Max Grosskreutz and the Golden Helmet Controversy
Davies Park, Brisbane, November 1928
Max Grosskreutz, possibly one of the most under-rated of the pre-war stars was yet to reach the top, but was on his way. Often stated by Australian historians that he started out at Townsville, but I have my doubts. We will get to that later, but the scene is set in Brisbane as some of the top riders have recently returned from their venture to the UK to start the sport in Europe.
The Golden Helmet was one of the main trophies at the track and the holder received a wage for the period they held it. This is how one newspaper reported the meeting:
"Max Grosskreutz has long been a favourite with the speedway crowd, but his dashing victory in the Golden Helmet last made him more of a 'hero' than ever. He beat Taylor and Hastings pointless, and covered the 4 laps in a faster time than has ever previously been recorded, 76s.
The Northern boy rode a beautiful race, and it is doubtful whether even Frank Arthur would have beaten him. Unfortunately Arthur's back tyre came off in the second lap, and deprived him of any chance. Grosskreutz won by virtue of his ability to ride the white line. On the turns he was rarely more than two feet out.
The only fly in the ointment of Grosskreutz's win was the fact that he did not actually finish in the semi-final, and it is questionable if he had the right to start in the final. After his engine failed in the semi final, he pushed it around on the inside of the track, and did not actually cross the finishing line. Pearce apparently won the right to start in the final, but he sportingly handed it to Grsskreutz, according to the announcer.
But Pearce himself also finished on a 'busted' engine on the inside of the track."
So where are we?
Grosskreutz rode a wonderful race in the final, in record time, and it is a pity he should win in such circumstances
ht 1, M.Grosskreutz, Harry Mangham, Ben Unwin, Len Percival
It was then suggested Grosskreutz and Pearce have a run off to decide who goes into the final, but as Pearce's bike was knackered, Pearce gave a walk over to Max
In the final, Taylor was on the inside with Max next to him and Hastings on the outside. Taylor went into the lead with Grosskreutz following close behind. On the 2nd lap, Arthur's back tyre came off and he was out. Then Groskreutz passed Taylor on the inside and they had a great battle for the last lap, but Max won by 4 lengths 'amid a roar of cheering. It was the most popular win ever seen on the track'
Then the fun and games began
Two days later the ACU ruled Grosskreutz was not eligible to compete in the final on 3 grounds
Firstly he had not finished, plus he was not the fastest second place (it having been stipulated in the programme that only the two semi final winners, plus the fastest second would start in the final) and lastly, he had pushed his motor from a greater distance than the red post.
The Clerk of the Course, it was claimed then decided that he could start in the final, and the stewards agreed under protest. On Monday the union officials informed the speedway management that the pay for the prize should go to Alby Taylor, who was therefore the winner of the Golden Helmet and second place was awarded to Harold Hastings
The came the problem with the qualification to the final. Apparently recent Golden Helmet meetings had been run with 3 heats with the winners and the fastest second going through. But due to 3 top riders returning from the UK it had been decided to run 4 heats and then two semi finals, so the first and second in each s/f should go through. The information in the programme had been misleading
Then a statement came from Alby Taylor saying he 'is not satisfied to retain his trophy for the usual period of 4 weeks, because of the controversy raging around the decision, and the fact Grosskreutz rode so remarkably well'. In deference to Taylor's request the speedway management announced the Golden Helmet would be at stake at the next meeting, with the same riders in the same line up
A record crowd turned up and perhaps the best nights racing seen on a Brisbane speedway was witnessed
In the end Harold Hasting ran out the winner with Max in second place.....Taylor didn't get past the semi final.
This article was first published on 26th January 2020
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