Speedway Fiction

Great stories for speedway fans!

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Speedway Fiction

Great stories for speedway fans!

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MICHAEL HANSEN…

…is the only author writing novels specifically aimed at fans of motorcycle speedway racing.

Sadly, speedway in Britain today is very much a niche sport but it was not always the case. In the years between its introduction in 1928 and the war, crowds at dirt track meetings were huge and speedway riders were some of the highest-paid sportsmen. Again, in the 1970s, speedway enjoyed a revival in Britain and became what was described at the time as England’s ‘second most popular spectator sport’.

These are the periods in which Michael Hansen’s novels are set - when Britain was the centre of the speedway world.

Michael Hansen’s Blog Blog Home Page SpeedwayFiction Michael Hansen's Blog Home

Earlier articles…

Heavens, the noise!

Cobble Street Speedway Star

Riddle of the Sands

Speedway Beginnings

Speedway Advertisements in 1929

1929 marked the first full season of dirt track racing in Britain. It also saw the introduction of league competition for the first time.

 Twelve teams contested the Southern League and seventeen inaugurated the English Dirt Track League of northern clubs but very often the real attraction for spectators remained the star riders from the USA, Australia, New Zealand and, increasingly, Britain.

Promoters who had invested considerable sums in building or renovating stadiums were anxious to recoup their outlay by pulling in as many punters as possible. To that end, advertising in their local newspapers - which had far wider readerships than those remaining enjoy today - was an essential tool in their armoury. Below is a small selection that typify the kinds of thing a supporter might come across as he flicked through the pages of his Clarion, Reporter, Advertiser or Evening Post.

ADVERTISING IN THE LOCAL PRESS 1929 Pulling in the Punters Speedway Fiction

©  Newspaper material copyright

    British Newspaper Archive, Local     World Ltd and Johnston Press plc

©  Text copyright Speedway Fiction     2014

Britain’s most exciting sporting spectacle!

If you would like to comment on this article, you can get in touch with Michael Hansen via the Speedway Fiction contact page.

© Michael Hansen 2015

With admission prices at 1s 2d (6p) and 2s 4d (11½ p), car parking for 2000 and buses to the track from all parts of the district, Long Eaton Speedway opens in May, 1929

The opening of Leicester Speedway certainly relied on the pull of the big names to draw the crowds - and they didn’t come much bigger than Lloyd Elder and Stewart St George. Those who remember Len Silver’s ‘Hackney Super Speedway’ adverts in the 1970s or who still attend Shielfield Park on a Saturday night to hear Dick Barrie introduce Berwick’s ‘Super Speedway Show’ might not be surprised by the wording of this much earlier claim.

Some of the largest advertisements came from Southern Speedways. This one, for the opening of Exeter’s County Ground - a stadium mired in complaints about noise from its first day - claimed they were presenting the “most unique programme ever staged in Great Britain” - whatever that meant. There was certainly no shortage of big names to provide the excitement.

Bristol were less forthcoming when it came to the names of the “first-class riders” they would be presenting at their Opening Evening Meeting but the wording of the advert for one of their Saturday meetings might have been a reference to the fact that the promised ‘crack’ riders didn’t always turn up.

At Middlesbrough’s Cleveland Park, they opened their 1929 season with a match in the English Dirt Track League against White City, Manchester. The full programme of 20 heats also included many individual trophy races and exhibitions of broadsiding. Through an arrangement with United Buses, the proprietors, Albion Auto Racers, had laid on special services from as far afield as Newcastle, Whitby, Barnard Castle and Bedale.

At the short-lived Thrum Hall track, Halifax were taking on Middlesbrough in a League match and the individual stars were to be Ivor Creek and Frank Varey. Like all the other ‘star’ riders, Varey and creek were not permitted to ride for League teams.

A rather more modest billing announces the inauguration of the speedway at Burnley. The opening was to be performed by the Mayor and the riders lined up to race in the first meeting included Ginger Lees who would become an English international rider in 1931.

In addition to the regular fixtures for teams in the English Dirt Track League, the sides also contested a knockout cup which, in 1929, was won by Preston, who beat Halifax 87-39 on aggregate. Nottingham won the first-round fixture advertised above by 35 points to 23 but went out 59-61 on aggregate.

Not strictly an advertisement but note the programme at 9.35pm on the National Service broadcast from Daventry: “Wembley Speedway Meeting,” it reads, “A running commentary on several handicap races, concluding with the Final of Wembley v All England.” The item was presented by Johnnie Hoskins. What would the sport give for some national coverage today - on radio or TV?

Sometimes the advertisements were a bit more modest, like this last-minute insertion into the classified columns of the Nottingham Evening Post.

Preston ran meetings every Thursday and Saturday, meaning it would be quite expensive to go both every week. (Remember the average labourer’s wage in 1929 was only about £3 - 10s, and that was probably for a six-day week). But who could miss the chance of seeing Vic Huxley pitted against the home side’s top rider?!

There was no shortage of celebrities and personalities attending speedway meetings in those early days. George Formby’s fondness for dirt track racing was well known but here, at Manchester’s White City stadium, the comedian had presented a silver cup and would also take part in a race himself. It’s difficult to imagine any top star’s agent giving permission for such a thing to happen today!