DVD Review: Americans in Britain Racing
These DVDs are an enjoyable journey back through time to the days when the USA were a major force on the world stage. Spanning the mid-seventies to the early-nineties, we see the Americans come from nowhere to become the strongest speedway nation in the world.
Leading in a new wave of Americans was Scott Autrey, the long-haired Exeter legend. He's the dominant character in the opening part of the film, we see him racing for the Falcons, for his country and in the biggest individual meetings. There's also a short interview with him, conducted by Tony Lethbridge at an Exeter function in 2005. He recalls that a young Neil Middleditch was once his pits helper and he admits that he "fell in love with the place" during his time in Devon.
Autrey is also the focus of some documentary footage of the 1980 England v USA test series. This offers a great insight into the way the Americans embraced the team ethic.
Many others followed in Autrey's footsteps, with the likes of Dennis Sigalos, Bobby Schwartz, Lance King and Bruce Penhall making their way to the UK.
Understandably, Penhall features prominently. We see the beginnings of his feud with Kenny Carter, his Wembley World Final win and the infamous heat 19 of the Overseas Final in 1982. On that occasion he opted to sacrifice his own chances of winning the meeting in order to help his fellow Americans through to the final. He followed the field home, popping wheelies on the way, much to the disgust of the White City crowd. Certainly a much more blatant piece of gamesmanship than one of his compatriots was recently accused of.
The DVDs stick firmly to their remit of showing the American lads in British action, so we don't see Bruce defend his title on home soil. If that's your area of interest then check out Bruce Penhall Racing or World Finals of the 80s.
The Americans were always renowned for their showmanship, none more so than John Cook and the Moran brothers. We see plenty of these great entertainers in action. One particular highlight is 'Cowboy Cook' dislodging his cut-out during the 16 Lapper at Ipswich, then trying to put in back into place mid-race.
The Moran brothers have both already been the feature of full-length DVDs in their own right, so finding just a few top-class clips of them to include here can't have been difficult. Watching back the clips of Shawn flying around Bradford it remains a mystery how he never managed to win one of the World Finals staged there.
The '85 Final at Bradford did see 'Sudden Sam' Ermolenko burst onto the World Stage, finishing third after a run-off despite starting the meeting as a rank outsider. Sam led a whole new generation of American superstars - Ronnie Correy, Greg Hancock and Billy Hamill amongst them. We see these guys in early action before the DVD finishes.
These DVDS are a useful reminder of some of the less celebrated Americans to make their way over the Atlantic. Names like Randy Green, Eddie Ingles, Ron Preston and Robert Pfetzing have slipped from memory over the years, so it's great to see them featured here.
Running to four hours, there's enough great speedway action to keep any fan entertained, especially those that were seduced by the glitz and glamour of these All-American Boys.
You can order the DVD from the Retro Speedway website for £16
This article was first published on 1st December 2016
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