"I don't think many people knew how much time and money Dave put into Glasgow. It's just a pity that he drifted away from the Tigers and was never inducted into the Glasgow Hall of Fame. R.I.P. old friend."
"This game reminded me of Totopoly, a horse hacing game, which involved training the horses and then turning the board over to run the actual race. (In fact your dad seems to have used Totopoly money, according to your first photo.). An interesting concept, and it's a shame Waddington's didn't take an interest."
"I was privilaged to have watched Ivan many times and to have seen him race most of the late 1950's to 1970's stars. Greatness may be measured in many ways... fastest, best overtaker, most consistent, most decent, best strategic rider. Ivan was one of the greats of all time and it is, for me, difficult to compare him with Vic Duggan, Tom Farndon and others who rode before WW2 or each side of it. I can better judge Ivan against those he competed with.
My all time greats include Ronnie Moore, Over Funden, Barry Briggs, Peter Craven, Jack Young, perhaps Olle Nygren, Igor Plechanov. Then there are Peter Collins, Ray Wilson. It gets complicated, because we cannot judge by World Chapionships alone, but they tell us much about the ability to manage stress at the highest level. I will limit my comparisons to the above.
Ronnie Moore had huge natural talent, top for skill but perhaps an under-performer when that talent is compared with only two World Champion wins. Peter Craven died too young to challenge Mauger, but as a spectacle Little Peter was tops. The same applies to Tom Farndon, sadly. Split Waterman was a showman, but perhaps not a Mauger beater. Peter Collins and Ray Wilson never enjoyed the long term consistency to become my contender. Jack Young was a huge talent (I am told) but perhaps not committed enough to comapare with Mauger.
Mauger was very 'professional', his kit, his approach are probably unbeatable. However, I admire most the man who can 'do it' as it comes, perhaps with less 'professionalism'. This brings me to true talent. I have always admired Nygren, who I feel could have been Champion, and could have had more greatness. He did not seem, to me, to have the will or desire to be World Champion'...but I would never rule him out against Mauger, despite Olle's greater years.
I am left with three, Briggs, Fundin and Plechanov. To me Igor was one of the greatest ever and at their relative peaks (Igor was an 'old man' when he hit the top) I would have backed Igor to beat Mauger time and again. Briggs was tough and hard... and very good. I would rate Briggs as the equal, at least, of Ivan, provided the start was fair. Ove Fundin was superb and a true superstar of all time. I would put my money on Ove, in his prime (or maybe later) to beat Ivan, even if Mauger got away from the tapes. Therefore, while acknowledging Ivan's greatness, I would have to put Briggs, Fundin and Plechanov as greater than Ivan. "
"Good article Tracy. I never would have Ivan as my favourite speedway rider, far from it. But is he the best, without a doubt. Again Ove Fundin, not liked by too many people outside Norwich, but what a great rider. Third place goes to Ole Olsen. Someone who I don't think got a mention in your article but a very good rider still Greg Hancock.It is great we all have our own opinions but if people are honest I think Ivan would come top of most lists."
"Having watched speedway since 1935 and in particular being a big fan of Ronnie Moore, Barry Briggs and Peter Craven amongst many others; without doubt the greatest of them all was Jack Young. Regardless of how many titles other riders have won Jack Young could have beaten anybody in any era, I am doubtful that he would have had the dedication to do the G P series, he would probably have found them tedious. As interesting as the GPs are, they are a pale shadow of speedway racing compared to the excitement generated by a one off Wembley final."
"Loved the article by Tracy Holmes about Ivan Mauger. It's always difficult to make comparisons across different eras, but certainly in my 50 years or so of watching the sport, for me Ivan was head and shoulders above everyone else. He was always the man to beat in the big individual meetings, he was usually the hate figure when he came to town with his team (a back handed form of complete respect by home fans), and it was news when he didn't complete a maximum when he was at his peak. He rode in an era when there were 3 genuine heat leaders of great ability in every team, but still usually beat them all, especially in heat one when he'd go out and give his side a flyer. He improved every team he raced for in terms of improving attitude and confidence, and if you had ever to stake the mortgage on some one winning a race at any track, against any opposition, he would have been that rider. No contest for me, the greatest ever rider it's been my privilege to watch!"
"I know this is rather late - but better so than never. There were two Barry Lee speedway riders. There was the rider who rode mainly at Hackney and West Ham, sadly involved in the tragic accident with David Wills. He went on to achieve car racing fame. The 'second' Barry Lee was later in the 1960s and he rode for several tracks including Canterbury, Rayleigh and Berwick."
"Bobby Schwartz. My personal pick anyway. Twice World Pairs Champion and World Team Cup Gold Medalist. So sadly missing out on the Silver Medal at the 1985 World Longtrack Final because of a breakdown. How he never got to the World Speedway Final is a mystery to me. John Cook, Rick Miller and Ronnie Correy all made it but somehow Bobby missed the boat !"
"At first let me say that this debate is quite an interesting one. It's always difficult to say who was the greatest, but I think one of the most successfull riders never to reach a world final was Bobby Schwartz. He was World Pairs and World Team Cup champion, qualified for the World Longtrack Final but never made it to the World Speedway Final."
John Stock offers a new twist on the "who was the greatest never to....." debate. Like him, we'd love to hear your opinions on this one.
The last speedway meeting in Oxford was staged in 2008, but the stadium still exists and it's future remains a burning issue in the city. The Oxford Mail have featured a couple of articles on the matter this week:
"The two sets of drawings were top class. If it doesn't upset any legalities - I cannot see why - what is the talented young artist's name. I can't see it mentioned - and 'praise where praise is due' surely must apply here. Have there any more drawings that have not so far seen general viewing?"
"A good team selection. Glad to see Gary Petersen remembered. Some of the best races l have ever seen were between Malcolm Shakespeare and Gary at Long Eaton (also between Malcolm and Ian Turner). What a tragedy when Gary was killed. Come and watch Speedway again Dave, you will not be disappointed."
"I thought that Billy's famous 'Get Stuffed' speech was at the presentations for the 1983 Aussie Title at Speedway Park, Virginia, SA. The 1982 Title that Billy won was held at Claremont Speedway in WA."
"I am old enough to have seen handicap league speedway in the days of Fundin & Briggs, in the early 1960s. Reserves had negative handicaps at this time. There were some marginal benefits in watching Ove Fundin coming from behind. Some riders, like Ove, thrived on it. Others like Briggs, did less well. Retro Speedway throws doubt on whether the 10 yards (10 metres now) was a handicap for some. Ove Funding seemed to demonstrate that what he lost at the handicap he made up by the greater speed carried into the first corner.
I do not think that handicap racing has much to offer, at least in the UK. If we want to speedway thrive then it has to be: 1. Known about, marketed. 2. Slickly presented. 3. Make fans feel part of the action. 4. Have racey tracks.
When I was a teen Coventry seemed to plaster every telepgraph pole in the midlands with bright yellow stickers advising of forthcoming meetings. No wonder they did well. Slick presentation means two things. First is having a crowd pleasing/cheeky anouncer that got the fans behind their team, second is getting each race started very soon after the earlier one - keep them interested, don't bore them. Poor racing tracks are a perenial problem. If you are serious about running speedway, make sure that the track is racey and with several race lines. Better that the visiting teams win more often on neutral tracks that excite than having boring and dull races where the home team, however poor, wins.
I think speedway has a bright future with Buster Chapman at the helm and with the National League thriving and growing speeday from the roots up. Birmingham and Eastbourne moved from Elite to third division and not only survived but re-energised British Speedway. The future is not the Elite league, but Premier + National, with more home grown talent."
"Perhaps it is time to do away with fixed gates. Let the opposition choose whatever gates they want on a race by race basis - and that could be 2 and 3, 1 and 4, any combination they want. That may encourage home promoters to produce more competitive tracks as their boys will have to work hard for the points. Also make the first 10 minutes free practice for the visitors, the current parades with riders wearing helmets are not the most exciting starts to the evening. Effectively the "only" thing wrong with speedway is that four riders of similar ability rarely line up against each other leading to lop-sided, uncompetitive racing. Crack that first and then go to work on guests, points limits and double tacticals!"
"The most obvious thing wrong with Speedway in my opinion is the lack of pure entertainment. To much down time between heats, too much messing about with starts and not enough heat races which is a conundrum requiring more money to run an extended event. Race meetings need to flow from the minute it starts. Handicapping is not the answer as all that will do is have riders ask for more money again raising the Promoters costs. The actual racing of the bikes doesn't need to be tinkered with as the spectacle of 4 riders without bikes is fine, it is everything leading up to and after this that needs looking at."
"I remember handicap starts for UK league racing in the mid 1950s. It was not well received by either the riders or spectators. I am surprised that after nearly 60 years it should again be put forward as one way to "save a dying sport'?"
"Innovate or die. I've never been much of a fan of handicap racing, although when I first started to go speedway in 1964, the old National League did have a handicap system for some of the top riders I seem to remember. As far as innovation is concerned for our beloved sport, it will take much more than a 5 or 10 metre handicap to bring back the falling crowds. I think we need to be far more bold.
Back in the mid-80's I recall the late John Berry offered to effectively "run" the sport on behalf of all promotions, but sadly they didn't have the foresight to at least let him try. There are hundreds of things that can be done to promote our sport that current promoters won't seem to try. A pool of money, funded by all of them, could be used for cinema advertising. Pressure could and should be put on sports editors of newspapers to give us the coverage we deserve. The BBC should be petitioned to include our results on evening sports programmes. They give enough time to women's darts and bowls, why not speedway?
Probably the biggest step that could be taken would be for the Grands Prix to be trialled in completely new venues. China would be a worthy start. A country with a massive population, the novel interest in a speedway GP would, I feel, make national news bulletins. If it didn't all the more reason for the above mentioned fund of promoters money to be utilised in hiring a top-class PR company to push our sport.
Let's be honest. The product hasn't changed since the days of the 60's and early 70's when crowd levels at some tracks were between 8-10 times what they are now. Riders still risk their lives every time they sit on a bike. The drama, noise, colour and spectacle of a night at the speedway still takes some beating, but ask a group of teenagers what speedway is and they will look at you as though you have just risen from the grave. If we don't seriously shout it loud from the rooftops then our sport, in my view the greatest sport on the planet, will eventually die when we do."