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Trackin' Down

Ian Gill has been busy in recent months putting together a new book of interviews with former Long Eaton and Nottingham riders. The publication is suitably named Trackin' Down. In the first of a planned series, he covers the careers of Vic White, Pete Wrathall, Ivan Blacka and Dave Harvey.

The book is being produced in a very good cause as half of the proceeds will be distributed to injured riders.

The book runs to over 100 pages of A4 text with each rider talking about his full career (not just their time at Station Road) and bringing in stories, many of which will be being aired for the first time.

"Each interview took around three hours," said Ian, "and the riders have been so accommodating and enthusiastic in answering the numerous questions which formed the basis of the book."


Here is a short extract from the interview with Vic White


"As I wasn't very good with engines, I used to let Joe Crowther - who worked at Leicester Stadium doing the track and who had been a former rider of some note - look after the maintenance for me. Joe lived in a bungalow at the track and he was terrific with engines. I used to manage to take the head off, grind the valves in and fit new piston rings but I never got into fitting new big-ends and the other more complex stuff.

"Throughout my whole career, I only ever ran one bike. I never even had a spare engine. I simply never made enough money to run more than one. You have to remember that I also had a young family with two kids, Keith and Joanne.

The fact that I only had one bike did cause a problem, occasionally.

"I remember one occasion, which I luckily got away with. I had gone to Belle Vue and was out in the first race.

"BANG!" The engine seized solid. I've no idea why it seized in that particular race. Obviously, I'd no spare and I was due to race on the following day at King's Lynn in a World Championship Qualifying Round. I could see the family, as they were there watching from the Stand and I went straight over to them to explain the problem. I said the only thing for it was to drive straight back to Leicester to see if Joe could do anything overnight so I could ride at Saddlebow Road.

I remember that we left Belle Vue in such a hurry that I didn't even get changed!

"We got back to Leicester Stadium very, very late and went to see Joe, who was a real character who always had a cigarette in the corner of his mouth. He was a North Easterner and he had a favourite expression for when he saw me.

"Aw, son! What's up now?"

I told him about the engine seizing and I said, "I know it's cheeky - particularly at this time of night, but I just wondered if there was anything you could do as I've got a World Championship meeting at Kings Lynn tomorrow and it's two hour trip to even get there."

He told me to get the bike off the car and get the engine out and to start cleaning it all down while he went away to get organised with the necessary tools. By about two o'clock in the morning, we'd cleaned the bike up and got the engine out but my eyes were just about closing. Joe could see this and said, "The best thing you can do is get yourself home and ring me when you get up in the morning and I'll let you know whether the motor is working or not."

"I rang him the next morning at eight o'clock and Joe said it was OK to come down and pick the motor up and fit it ready for the meeting later on.

So I was able to ride thanks to the mechanical wizardry and know-how of Joe who really put himself out to help me.

As I say, the finances, even when I was running an eight point average for Leicester in my best year - 1962 - meant I simply couldn't have spare bikes and, aside from that season, I was just a steady five or six point second-string, so there wasn't much spare cash about then.

I could do the general maintenance on the bike between meetings, such as setting the carburettor and the clutch and greasing the forks and I always liked my bike to look clean. In fact, supporters very often passed comment as to my sparkling chromed machine!"


This article was first published on 5th November 2009


  • John Potter:

    "Ivan Blacka, nice to see you still take an interest in speedway, my connection? I worked as a bar manager in Dalkeith, when you rode for Monarchs, talked the owner into coming along one night, then sponsoring you."

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