’s Egon Müller at the Marianske Lazne circuit in Czechoslovakia. To the delight of speedway fans, the runner-up in the event was Denmark’s Ole Olsen.

Meanwhile, at home, a dubious headline emerged from Alwalton as Peterborough scored an unlikely 40 - 0 victory over visitors Oxford. The Cheetahs had refused to ride, despite the referee declaring the track fit for racing and, consequently, the first eight heats of the New National League meeting were run with no opposition riders. The referee then called the match off, awarding the points to the Panthers and the disappointed crowd were issued with refunds. There then followed two hours of unscheduled practice for trainees.

Week Ending September 18, 1976

THE World Team Cup, held at White City, London, was won by Australia in a tightly-fought competition with Poland, Sweden and the USSR. While the Russians could manage only 11 points, the top three nations were separated by just five as Australia notched up 31, Poland, 28 and the Swedes 26. Top scorer for the winners was Phil Crump (11), Edward Jancarz was the leading Pole, (9) and Anders Michanek headed his country’s charge with 11 points.

ALSO this week came the news that Poland was negotiating to send two complete sides to take part in British speedway in the 1977 season. The idea was that one team would join the Gulf British League while the other would take part in the National League. Preliminary talks had apparently started a year ago and been going on ever since. Most recently, a meeting had been held after the World team Cup Final at White City.

Week Ending September 25, 1976

WITH a 15-point maximum, Michael Lee was crowned Junior Champion of the British Isles at Canterbury this week. Steve Weatherley took second place with 14 points and, happily, the riding draw kept him and Lee apart until the final heat of the competition. Colin Richardson was third with 12 points after a run-off with Graham Clifton.

JOE Owen retained the Speedway Star Silver Helmet when he beat his brother Tom 2-0 at Berwick. It meant that Newcastle fans would not get the chance to see the two battle it out in a decider at Brough Park.

IN the Gulf British League, Ipswich sat at the top of the table on 46 points, three ahead of Coventry while, in the National League, Newcastle led the field with 57 points from Ellesmere Port on 47.

Week Ending October 2, 1976

AT PLOUGH LANE, Newcastle’s Joe Owen won the Gauloises New National League Riders’ Championship with an impressive 14 points. On a rain-soaked track, the crowd at Wimbledon saw him beaten only once, in the final heat of the competition, by Ted Hubbard who finished third overall. Philip Rising reported in the Speedway Star: ‘The manner of (Owen’s) victory… was as one expected of a rider who was such a clear favourite before the start. Owen still needs to tidy up his style of riding a little but… he was a cut above all the opposition.’ John Jackson finished in second place on 12 points after a run-off with Hubbard but the Ellesmere Port favourite could look to an exclusion following a fall in heat 12 for ending his chances of victory. That was the very heat in which he faced Owen, with both riders unbeaten up to that point.

Week Ending October 9, 1976

IN AN EFFORT to boost the strength of the Bundesliga, West German clubs were said to be scouting for talent in England. Two names being considered were World Champion Peter Collins and former champion Ivan Mauger, who told the Speedway Star, ‘It is true I have been approached and I am considering it. But then I get approached about many things during the course of a year and I consider them all.’

PETERBOROUGH’s Brian Clarke was named as the next challenger for the Silver Helmet Match Race to face holder Joe Owen while Peter Collins would defend the Golden Helmet against Phil Crump at Newport. Meanwhile, John Louis and Billy Sanders were named as favourites to win the Gauloises British League Best Pairs Final at their home track, Ipswich.

Week Ending October 16, 1976

OLE OLSEN put his World Championship woes behind him this week to win the British League Riders’ Championship with an immaculate 15-point maximum at Belle Vue. Reigning World Champion Peter Collins came second, dropping his only point to Olsen and third place went to John Louis (13). There was controversy in Heat 5 when Olsen and Ivan Mauger tangled at the start, with Mauger being hustled over the white line. Collins, also in that heat, was already ahead and heading towards his second win of the night when the race was stopped by referee Jack Whittaker. With local fans baying for Olsen’s blood, the official declared an unsatisfactory start and all four riders took part in the re-run, which the Dane won after overtaking Mauger on the first bend. Collins challenged for the whole race, putting in some thrilling sweeps on the outside but was held off by the eventual winner.

Week Ending October 23, 1976

FAVOURITES John Louis and Billy Sanders of Ipswich Witches won the British League Pairs Championship on their home track but not before making a disastrous start to the meeting. In fact, at the halfway stage, the duo trailed in fifth place but made a spectacular comeback to snatch the title by a single point from Coventry Bees, Belle Vue Aces and Cradley United, all of whom finished on 21. Peter Collins (Belle Vue) and Malcolm Simmons (Poole Pirates) were the top individual scorers on the night with 15 points each while Ole Olsen (Coventry) finished on 14. ‘The wet track proved to be a great leveller and no one pair could establish control of the meeting,’ wrote Mick Brightwell in the Speedway Star. Poole ended up in fifth place on 18 points, followed by Hackney (12) and Sheffield (8).

Week Ending October 30, 1976

AS winter began and the final fixtures of a long 1976 season were played out, there was good news for Gulf British League Champions Ipswich as Billy Sanders withdrew his transfer request. The decision came just before the Witches added the Speedway Star Cup to their impressive medal haul for the year. ‘I just couldn’t leave,’ the Australian explained. ‘Five years ago this team was nothing. We had one star name, John Louis, and at that time he was only a star in the Second Division. From that moment everybody has worked hard to put Ipswich where they are and having weighed everything up, I feel as if I don’t want to leave the set-up.’ Captain John Louis’ verdict on the Witches’ success was, ‘I don’t necessarily think we are the best side in the League but we are the best team - and there is a difference.’

Week Ending November 6, 1976

WORKINGTON supporters were dealt a blow this week with the news that top man Lou Sansom was about to sign for Birmingham in Division One. The popular Australian said, ‘If the Comets got into the first division I would stay with them but I have to make my decision now. It will probably be the last chance I have to get into the top league.’ To add to the depression at Derwent Park, it was likely that Taffy Owen would also be seeking pastures new for 1977.

Another Owen, this time New National League Riders’ Champion Joe broke an arm this week while riding to test out the recovery of another injury. The Speedway Star Silver Helmet holder was riding a trials bike on his father’s farm at Ormskirk, Lancashire, evaluating his recovery from a broken bone in his foot when he fell heavily and sustained an open fracture just above the wrist.

Week Ending November 13, 1976

IT was announced this week that a new European Under 21 Championship would be inaugurated in 1977. The tournament would be open to 34 riders, selected by their national federations, with no more than two competitors from each country. The grand final would be held at the new Vojens Speedway centre in Denmark on July 24. Ole Olsen, driving force behind the Vojens project, told Philip Rising, ‘All too often young riders get knocked out of the major championships at an early stage and little is heard of them as a result. This Championship will give them a second chance to make headlines all of their own. We at Vojens will do everything we can to secure the full publicity treatment for them, which should help them financially when sponsors become more interested.’ As a footnote, it was also rumoured that four-valve engines would be banned from the Under 21 competition.

Week Ending November 20, 1976

NEWS emerged from Benidorm, where the New National League promoters were holding their annual conference, that applications from Bradford and Norwich to join the League had been approved, subject to the necessary planning permissions. It was also decided that the word ‘New’ would be dropped from 1977 in favour of simply the ‘National League’. The League Cup, Knockout Cup and Inter-League Cup would follow the same formats as the previous season and provision had once again been made for the Riders’ Championship, Best Pairs and Four-Team Tournament. Proposals to split the League into North and South divisions had been rejected.

On the Management Committee, Joe Thurley retired and was replaced by Len Silver. The Hackney and Rye House boss joined Wally Mawdsley (Chairman), Ron Wilson, Danny Dunton and Ian Thomas.

Week Ending November 27, 1976