1982 Overseas Final. The Day The Music Died
At White City on July 4, 1982, Independence Day backfired for Bruce Penhall.
The unfortunate draw saw all four Yanks line up against each other in round 5. As Penhall had only dropped 1 point, it was obvious that he would throw the race as his mates all needed points. So to be excluded on 2 minutes, break the tapes, fake an engine failure or slide off would have been the transparent but honorable choice.
The choice he made however was none of those and one that would do serious damage to his reputation.
Leaving the gate, he glanced to see his fellow Americans had left the start, tucked in behind them and pulled wheelies to come in last. As the Champion of the World, this was the King on his throne, mocking his subjects with abject contempt. The reaction was fierce. The crowd booed their disapproval, threw cans and anything else to voice their rage.
Why for goodness sake? This was simply a World Championship qualifying round with a silly name. Top guns had always thrown races to help friends so why was this any different? The answer, no one had done it like this. No one blamed him for what he did, it was all about the way he did it. The abuse continued throughout the presentation and in tears, he turned his back to the ugly crowd. This was a disaster of epic proportions and one from which he would never recover. Even if his abdication was only three months away.
Bruce's own take on the matter can be read in the book, 'Penhall. World Speedway Champion' by Steve Johnson. It is an amazing story and the way he tells it, that none of his friends in that race followed the script, has me puzzled, "That's for darn sure!" This was the day his house of cards, needlessly came crashing down. "It aint what you do, it's the way that you do it" is a song that could easily have been an epitaph to this sad day.
1982 Overseas Final.
Heat 1. Peter Collins, Jessup, Morton, Sigalos.
1st Dave Jessup 13.
This article was first published on 30th July 2017
"Loved Tracey Holmes' comments on the 1982 Overseas Final when Bruce Penhall was "alleged" to have thrown his race against fellow Americans to ...ahem...assist their progression to the next stage. The only crime he was guilty of was making it so obvious that he was doing so. The practice had been going on for a long time before that meeting, and there are still instances when in big meetings riders will...er.... not put in the same effort as they do in other heats. Penhall was the darling of so many supporters that it came as a blow to find that he was simply no better or worse than many others in assisting team mates and/or colleagues when circumstances permitted, he simply made it painfully obvious what was going on, and for that, in some perverse way, maybe he deserves a little credit for highlighting a practice that had been going on for a long time"
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