SPEEDWAY WORLD CHAMPIONS
Speedway - Long Track - Ice Racing
Barry Briggs & Ivan Mauger, - New Zealand team-mates in 1970,
who together have taken 10 Speedway and 3 LongTrack individual World Championships.
FIM World Championship titles, the ultimate accolade for any rider in his sport, are well recorded in many journals and on numerous websites. Winners of its Track Racing disciplines, Speedway, Long Track and Ice Racing, are included here for completeness and in recognition of the riders' achievement, and also to present the data on a single webpage. Before these however several other unofficial Speedway World Championship competitions took place, in the UK and elsewhere, that today create continued discussion and are thus worthy of mention.
THE FIRST SPEEDWAY WORLD CHAMPIONS, ( - pre-1936.)
Before the first ACU-organised World Championship, held at Wembley’s
Empire Stadium in 1936 as “The Auto-Cycle Union Official Speedway
Championship of the World” , (it was 1954 before the Wembley Finals came
under FIM stewardship though its forerunner, the FICM approved and
recognised the ACU’s World title,) there were a number of other
championship meetings where the title of World Champion, - Speedway, or
its precursor, 'Dirt-Track' - , was raced for; see table below.
Paris 1934 Sydney 1933 Wembley 1930
riders migrating South from Europe’s winter not only to Australia but also
for a few years to a new venture in Argentina and Uruguay, a "World's
Championship Series" for the "Pour la Noblesse" trophy sponsored by the
National Tobacco Company was set up in Buenos Aires by AJ Hunting
for the 1930/'31
season. Visitors and local riders met each other 3 times in a series of
eliminating match races through the course of the season at
Huracan Speedway, Buenos Aires, concluding in February 1931, when
American Sprouts Elder made it
through to those final stages and, following recent research, is today
accepted as having been the winner and thus the first ever World
Champion. (An article reviewing the contest can be read here .)
In France at the Buffalo Velodrome, Paris a single meeting for the “Championnat du Monde” was held in October '31 and was won by the Australian Billy Lamont. The competition became an annual autumn event until the first ACU/FICM Wembley World Final, each Paris staging being dominated by top-name Dirt Track stars at the forefront of the British racing scene and Englishman Claude Rye was a double winner.
In Australia a “World’s Championship Final” was held in March 1933 at Sydney’s Speedway Royal, the programme of which informs of it having had 5 qualifying rounds in Paris, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, (though it is suspected that the link to Paris was 'creative' publicity.) Billy Lamont and Bluey Wilkinson, who featured regularly amongst the French prize winners, were pipped for the title by the Englishman from Middlesbrough, Wembley's Harry Whitfield, (seen rt. receiving the trophy: Johnnie Hoskins on left.)
When the first meeting of the 1934 event in Sydney was rained off the Series was re-structured and 'World's Derby' competitions, - World Championships in all but name - , were re-instated, with official ACU status. Details of the WC qualifier meetings and of the Derby series are to be seen in the following table link, with background and full rider line-ups given here.
In the UK two competitions existed which, at the time or since, have been termed or considered as World Championships. With 2-man match races between star riders often the highlight of any dirt-track race meeting, - the top stars were initially excluded from league race teams - , a match race competition for the ‘Individual World Championship’ was initiated in 1931 by the Promoters Association, the first nominated holder of which was Vic Huxley who beat a nominated challenger, Colin Watson. Huxley was then challenged by Jack Parker who beat the first champion to relieve him of the trophy and be declared Individual World Champion. However, after the event the Speedway Control Board refused to recognise the title: the competition subsequently became the ‘British Individual Championship’, the pre-war forerunner of the British Match Race Championship. Notwithstanding, Parker always maintained his World Champion status, for he had an inscribed trophy as proof !
The ‘Star’ Championship, held each year at Wembley other than in its inaugural year, was launched to identify the supreme speedway rider and is considered by many as the forerunner of the official World Final. As the format of the Star Championship developed, from knock-out match races through to ultimately a 16-rider 20-heat competition, it was supplanted in 1936 by the ACU Final, having exactly the same format, venue, calendar date, and similarly having qualifying rounds at each 1st Division track. Though each year saw a different champion it was 4 years before an Englishman was to see off the Aussie and American stars, who were segregated in the initial year of 1929, being considered too experienced for the English new-starts.
Sprouts Elder 1931 Billy Lamont 1931 Bluey Wilkinson 1932 Harry Whitfield 1933 Claude Rye 1934, '35
Argentina Paris Paris Sydney Paris
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OFFICIAL SPEEDWAY WORLD CHAMPIONS, ( - 1936 onward.)
Ove Fundin, 5x World Champ
The above table of official
Speedway World Championship winners and rostrum-placed riders
is supplemented with the winners of the 'British Championship' of 1946 to '48,
so designated because of post-war restrictions on fuel and travel, etc.
Whilst the dominance of New Zealand riders from the mid-fifties to the late
'seventies can be seen, - nationalities are colour-coded for easy analysis - ,
securing 12 official championships, in effect this was achieved by just 3 men,
Moore, Briggs and Mauger. No other New
Zealander has stood on the rostrum then or since. The 'eighties saw Denmark's
riders to the fore, taking 7 world championships in 8 years and continued
rostrum appearances through to date. Their total of 14 championships, the same
as Sweden, puts these 2 Scandinavian countries at the top of a national
Individually, Ivan Mauger and Tony
Rickardsson of Sweden (left,) have taken the title on a record six
occasions each, whilst Ove Fundin (above,) and Jason
Crump have each achieved rostrum placings for 10 consecutive years.
Club-wise Belle Vue has seen one of its riders of the day crowned World Champ on
a record 10 occasions, followed by Cradley Heath with 7 world
World Champions post-1994 have been decided
not by a one-off Final but a series of meetings in Grand Prix style. There had
been an earlier attempt in the late '70s to run such a series, the "Master of
Speedway", initially at tracks in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, (see "Masters
of Speedway" on 'Key,Bar,Hammer' page,) but the project floundered as
British promoters discouraged the participation by its British League stars at
the expense of UK race-nights.
1936 - '38 1949 -
'57 1958 -
'77 1979 - '94
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LONG TRACK WORLD CHAMPIONS
The Long Track World Championship started life as the
European 1000m Championship, being re-designated a World Championship in 1971.
The sport has thrived in Germany, and understandably been dominated by German
riders, who have been the most successful throughout the decades. (On the
continent this title may still be found termed as the 'Sandbahn' Championship as
the racing surface may be grass, dirt or sand.)
British Grass-Track racers have
participated with some success, but it was the Sunday afternoon forays first of
Mauger followed by Olsen, etc. that led to UK-based speedway riders joining in
the central-Europe based competition, as top flight riders awakened to the
lucrative benefits available on the continent. Up to the present decade, in 22 of the preceding 25 years the
Long Track World Champion had been British or German, with former England
speedway captains Simon Wigg and Kelvin Tatum
(above,) taking 7 titles in total, and Swabian Gerd
Riss, (below,) dominating the era with 8 wins, his last 3 'on-the-trot', emulating the feats of his countrymen Hofmeister and Poschenreider 50
years earlier and making a total of 27 titles for Germany since inception. The UK follows with
10 titles. Since 1997 these titles have bee decided by a Grand Prix series, following speedways format. Individual GP winners can be seen HERE.
Come 2013 Fin Jonas Kylmakorpi had surpassed these 3 German legends by scoring a 4th consecutive World Long Track Championship title.
2012 LongTrack GP Final
Rd, Vechta, Germany:
Josef Franc CZ,3rd; Martin Smolinski GY,
2nd; Jonas Kylmakorpi FN, World Champ; (+ Cameron Woodward AUS,
(Smolinski with Silver Horeshoe, Kylmakorpi with ADAC Golden Helmet & Gold
Horseshoe; Woodward with Bronze Horseshoe.)
Long Track World Finals: Marianske Lazne CZ 1976 Eenrum NL 2010
Muhldorf, W.Gy. 1958 (when EM) Korskro,DK. 1982 Forus, NY. 2011 Marmande FR. 2012
World Long Track final, Herxheim, Germany, 1996
Riss,(winner,) Gerhard, Berg,
ICE RACING WORLD CHAMPIONS
The table below of Ice Racing World Champions is still colour-coded by nationality as per the others tables above. It uses white for the predominant successful country, USSR/Russia ! - a 75% 'white-out' - , such has been the dominance of this one nation over the competition. It has had the rostrum 1-2-3 on 23 occasions.
As with the Long Track World Championship and Speedway U21 titles, the competition started life with 'European' and 'FIM Cup' designations, World Championship status being granted in 1966. (USSR had initiated international exchanges with Scandinavia in the 2 preceding years.) Forerunner champions were Bjorn Knutsson, Boris Samorodov and Gab Kadirov, the latter holding the record of 6 official world titles (plus an 'FIM Cup') until that was broken in 2011 by Nikolai Krasnikov, (below,) with an 8th successive win.
Above, 1979: Tarabanko (2nd), Bondarenko (1st), Kudrna,CZ
(3rd, - an exception !)
Though the championships have included a reasonable representation nationally, including Britons, - Peterborough's Andy Ross made 5th place in 1970 - , only a few Czech (in the early years,) and Swedish riders have had much exposure on the rostrum. These have included veteran P.O. Serenius, still racing in 2013 at the age of 65 and his countryman Conny Samuelsson, now a much respected FIM official and referee in the sport.
Nikolai Krasnikov, 8x World Ice Champ
Ice Racing World Championships:
1965 Moscow 1984
Sanok 2010 Inzell 2013
Jan.1968, Conny Samuelsson
with his new Christmas present,
takes his first ever ride on ice,
a frozen Swedish lake,
watched by family members.
International Ice action, Sweden v. USSR