SpeedwayFiction Speedway like it used to be! Home Speedway in the SpeedwayFiction SPEEDWAY Fact or Fiction?

TO mark 42 years of the sport in Britain, in its February 21, 1970 edition, the Rover comic gave over the whole of its back page to a full colour spread on Speedway.

Accompanied by colourful artistry, it listed a compendium of facts about those early decades when speedway meetings were as much about circus entertainment as they were about serious, competitive motorcycle racing.

Some of the stories stretch the imagination so we leave you to decide which of the tales might be more speedway fiction than sporting fact!

In 1970, Rover was published by D.C. Thomson & Co at 12 Fetter Lane, London EC4, just off Fleet Street

Speedway waned in popularity some years ago, with many tracks closing down, but now it has firmly reinstated itself as a top crowd-puller. New Zealander Ivan Mauger is the current World Champion. He retained his title for the second year running at Wembley in September. Second place went to Barry Briggs, and third to Mauger’s Belle Vue team-mate Soren Sjosten.

A great step forward was the introduction of the starting gate. It ended the free-for-all system which frequently made a shambles of the start, although rearing and plunging machines are still seen occasionally.

In 1930, more that thirty ‘dirt tracks’ were in operation. British riders were now challenging the Aussies so a series of ‘test matches’ was held. The third of the series was exceptionally thrilling as the track lighting failed and spectators lit newspapers to act as torches.

Forty-two years ago this week Britain’s first speedway meeting was held at the back of the King’s Oak Hotel, High Beech, Epping Forest. The sport was brought to this country by a colourful band of Australians and it caught on immediately.

Promoters vied with each other in staging sensational stunts for publicity purposes. Eric Chitty of West Ham was called upon to race a cheetah as it pursued a leg of lamb around the greyhound track. The cheetah won.

One of the first Australians to gain star billing was Arthur ‘Bluey’ Wilkinson. Like the other riders of his day, Bluey used the ‘leg-trailing’ style. He broke track records galore, representing Australia many times and won the World Championship and Coronation Gold Cup in 1938.

The envy of every schoolboy was the New Zealander Ronnie Moore who was a Wall of Death rider at the age of twelve and a top class speedway rider by the time he was fourteen. The match winner of the Wimbledon team for many years, he has carried off practically every honour the sport has to offer.

The inevitable crashes have taken their toll of riders’ lives but some accidents have caused mirth rather than menace. ‘Cyclone Bully’ Lamont once hit a fence and was hurled through the air, landing unhurt on the back of a cow.