Western Springs Winged Wheels
February 1974 and what a month for solo racing at Western Springs!!!
First up, on the 2nd, an International Best Pairs. England, Peter Collins/Reg Wilson V Scotland, Jim McMillan/George Hunter V Australia, Jim Airey/John Boulger V New Zealand, John Goodall/Mike Fullerton V Europe, Antoni Woryna/Mike Hiftle.
Poetic license for that team with Woryna from Poland and Hiftle from Newcastle. At least the dialect between the two was a match.
A brilliant contest with John Boulger proving the star, unbeaten in the heats that led to a run-off as the Kangaroos tied with the Lions. Next highest scorer Peter Collins lined up and Alan Clark reports for Speedway Star;
"Collins made it into the first corner, but on the back straight, Boulger got past him on the inside to take the lead. On the second lap, Collins got back into the lead again in a great battle for a win, but Boulger was not giving in and again took Collins on the inside and this time he did not let it go as Collins tried to get back. At the flag it was Boulger by a length!"
Magic son, magic!
Heat 1 Boulger, Fullerton, Goodall, Airey.
1st 14 John Boulger 3 3 3 3 12
2nd 14 Peter Collins 2 2 3 3 10
3rd 13 George Hunter 3 3 ef 2 8
4th 10 Mike Hiftle 2 3 ns 2 7
5th 7 John Goodall 1 1 2 1 5
Next up was this mega classic;
The 1974 Air New Zealand Commonwealth Solo Champs. Feb 6. A full-on 16 rider, 20 heat classic. After four straight wins, Peter Collins had it almost wrapped up and Alan Clark tells about heat 20;
"Collins only needs one point and Graeme Stapleton needs 3 to take second place. Collins made the first turn from Reg Wilson but Stapleton needed points and was trying hard as he passed Wilson and was after Collins. On the first lap Graeme drew up alongside Peter but Collins was not to be beaten as he pulled away. Stapleton tried again but it was Collins in a great ride to win by a length and a half."
So Collins took the winners cheque with Eric Broadbelt then beating Stape in the second place run-off. But my goodness, he was made to work for it!
Heat 1 Boulger, Stapleton, Hiftle, McMillan.
Peter Collins 3 3 3 3 3 15
Three nights later, the icing on the cake;
1974 British Lions V Rest of the World. Feb 9. This was a fantastic competition with a nail-biting climax as again, Alan Clark reports;
"After five attempts to get heat 17 away and threats from the two team managers [ Reg Fearman & Colin Tucker ] to pull out, it was finally decided to handicap Steve Reinke from the Rest and Eric Broadbelt from the Lions 20 yards for jumping the start. Nigel Boocock made the start from Mike Fullerton who replaced Antoni Woryna with Reinke really making up for the handicap he had been given. Reinke came up behind partner Fullerton and team rode Broadbelt out of it as the pairs finished with a 3-3. The Lions then led 52-50 with everything resting on the deciding race. Collins needed to win heat 18 to take the match for the Lions. As he had not been beaten all night, it looked to be on. Hunter was having trouble with his bike and Jim McMillan brought out his bike for George to ride. [ Collins/ Hunter V Titman/Hiftle ] The Lions made the gate but on the second lap, Titman split the pair. Hunter was not giving up and we had three riders side by side for the second and third places as Collins was out in front. Titman made it and on the last lap Hiftle got through for third."
So the Lions won 55-53. While Peter Collins was the star of the show, check out Jim Airey for the rest. Two years after his retirement and he could still produce this form!
Heat 1 Boulger, Airey, Broadbelt, N Boocock.
British Lions 55
My goodness, all this was nearly fifty years ago. Yet, it was like yesterday. When many think back to that season, they may at first think of the Mauger/Briggs circus that rolled into town with all the big names and the fun of the fair. Toffy-apples, candy-floss and hot-dogs. And Graeme Stapleton upsetting the 'Ringmaster' by coming home second in the opening Templeton round behind Ivan Mauger ahead of Ole Olsen and Barry Briggs.
Sadly, that was the only round he got. Stape was there to race! This 'World Series' ran in Christchurch, Wellington and Palmerston North. Another two in Oz. Why not Auckland? Rod Dew filed this report;
'This was answered by Mauger, a principle of the company which promoted the series, "A round of the series was offered to the Auckland promoters, who turned it down as, in their opinion, it was a bad financial proposition. Even after we guaranteed them a handsome profit and agreed to take all the financial risk, the Auckland promoters still denied the Auckland public the opportunity to see the greatest speedway racing ever to come to the Southern hemisphere." '
Well goodness gracious me! No-one rang Ivan's bells louder than Ivan. Did Auckland really miss out? It would have been great to see them there and given John Goodall or Mike Fullerton an opportunity to do a 'Stape'.
On the other hand, what the Aukland public did get to see was for sure, some of THE most excellent, wheel-to-wheel and real deal speedway racing the speedway world had to offer.
This article was first published on 16th October 2023
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