Dream Team: John Stock
I no longer attend speedway. For the vast percentage of its history British Speedway could always uniquely boast that, every week during the season, the World Champion, the World No.2, the World No.3 and so on, could always be seen racing somewhere. Sadly but predictably this is no longer the case. When you have been accustomed to fare of that standard what we have now will never suffice.
Who else to lead a team? Amongst many things he was the man who introduced the modern level of professionalism to the sport. Arguably he was not a born natural but this was more than compensated for by the levels of application that he practised. Documentation of such things as gearing, tyre pressures,carburettor jetting and ignition timing settings used at every track were common place in his world. No one has bettered his total of six individual Word Titles.
Although literally from opposite ends of the globe Olsen and Mauger had so much in common that they have to be considered as the ultimate natural pairing. Both are in a very small minority who can genuilney claim to have used speedway to cement an excellent financial future for themselves. Both were multi World Champions. Both captained their countries. And both kick-started their racing careers at Newcastle. They were of course also the best of friends, Olsen himself learning much from the great Mauger. To the present day they also both maintain a very active interest within the sport.
Speedway needs crowds. To pull the crowds you need colour. A team needs a showman. Penhall was the ultimate. Although a showman he was also a highly talented multi World Champion. The glamour ingredient within speedway is rare. Penhall had it by the bucket full. His rise to the top, accompanied by his fellow sun kissed, golden haired Californian best friend Bobby Schwarz was a story of true Roy of the Rovers stuff. Sadly the inadequate hierarchy of speedway left Penhall undermarketed and undersold.
Gundersen was not a showmnan but he was an out and out racer. He never gave up either on or off of the track. His three world titles were richly deserved. He was another highly professional international rider with a staunch sense of loyalty both to club and country. Even after experiencing crippling, life changing, injuries he remained involved within the sport that he was so passionate about.
Yet another product from the seemingly endless prodution line of Danish world class speedway stars. Whilst fellow countrymen Nielsen & Gundersen were of the same era there appeared little camaraderie between them. However they were both highly professional and, if paired together, they would do nothing other than fulfill the brief to the utmost of their abillity. By doing so they would arguably be the most powerful pairing in domestic speedway. Various pundits always considerred that Nielsen held his own agenda but the statistics speak for themselves. Beside his four World Titles, for approximately a decade Nielsen maintained a nine plus average in British Speedway. He was a rider that you could ALWAYS count upon. He was Denmark's answer to Ivan Mauger.
Sheer patrotism dictates that a British rider has to be included. As the most popular of all British World Champions the choice becomes obvious. It is only his credentials that relegates him to a reserve berth. All of his team mates listed above were multi World Champions. Collins claimed the title once in 1976. His achiles heel was his gating. As a result hundreds of his races were won from the back. It was this abillity that gained him the adulation that he enjoyed. A large slice of bad luck played its part in his comparitive lack of success.. Only a week before the 1977 World Final he broke his leg in a freak practise accident that in no way was ever his fault. The title that year had looked a formality. His blistering '76 form had followed him into '77, but Collins was not going to give up easily. He gained special dispensation to be allowed to ride. Unbelievably, for his five heats, he had to be lifted on and off of the bike and in doing so he flabbergasted the speedway world by coming runner up to, and only one point behind, the mighty Mauger.
Anders MichanekSubmit Your Own Dream Team
Like Collins Michanek was a one off World Champion. His 1974 title was however won in a golden era of the sport when many consider that the competition was at its very toughest. Michanek totally dominated the 1974 British Domestic scene reeling off an unbelievable string of exciting paid maximums. As his promoter Dave Lanning often commented, "Wherever he goes Anders Michanek has fans". It was not only his on track exploits that won him adulation. His outstanding good looks won him an army of female followers. He added another dimension to the sport that was only ever surpassed by the American riders of the Penhall era. Flamboyant riders of his calibre always had and always will have critics, but Michanek silenced them by winning his title on a fifteen point maximum. His races with Peter Collins became legendary but as team mates, in the reserve berths, their presence to any opposing team would be nothing less than frightening.
This article was first published on 8th November 2015
"Wow I agree completely with everything said. "
"Dream Team: John Stock What a team - what an era. Brilliant, and great to see Super Mich included."
"In my opinion one of the most reliable of middle order riders in the Belle Vue team of the era was Soren Sjosten. He never gave up until the end of the race - an Ace who could always be relied on. Regrettably when the Rider Control system was introduced the controllers of our sport shunted him off to Birmingham. He was never the same after that."
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