GOLDEN HELMET CHAMPIONSHIPS: p.GH2
N.Lge. Div.2 MRC Silver Helmet N.Lge Div.1 MRC Golden Helmet
won by Ken le Breton 4x in 1950 (undefeated.) won by Peter Craven 7x (1956 - '63)
The British Match Race Championship:
- History of the B.I.C / Br.MRC.
The UK’s first official national match race competition was designated the “British Individual Championship”, (BIC,) after the initial races of 1931 were promoted as World Championships, - cups inscribed as such were presented - , but the ACU subsequently refused to recognise the title. (For detail see the 'World Champions' page.) The BIC match race between nominated riders on a monthly basis ran for 5 years until the death after a track crash of its holder in 1935: New Cross’s Tom Farndon (below, and receiving the BIC trophy,) was thus an undefeated champion having 5 successful match race wins. (See also Memorial Trophies page.)
The match race competition was resurrected post war as the monthly “British Match Race Competition”, sponsored by the Sunday Pictorial newspaper and which carried a prize of a Golden Helmet and a pension of £7 per week. This soon came to be known as ‘Parker’s Pension’ with the success of Jack Parker, the Belle Vue rider (seen rt,) who, after beating the nominated holder Bill Kitchen, - BK being the unofficial British Individual Champion from the 1945 Belle Vue meeting - , was undefeated by 20 challengers between 1946 and 1951. (Only 3 times did he succumb.) In this 1949 film clip, ........
...... his challenge by Graham Warren can be seen, including close-up of the Golden Helmet and accompanying Warwick Vase trophy, today presented to the British U21 Champion, (to be seen with its first winner on the U21 page.)
In the decade of the 1950s the Br.MRC, decided on a best-of-3 home-and-away basis, was dominated by Jack Young, Ronnie Moore and then Ove Fundin, with Barry Briggs taking the title for much of the mid-60s until its suspension.
In 1970 the Golden Helmet returned as a match-by-match single race competition, - holder against opposition top scorer - , in which Ole Olsen achieved an amazing 19 consecutive wins in ‘72/’73, (capping his earlier runs of 7 and 11 wins !) In 1974 the Golden Helmet Match Race reverted to a monthly home-and-away basis. During the ‘monthly’ eras Briggs and Peter Collins each had 12 wins. When holder Tommy Jansson died following a fatal crash in Sweden in 1976 the Helmet was presented to his parents and a new helmet produced, (seen below, with Bruce Penhall.) The next Golden Helmet era, ’85 to ’87, was again a match-by-match event, with Hans Nielsen having the most successes with first 6 and later 9 consecutive wins.
The MRCs, Gold & Silver, were reinstated following the league restructuring of 1997, when the senior trophy for just the first year was the 'Golden Gauntlet'. It quickly reverted to the title of Golden Helmet for the final 2 years, while successes overall went to Mark Loram (8x), Chris Louis (8x) and Greg Hancock, with 17 defences over the 3 years, although it was Jason Crump that ended the campaign as the final undefeated holder of the Golden Helmet MRC.
Though the British Match Race Golden Helmet was designed to fit the traditional 'pudding basin' crash hat much used right through to the 'sixties, (with or without various styles of peaks,) the move from the Racemaster to the fuller Spacemaster style helmet resulted in winners having to pose with, rather than wear, the metallic Golden Helmet. The 1976 replacement and many of today's newer helmet trophies reflect current full-face style polycarbonate crash-hats, (see Penhall below,) - not hall-marked but CE-marked, for safety certification !
Ronnie Moore, Wimbledon leads Brian Crutcher, Wembley Lions
British MRC Golden Helmet
Michael Lee (Ch) & Peter Collins (H),in a Leicester decider,1979. (Photo J.Blanchard.)
and 'Silver Sash'
British Division II
Match Race Championships
As previously stated, Dirt Track competitions in the early days of 1928-'32 were often raced for Silver Helmet trophies as well as Golden Helmets. Shown left is a Sterling silver helmet prize raced for at Bristol's Knowle Stadium in those early days, held today by the grandson of the founder of Douglas motorcycles in Bristol.
Following the introduction post war of the Golden Helmet as the trophy for the British Match Race Championship amongst first division speedway racers, the idea was taken up by National League Div'n 2 (NL2) promoters with a Div.2 MRC for a Silver Helmet, raced for monthly by the Holder and a nominated Challenger. (NL.3 did likewise with a Bronze Helmet MRC, see next section.)
Listed below are the Silver Helmet Match Race Champions of the British second tier leagues during 1948 - '99: NL2, BL2, NL, PL.
In the first period post-war the list of Silver Helmet holders features many names that subsequently moved into the big time of 1st Division world-class racing, - Warren, Hunt, Young - , but it was Scotland, in the form of le Breton, (Ashfield,) Young, (Monarchs) and Miller, (Tigers) that dominated the Silver Helmet from 1950 onward. These 3 riders also had complete control of the Scottish MRC for 5 years. Le Breton, the first of the three holders, was undefeated at the time of his track death in January 1951. The extended success of Tommy Miller, replacement to Jack Young as Scotland's No.1, (whom he defeated for the Div'n.2 MRC on the eve of the Aussie's World Championship success,) came from staying on home soil until only closures forced him South, thereby for him to 'miss the big-time boat'.
Phil Crump 1973, Mike Ferreira 1981, Nicki Pedersen 1998
Tom & Joe Owen, Silver Helmet holders, '75,'76,78,'79
'Silver Sash' MRC
Although regional MRCs were introduced, the Silver Helmet Match race had been abandoned by 1954 and the junior Southern Area Lge,(SAL) introduced a one-race MRC, the Silver Sash, (the first, 1955, shown left,) to be competed for following each team match by the top scorer challenging the holder. Vic Ridgeon and Vic Hall dominate year one and each had 6 wins throughout the period. Colin Goody subsequently totaled 7, all but one in the final SAL year, 1959.
The Sash and its format was retained for the Provincial League's MRC and over its 5 years Mssrs Lewis (11wins, consecutively,) Silver (12 wins), Ivor Brown (17 wins: seen left,) and Ivan Mauger (26 wins), were the most successful, with Mauger ending the era as winter- and final- holder of the Silver Sash at the close of 1964.
With one amalgamated league in 1965 Mauger thus started the new era as Nominated Holder of the Silver Sash, the British League's second MRC, (the Golden Helmet continuing as the prime Monthly MRC,) but an early injury meant loss by default! Over these 5 years, though opportunity to meet and hence challenge the holder was pure chance, the following riders achieved the most successes: - Olle Nygren 13, Eric Boocock 14, Ivan Mauger 19, Barry Briggs 31! (despite him having no opportunity to challenge in the first year.) Briggo, below left, had the longest run of consecutive wins, 9, on two occasions, this in parallel with his Golden Helmet successes.
In conjunction with the re-introduction of Division 1's Golden Helmet MRC, the newly created British League Div'n 2 re-introduced the Silver Helmet as its Match Race Championship trophy in 1970, Ross Gilbertson being the Nominated Holder by virtue of his position as BL2RC champion. Initially a one-race competition, thru this period the success of Ipswich's John Louis, with 13 consecutive wins across the '70-end/'71-season-start, and then an amazing 21 consecutive wins near the end of 1971 was breathtaking, no other rider bettering a run of 5 wins. No surprise the Witches were elevated to Div'n 1 the following season!
In '74 the Helmet's format changed to a monthly nominated home-&-away challenge and after fluctuating holders monthly in year one the Owen brother of Newcastle, Tom and Joe, (below) went whole seasons unbeaten by all challengers and dominated the Silver Helmet for 4 of the next 5 years of second division speedway Match Races.
In the 'eighties the format of the Silver Helmet MRC reverted to the one-race match-by-match challenge, and thru that decade the Helmet changed hands frequently with many single-win holders. Only Barry Thomas in '83 (7), Stan Bear in '85 (10), Martin Dugard in '86 (6), David Blackburn in '87 (12), Andy Galvin in '88 (8) and Jens Rasmussen in '89 (8) achieved better than 5 wins.
With the leagues' re-structuring of 1997 the Silver Helmet MRC was reinstated and ran for 3 more years when Carl Stonehewer of Workington ended the millennium undefeated with 13 consecutive defences.
The "Bronze Helmet" -
British Division III / 3rd tier Match Race Championship
- National Lge, Div3 / Southern Lge, 1948 - '53
In the post war speedway boom it was inevitable that the 3rd Division of the National League would emulate their big brothers with a Match Race Championship of their own and a corresponding helmet of bronze. The competition ran for only 2 effective years, but in 1951 was dominated throughout the season by Trevor Redmond of Aldershot. Redmond subsequently transferred to the Wembley Lions when the league re-structured to become the Southern Lge. in the following year and Rayleigh riders in the form of Jack Unstead and Gerald Jackson dominated the speedway Bronze Helmet championship.
- Conference Lge, 1998 - 2008
Following the formation of a 3rd tier UK speedway league in the mid-'90s the Bronze Helmet Match Race Championship was revived in 1998, the first holder being Andrew Appleton when he defeated Geoff Powell at Newport. Into the 21st century the helmet was dominated by David Mason ( left,) with 29 wins in Rye House colours during 2000 & 2001. No one came close to this figure during 8 years of the competition, - Seemond Stephens follows with 9 wins.
The format in the Conference Lge. years up to and incl'g 2003 was a single race, Silver Sash-style match-by-match competition following each official league meeting. In 2004, '05, '08 & '09 a one-off Bronze Helmet Match Race event was run, with a new format of 4-man qualifying heats and semi(s), concluding in a 2-man Match Race final. Venues were Mildenhall and Weymouth. In '06 & '07 monthly nominated challenges were held.
(rt, with r/up Barrie Evans) (v. Rob Branford, rt.)
- National Lge, 2009 - 2015
the one-off Bronze Helmet meeting of 2009 there was no competition in
2010 but the Match Race Championship was resurrected for 2011 with
monthly nominated challenges. Ashley Birks of Scunthorpe/ Sheffield
Prowlers became the first holder in March having defeated Belle Vue
Colts' unbeaten reserve Jason Garrity after the later fell on the
first bend. At the season's end Nick Simmons retained the MRC title
having taken 3 consecutive wins.
In 2012 Stoke's Ashley Birks had 4 wins before loosing the last event of the season to Stefan Nielsen of Mildenhall, who in turn lost to Tom Perry of IoW in the first defence of 2013. Seen below left with the Bronze Helmet after defeating Perry, Kent Kings' Steve Boxall.
Kings started the 2014 season with Simon Lambert (below with Jim McMillan,) winning the first challenge against Lee Smart at 'Devon', and after 2 more defences conceded in May to Stoke's Ben Wilson. The season ended with a run of 5 wins for Cradley, Paul Starke concluding as over-winter holder having replaced non-available Steve Worrall, who had been undefeated throughout September.
In 2015 both Dan Greenwood, (Coventry Storm,) and Zac Wajknecht (Birminghamm) achieved 4 wins of the NL MRC, though neither continuous, as each defeated the other mid-season. The competition was not run in 2016.
Simon Lambert & Jim McMillan