GRASS TRACK CHAMPIONS
UK & Continental Europe,
New Zealand & Australia
Grass Track Racing -
The UK’s Solo Grass Track Championship Rolls of Honour are liberally scattered with names readily recognisable to the speedway follower: - Loram, Collins, Screen, Pusey, Morton, Wigg, Hagon, Briggs, Tatum, etc. Being very much a week-end only sport, v/v speedway’s hectic 7-day schedules, Grass Track racing has long been a development route and proving ground for youngsters and would-be speedway riders, an introductory route into the professional sport, (though for today’s Grass and Long Track stars at least, it is now a paying occupation.) Whilst a total of just 14-18 riders partake in a full speedway meeting, in excess of that number can ride in a single Grass Track race and the entrant field across the classes can easily reach 200, hence opportunity and experience are more readily achieved by starting racing on grass.
and run by local amateur motorcycle clubs, bikes in past times were a
mix of scramblers and speedway-style machines with gearbox, rear
suspension and brakes. Primarily in rural communities these clubs
organised Scrambles, (now ‘Motocross’,) through a long summer
season and Trials in the winter months and would fit in a limited
season of Grass Tracking after haymaking and before harvest time on
the newly-cut fields. Today it's an Easter to November racing season.
Left: Lew Coffin c.1950
Kidney-shaped tracks were often used as much as ovals in the past, the deliberate inclusion of a right-hand bend, perhaps with undulations or even on a hillside, intended to present more of a challenge to the rider and create interest for the crowd. Track lengths were and are variable, around 400-500 metres plus, whereas speedway circuits have become smaller over the years, many now below 300m. and inside their original circuits, (e.g. Ipswich and Birmingham speedway.) Mindful no doubt of continental tracks, the circuit of the ‘Lincolnshire Poacher’ Grass Track Classic measures 1000m and qualifies for designation as a Long Track race, (see below.)
Today grass bikes have no brakes and a 2-speed box, all tracks are oval, i.e. 2 straights and 2 bends, - no right-hand bends - , and youngsters may compete in Junior Grass Track racing from the age of 6, junior clubs catering for riders with motocross bikes as well as grass-track machines.
Though the earliest meetings first took place in the 1920s, being local club-based events, it was 1951 before the amateur clubs collaborated to run a national Grass Track championship on the Mallory Park 1660 yard pony trotting circuit used by the Leicester Query M/C.C. following the collapse of the Pony Club project. (The track was subsequently tarmac'd, modified, and switched to road racing, for bikes and cars.) Today the pinnacle of the domestic Grass Track season is the ACU’s 500cc solo "British Masters" Championship, which also determines who is to represent the UK at international level in the FIM World Long Track Championship.
The majority of Grass Track meetings as well as continental Long
Track meetings covered on the next page include a sidecar classes, but such championships are not covered on
n.b.2: Sand Racing and its British Championship results are given on the Long Track page.
Preston 1928 Harrogate 1930 Carshalton 1931 Blackpool 1935
(4x 500 champ, 7x 350 champ)
The final of the 2010
"British Masters" 500cc Grass Track
Rhodes Minnis, Kent.
(winner Andrew Appleton,
first 500cc Class Championship winner in 1951 was Cradley Heathen
Dick Tolley (left) with an average winning speed of 61.65mph on the
1660yd Leicestershire track. Dick was the eldest of three local
speedway brothers, who (with Les and Jim Tolley,) all gave continued
service to Midlands speedway at Birmingham, Tamworth and
Wolverhampton as well as at Dudley Wood speedway throughout the
immediate post-war period. The 3 rode together in the 1952 Cradley
Heath team. Over the years the most successful riders in the National
500 Solo Championships have been Alf Hagon, (Oxford Cheetahs &
Leicester Hunters,) with 4 titles in the ‘50s; Simon Wigg (Cradley
Heath & Exeter Falcons,) 6 titles in the ‘80s before his
premature retirement due to terminal illness, and Kelvin Tatum,
(Coventry Bees, Sky TV, and England speedway captain,) in the ‘90s
with 4 titles and 5 rostrum places. Other notable-name winners were
Screen, Loram, Maxted, Pusey, Luckhurst and Briggs, (- Murray Briggs,
brother of Barry.)
In the present decade Andrew Appleton added further successes to bring his total up to 4, while teenager James Shanes, U21 champ of 2014 became the youngest ever 500/Master champ the following year and repeated his win in 2016 in addition to claiming the European Championship.
Hagon senior was even more effective in the 1960s on his 350 JAP, winning 7 national championships, - 6 consecutively. He then gave up speedway and grass tracking to concentrate on Drag Racing, where he eventually became the first man to better 10 seconds for the standing ¼ mile on his 1000cc HagonJap, to be followed by being the first to achieve a terminal speed of 200mph.
Steve Schofield, in the ‘80s took 7 350cc titles, and Jason Hadley in the ‘00s had 8 championship wins. Speedway-notable name winners included Chris Pusey (left: 1977 Champ,) Screen, Briggs, plus Peter Collins, Chris Morton and Bill Bridget, Wolverhampton promoter of the time.
The Baybutt brothers Dave and Chris (left, 1976 Champ,) together won 7 250cc national championships in the ‘70s, (Chris also took a couple of 500 championships as well as a Silver Helmet and 2 Silver Roses in Germany, plus the European Championship in 1978: see below.)
The most successful national Grass Track champion across all classes was Mark Wadsworth, wining 13 250cc Championships between 1978 and 1999, (and 6 additional rostrum placings, meaning that only 3 times in 22 years was he not placed.)
Introduced in 2000, the U21 (500cc) Grass Track Championship was first won by another Tolley, Ryan Tolley, (left.) grandson of Jim T. and great-nephew of Dick Tolley, (see above.) Tom Perry (right), has been triple champion in the present decade with 3 consecutive wins whilst also riding speedway for Dudley Heathen. The Heathens therefore have had representation at both ends of the Grass Track Championship table, as holders of the oldest senior and the newest junior championship!
1991 Br.Masters GTC 1997 Br.Master GTC 2003 Br.Masters GTC 2005 Br.Masters GTC
Andrew Appleton, 2010, 2011 Cameron Woodward (Aus,) 2012, 2013
2013 ADAC Long Track Gold & Silver Helmets
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Following the formation of the New
Zealand ACU in 1916 the first official national motor-cycle
championships were staged on racecourses and fields, there being
little by way of metaled roads or raceways in the developing country, hence the 'NZ
Championships' were grass track races, a medium that continued up to
and after the advent of dirt track racing more than 10 years later,
and 30 years before a national British grass championship. (It was not until 1931 that New Zealand held its first TT event.)
one mile racecourses, machines were classified into 3 groups,
typically above, below and at the half-litre capacity, staged usually at
different venues and rotating between differing club sites. Race
duration varied with class, and for the senior 'Heavyweight' class
became reduced from 15 laps (15 miles,) to 8 laps, in line eventually
with the Middleweight and Lightweight classes.
20 years after
the first championships a competition for Quarter Mile courses was
created, which, as availability of horse racing tracks post-war dried up and the One Mile Championships diminished, became the prevalent form of grass racing, (though Road Racing had now become New Zealand's dominant motorcycle sport.) In the mid-'50s the ¼-mile championship was segregated into
'Speedway' (uti 500cc) and 'Non-Speedway' (uti 1350cc plus gears,) machine classes, with a further sub-division by cc. capacity to the latter in 1985.
On the 1 mile tracks of the 1920s
Percy Coleman (seen left,) set many world records on his 7 h.p. Harley Davidson and
took championship titles 12 times, having started with the 1912/13
Lightweight class at the age of 15, before the days of ACU recognition. The '30s were dominated by
Harry Mangham on his 3½ h.p. Rudge, and Rod and Bob Coleman continued the
family tradition post-war with numerous wins including a clean sweep of all 3
classes by Bob in 1958/59 on an AJS. W.Lambess did the same in '73/74 on a
400cc Suzuki plus a 250cc Yamaha. (Unfortunately records for the '40s and '50s are
scant because of a fire at the NZ.ACU offices in the 1970s.)
In the '50s and '60s in the
¼-ml. Championships 'Speedway' class, former Cradley and Wembley rider Eric Williams
twice took the title, and familiar names such as Maury Dunn, Bob
Andrews, Bryce Subritzky and Roger Wright (twice,) followed in subsequent years, to hold high the Grass Track silverware.
Grass Track Racing - AUSTRALIA
As in New Zealand, racing on grass was one of the earliest forms of motorbike competition in Australia in the days before dirt track broadsiding and circuit-racing in the Southern hemisphere were established, but the size and remoteness of the country meant that national competitions across States severely limited progress. The first substantiated national grass track championships were run over 3 classes in Victoria in 1924, with sporadic stagings thereafter, though State Championships were held in Western Austarlia, Tasmania and Queensland, but with little continuity: classes were irregular, and in other years no event was held. Post-war, the Sunshine State ran some of their own championships while Victoria continued into the 1980s, Phil Crump taking several State class titles.
Early winners of the National title included Clarrie Thomas in the initial year, and Len Stewart who later rode speedway in the UK. Like many motorcycle riders world-wide at this point in time, they both competed in a wide spectrum of 2-wheeled motor sport competitions. Thomas had successes in 100- and 200-mile Victorian road races, he raced on the concrete Maroubra Speedway in NSW, and secured Tasmanian Grass Track Championships.
Len Stewart (seen left,) competed in the 1927 Isle of Man TT races on a Norton, (ignominiously, - but the first to ride an OHC Norton there,) returning down-under to win 2 National Grass Track Championships on the same machine at the Werribee Racecourse outside Melbourne. (Some press reports assign these as Australasian Championships.) At the start of the '30s Stewart was again in Europe, riding regular weekly speedway for Edinburgh in the 1930 Northern Lge, and later for Wimbledon, (1931 Southern Lge,) with moderate success.
- ADAC Silver Helmet, Germany
- East Germany National GrassTrack Champions
- France National GrassTrack Champions
- Netherlands National GrassTrack Champions
- Czechoslovakia National GrassTrack Champions
- Golden Helmet of Roden, Holland
- Silver Rose of Zweibrucken, Gy
- Golden Pheasant of the Main Valleys, Gy
- Golden Apple of Bodensee, Gy
- Golden Helmet of Poznan, PL
- Golden Helmet of Teterow Bergring, Gy,
plus Bergring Cup, (plus speedway: Capercaille Cup & Schildburg Cup)
Continental Grass Track Championships
Grass Track racing on the continent, at the upper level, i.e. World
Championship GPs, is encompassed within the Long Track sphere, there
are nonetheless specific grass track competitions, including a
European Championship operated now under the auspices of the UEM.
European Grass Track Championship was established in 1978 since when
successes have been well distributed amongst competing riders over
the years, with no domination other than nationally by German and
British participants until Jannick de Jong's hat-trick of 2013-'15, - and unfortunate disqualification in the 2016 final.
Lt: 3x European champion, Jannick de Jong of Holland. Rt: James Shane, GB, 2016 EM
Joure NL 1988 Schwarme GY 1998 Skegness GB 2011 Eenrum NL 2012
2008 European Grass Track Champion, 2011 EGT Champion
ADAC Silver Helmet
ADAC Silver Helmet of Germany, like its LongTrack/Sandbahn
counterpart the Golden Helmet, is put up for competition annually at
alternating venues throughout the country for Grass Track racing. 8
riders have won both the Silver Helmet and the Golden Helmet in the
same season, including Riss 3 times amongst his 4 successful years.
Fellow countryman Robert Barth has also been ADAC Grass Track
Champion 4 times, whilst Brits (plus Mauger,) have taken the trophy 8
times in total. Kelvin Tatum and speedway world Champion Bjorn
Knutsson are riders to have done the double by winning both the Gold
and the Silver helmets in the same year.
2013 German ADAC Grass Track 2016 winner,
Silver Helmet @ Osnabruck, Erik Riss
1st Stephan Katt, 2nd Andrew Appleton (rt.)
The above 'Silver Helmet' has national status. For national championship titles, per se, grass track racing in Germany today is included in the 'Long Track Racing' Championship, (see Lg Trk page,) those championships embracing racing on both Sand and Grass Tracks. However in the 1980s an East German Grass Track championship was staged in addition to the DDR's Long Track championship events, the latter suspected of being Sandbahn races.
In the Netherlands grass track activity takes place primarily in the North of the country. In the '70s Ab de Groot took the national title 7 times, Harm Horsted in the '80s 5 times, whilst Groen, de Jong and Fabriek have dominated the 21st century results, decided today over multi-round meetings.
The first titles were established in 1934 as "Motorcylce Track Racing Championship of the Netherlands", and though surfaces in most cases pre-war were grass, exceptions of sand, dirt and cinders were raced on, as with the second championship staging at Rotterdam's Woudestein horse racing track, when a 540m cinder circuit was used rather than the 880m grass circuit of the inaugural year. Alkmaar Sportpark, then grass but post war dirt, was the venue for the '36 &'37 title meetings, and Utrecht (Mereveld) the last before hostilities.
In France grass track racing is centred around the Bordeaux area with tracks such as at Morizes, Artigues de Lussac and, in particular, Marmande, the hotbed of track racing, - it also has a speedway course within its unique '3-straights, 3-bends' grass circuit.
In the three decades that followed the establishment of a French national title two family names have dominated the event taking 16 titles. Patrice Blondy won all but one title in the '80s whilst the 3 Tresarrieau brothers have taken the title 9 times, the elder Stephane a record-setting 6 consecutive times.
Long Track GP, Marmande 2012: A.Appleton,
M.Kroeger, J.de Jong, M.Smolinski, B.Diener.
Grass-Track Competitions in Europe
Teterow Bergring Golden Helmet
This event in the former East Germany has a history back to the 'fifties when the pre-war mountain grass track circuit was relaid after war-time crop production and the 'Bergring Cup' introduced under a new club structure. The Bergring Gold Helmet was added to the Pentecost (i.e. Whitsun) weekend programmes from 1974 onward, and whilst the race is unchanged the change of motor racing authority from ADMC to ADAC has given rise to the new title for the competition of 'Bergring Green Band.' since 2007. ( Since 2002 the Teterow club has added a 314m. speedway oval in the 'Bergring Arena,' - seen below left in the aerial shot of the course - , with 2 international meetings, at Pentecost and in September each year.)
The 1877m. mountain grass track is practically unique by today's standards with its dips and rises of up to 16%,(1-in-6), 30m. drops, and its dumb-bell shape giving right-hand bends in addition to left. With only one event per year riders have no opportunity to gain experience on the unusual track, other than the eve-of-race practice day. Bikes are modified with extended suspension travel front and rear, and swinging footrest for the right-hand bends, (note green elastic, below rt, to retract rest.)
After a number of British Cup wins participation was closed to Western riders throughout the DDR after 1971 and thus there was no Golden Helmet winner from the West until after perestroika when Simon Wigg won the Cup in 1991 and the Golden Helmet in 1992. He took both trophies in 1993 & '95: Trevor Banks took both in '98 and Kelvin Tatum, emulating his father's Cup win of 1961, took the Golden Helmet and the Bergring Cup in both 1999 and 2004. King of the Mountain Ring was clearly oft-time East German national Long Track Champion, Deitmar Lieschke with 14 successes, - 6 doubles - , in a span of 11 years until injuries terminated his career in 1986.
1958 1st Cup 1974 1st Gold Helmet 1979 1989
Deitmar Lieschke in 1977 Simon Wigg in 1992
Golden Helmet of Roden, Holland
earliest Golden Helmet races at Roden, Holland, were staged in
conjunction with the final round of the Dutch National Grass Track
Championships, embracing the champions and runners-up of each class
over 3 handicap races, whereby in the initial year the 250cc champ
took the trophy. 500cc International class riders contested the
Golden Helmet when that division was first added in 1973, Sweden and
British riders taking the prize. Financial matters reined back the
field from 1981 onward up to '93 after which point the venue was lost
to development, the exception being 3 International races in the mid
The club's 1994 meeting was staged at an alternative site in Een but the 500cc riders refused to race claiming the track to be too dangerous. In the 21st century, with a new multi-track site, the club moved to speedway racing for their annual September event but have put up a Golden Helmet on only limited occasions. For the 2012 meeting, after an absence of 5 years, the GH was to have been competed for once more, but local politics forced the event's cancellation. In 2013 the planned competition was abandoned when its date was found to conflict with other Grass and Long Track meetings. Finally in 2014 a Speedway Golden Helmet trophy was raced for, captured by Dirk Fabriek.
Ab de Groot from Blijham was the first Roden Golden Helmet winner on his 250cc machine: Hylke Dijkema and Sture Lindblom of Sweden have each had 3 GH successes, while a quartet of British riders were winners between 1978 & '81. (Research by Christian Weber.)
1984,Tjalle Reitsma 2006 Mark Steikema 2014 Dirk Fabriek
Silver Rose of Zweibrucken
Inaugurated in 1960, the present local Motor Sports Club held its first Grass Track event in '63 on the long established horse racing circuit of Zweibrucken, a town noted for its equestrian activities of racing and breeding and of its rose gardens. However races for a Silver Rose trophy had been held In the previous decade by forerunner organisations, OMK and ARKB Solidarity. When the horse racing association rebuilt its facilities at the end of the century the 1008m Grass Track course was forced to be reduced to 650m so that the track involvement with international Long Track activities has been curtailed though top-level racing, including periodic staging of the German national ADAC Silver Helmet competition continues.
During its Long Track period big-name winners have included Moran, Pedersen, Michanek, Crump and Wigg (3x, - seen photo rt.) as well as national heroes such a Gerd Riss, a double winner as well as being a 5x winner of the 'Silver Rose' on its present-day shorter grass circuit, on which UK's Kelvin Tatum has also succeeded.
(1955 prog, above left.)
1969 1988 2009 2011
The Golden Apple grass track meeting was run for 20 years u.t.i. 1991at Langnau in the Lake Constance (Bodensee) region of Baden-Wurttemberg. Successes have gone to Don Godden, to World Champs Anders Michanek, Egon Muller and the ubiquitous Simon Wigg, (below,) - grass/long-track's equivalent of Ivan Mauger. Karl Maier was a 4-times winner, with a hat-trick at the end of the 'eighties.
The Golden Pheasant has been raced for for over 50 years at Klein Krotzenburg, east of Frankfurt and a number of Brits have taken wins including Malcolm Simmons as early as 1970. Present day No.1 German Long-Tracker Stefan Katt has had 3 wins in the last decade.
2002 Bernt Diener 2007
Golden Helmet of Poznan - "Zloty Kask, Poland"
As identified on the Zlata Prilba page, the Pardubice Golden Helmet meeting was originally an International Grass Track competition, staged at the long-established steeplechase course, (see winners listed on p.GH3.) Its success prompted a similar event in Poland and the Unia Poznan motorcycle club set up the Poznan Gold Helmet competition on a 1200m grass track at the Wola Hippodrome equestrian centre in 1932.
the war the competition resumed and was dominated by local hero Jerzy
Mieloch who took the Gold trophy 6 times in 8 years, but soon after,
with the increase in popularity of scrambling, - 'motocross' in
today's terms - , the club made the Golden Helmet a motocross event,
only occasionally presenting the GH for a Grass Track competition
Photo Rt: Ryszard Mankiewicz. at the 20th GH of Poznan, 1962.
He went on to become 6x Polish Road Race champion.
n.b: In 1935 the club presented a Golden Helmet as the trophy for a speedway meeting at the Sokół ("Falcon") cinder track, which was won by Alfred Weyl who was the Poznan club's star rider during this period but who, on the grass, rode and had many successes in the 250cc class, and came second in the senior grass track class, the GH event, of 1933.