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The Story of the 1933 World Speedway Championship in Australia
By Christian Weber

Harry Whitfield

AS we all know the first official FICM sanctioned world speedway championship was held in 1936 and the world final at Wembley ended with Lionel van Praag's defeat of Eric Langton in a run-off for the inaugural world champion's title. What not so many people know is that in the years before this 1936 event, there already were unofficial world championships, although sometimes of a rather obscure nature. The most prominent were those held annually between 1931 and 1935 at the Buffalo Stadium in Paris, France. The first world title in 1931 was won by an Australian, Billy Lamont, and the winner of the 1932 event, was another Australian, Arthur 'Bluey' Wilkinson.

During the 1932/33 season in Australia, a promoting company, British-Australian Speedways, Ltd., created their own version of a world speedway championship. The directors of this company were J.S.Hoskins, J.Parker, F.Arthur, J.Ormston and C.Beardmore.

They were staging a world championship series with qualifying rounds in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, and included the previous years' French world championships as a qualifiers for their own series, which culminated in a world final at the Sydney Showground's Speedway Royal on Saturday night of March 4th , 1933.

Seven riders in total did qualify for that final event, that in the Australian newspapers was reported as the "world's small dirt speedway championship". Already qualified were the previous world champions of the 1931 and 1932 Paris events.

The first of these world championships in France was held on Sunday, October 11, 1931, and was won by Billy Lamont, with the American Ray Tauser second and the Frenchman Charles Bellissent third.

The 1932 world championship, which was contested in Paris on Sunday, August 28, resulted in a victory for Arthur "Bluey" Wilkinson. This time Bellissent of France was runner-up, and the Austrian Leopold Killmeyer finished third.

With Lamont and Wilkinson thus already qualified as the winners of the Paris events, another five riders were determined in the four Australian world championship meetings in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, leading up to the grand final, again at the Sydney Showground track.

The Australian meetings commenced on December 3rd 1932 at the Claremont Speedway in Perth, where Englishman Harry Whitfield was the winner of the Western Australian round, ahead of Bill Clibbett and Max Grosskreutz.

On to South Australia and the Wayville Showground in Adelaide, where a round of the championship series was held on Monday, January 2nd 1933 and was won by Queenslander Dicky Smythe, with world champion Bluey Wilkinson second and the English rider Norman Evans third.

Next stop on the tour was the quarter-mile Exhibition Speedway in Melbourne and the winner there on Saturday night of January 28th 1933 was Jack Chapman of South Australia, who defeated the English rider Les Boulton, while the other finalists on the night, Ernie Evans and Bert Spencer, did not finish the race.

New South Wales and the Sydney Showground's third-of-a-mile Speedway Royale hosted the ultimate qualifying round on February 18th 1933. Two weeks later the finals of this world championship would be held at this track. The qualifying format at Sydney was slightly different from the other meetings with separate heats for the English and the Australian riders.

The two respective group winners met in a match race final, which was won by Jack Ormston over Lionel van Praag, but both riders had qualified for the world championship finals.

The seven riders met for the world's championship final at the Sydney Showground's Speedway Royale, on Saturday, March 4th, 1933. The programme consisted of seven point-score heats, each of the finalists rode in three heats of three men, so drawn that every competitor met every other one.

Harry Whitfield won his three heats, while Lamont won two, but finished second to Whitfield in another and was thus beaten by one point in the scores.

Jack Ormston, the English rider fell in his first heat, but won two others and scored six. Arthur Wilkinson was consistent, he finished second in each of his three heats and tied with Ormston on points for third place. Lionel van Praag was unfortunate as he broke a chain in the first heat of the night, and his machine ran unkindly in the second, so that he scored only two points in his three heats.

The racing was free from serious accidents, although Ormston injured his hand when he fell, and Cliff Parkinson caught his foot under a footrest and had to receive attention from the ambulance. It was fortunate, however, that there was not a bad accident in the first heat of the night, when Dicky Smythe, Billy Lamont and Lionel Van Praag became involved in a mix-up on the last turn. Van Praag stopped with a broken chain; one of the others collided with Van Praag and swerved violently off the track, careering towards a group of officials, whom fortunately he missed; the third rider crossed the finishing line on the course proper.

The championship was won by Harry Whitfield, England, with 9 points. Billy Lamont, New South Wales, being second with 8 points, Arthur Wilkinson, New South Wales, and Jack Ormston, England, equal for third with 6 points each. Whitfield was presented with the Frank Wyatt Cup by Miss Peggy Wormald, and circled the track with it. The Wyatt Cup was donated by Frank Wyatt, captain of the steamer Bendigo, and awarded to the winner of the world championship rounds in all States during the tour of J.S.Hoskins and his team of English and Australian riders. The trophy becoming the property of the winner of the world's championship final of the tour.

The heat results were as follows:

Heat 1: Lamont, Smythe, VanPraag (broke a chain).
Heat 2: Whitfield, Wilkinson, VanPraag (again had engine trouble).
Heat 3: Whitfield, Lamont, Ormston (fell).
Heat 4: Lamont, Wilkinson, Chapman.
Heat 5: Ormston, Wilkinson, Smythe.
Heat 6: Whitfield, Smythe, Chapman.
Heat 7: Ormston, Van Praag, Chapman. By Christian Weber / May 2012


This article was first published on 17th June 2012


  • Christian Weber:

    "Let me just add, to avoid confusion, that Cliff Parkinson only rode in a support race at Sydney Royale on the occasion of this world championship final. "

  • William Waldron:

    "Really found it very interesting I had known the winners from 1936 as I have been collecting the series of badges. Can anyone tell me who won in 1934 and 1935?"

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