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A Tribute to Igor Plechanov
by Dudley Jones

Igor Plechanov

I was saddened to learn of Igor's death in Speedway Star. I was fortunate enough to have seen Igor ride during his prime. Here are a few personal memories.

Igor was the first good Russian rider to become known in the west, and arguably their greatest ever.

Those old enough may remember him for his smiling face, almost enough to melt the cold war, and his friendly disposition - here was a great ambassador.

I believe he first became known in 1961. I first saw him at Wembley, in the first ever test match with USSR. The Russians were not that strong, but they were great triers. However, Igor, and Boris Samorodov were genuinely world class. Igor was twice runner up in the World Championship, no mean feat in the one off WC days, when you did not ride regularly in the west.

Igor's style was all action, rather like that of Barry Briggs, and he was VERY GOOD INDEED. Almost a veteran in terms of age he was, for five or six years, a true superstar.

I have seen it suggested that he could not come from the back. This was not true, in my experience we was very good at it, and did it most of the time. Igor tried 110%, always and I think there can be no doubt that, had he ridden for a UK team, he would have won the title more than once. In the days of Briggs, Fundin, Knutssen, etc., this man could live with the best.

Perhaps my best memory is when dear old Norwich, ever keen to get one over on the rest, decided upon their own test match, Norwich v USSR. Unfortunately, the 'powers that were' vetoed this at the last minute, and allowed only four Russians to appear.

Offered a best pairs event, the Russians elected to race the test match format, each riding in every other heat throughout the evening. It was great racing. 18 heats, Plechanov, Chekranov, Kurilenko and Kadirov two, then two, with no reserves to call on.

Igor scored 19 points, plus a fall while racing Olle Nygren, in his 9 heats.

Fundin scored an 18 point maximum, Nygren got 17, Hedge 9 and Bales 8.

Kurilenko got 16, Kadirov 9 and Chekranov 9, none had been to Norwich before.

In 1964 not many people beat Nygren around Norwich, but Igor took that point from Olle. The score, USSR 55, Norwich 53........in what turned out to be Norwich's best ever year in the top flight.

Believe me, this smiling, badge swapping racer was one of the true speedway greats.

Thanks for the memories Igor.

 

This article was first published on 23rd August 2007


 

  • Bryan Tungate:

    "Dudley Jones story on Igor Plechanov mirrors my thoughts on a real oldtime great. The Russians were stupendous that night at the Firs. There were as many cheering and shouting for them as for Ove and the Stars such was the tension cranked up heat by heat. The result was of no consequence, after all it was only a challenge match. It was however ridden as if the very life of the teams depended on it. The only place I will differ to Dudleys story is when he says it was Norwich's best ever season, that was 1963 - a second place in the League and a National Trophy victory, and Ove in the World Final."

  • Robert Rogers:

    "Can I just add my memories of Igor. I swapped badges with him, I exchanged the large 1965 West Ham badge for an even larger Russian medal, which I still have. I remember him and Phil Bishop discussing gearing for the large West Ham track, neither spoke the others language, but through the international sign language of the sport, we all understood the right gearing.

    Again at West Ham, seeing my Mum with her West Ham mascot and a mascot with a Russian race jacket side by side, he came straight over, a big smile on his face, and proudly pointed to his jacket and the mascot's jacket, and gave a big thumbs up sign. A man who will be sadly missed by the fans of 1960's Speedway."

  • Tracy Holmes:

    "My good friend Alan Batt has loaned me his collection of programmes to photocopy any snaps I need. In his 'International' box, I found from 1964, The Russians V GB. Guess what I found inside? Igor Plechanovs autograph!!! Not only that, ALL the Russians autographs!!! When he gets back from holiday, I will show him the gold I have found and then ask if it is for sale."

  • Geoff Langley:

    "Anyone who ever saw Igor Plechanov ride must surely agree with every word of Dudley Jones fitting tribute . Igor was not just a great rider he was a great SPORTSMAN. Although he was as hard as they come and completely fearless I can't ever remember him being excluded for bringing another rider down or even for breaking the tapes. 'Tough but fair' totally sums him up. I have seen many outstanding riders over the years but Igor was one of that very small group that stands apart from the rest. He would have been a credit to any sport. Speedway is fortunate to have had him."

  • Gerald Bull:

    "Oh what wonderful memories I have of the mid sixties and Igor riding for USSR at Exeter. Simpler never to return times but priceless memories, seems as if yesterday and when I hear that Igor has gone it makes me treasure and grab life all the more, thanks for the memory Igor and all the Russians who rode. "

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