Home Machines Rider's Profiles Tracks Artefacts WSRA Museum Books Links & Much More

 

Have found details of Mike Erskine’s early life and his entry into grasstrack and speedway are rather sketchy but I will make a start and hope to be corrected and informed.


Born 22/08/1914, in Westbury, Wiltshire, and named Michael Gratney he was first seen on a bike in his late teens racing grasstrack in 1932 and causing a few raised eyebrows such was his obvious skill. Riding at the time in the ‘499’ Rudge class and also the 500cc OHC. A year on and he was not just holding his own against the stars of the day, he was beating them.


He then appears on a speedway bike in 1933 at Coventy Brandon track where he was amongst three junior riders who had caught the attention of those who knew a good thing when they saw it, these promising riders were, Mike Erskine, George O’Brian and Les Wheeler.


Promoter Fred Mockford, always one to encourage new talent, signed up all three young riders in the May of 1934, Mike was appointed the captain of the Second Division team the New Cross Lambs, remaining for the rest of that and the next season, moving to Bristol for a while before transferring to Southampton. Whilst he was involved in speedway he was still riding grasstrack and riding with a good deal of success.


Apart from his Speedway and Grasstrack racing he was also using his engineering skills improving and re-designing the equipment he and those around him were using.  


I am not aware which of the services Mike served with during World War II but he was back in a speedway saddle in 1946, this time for Wimbledon Dons, during the season his ability and his scoring steadily improved even though he changed his riding style from leg trailing to the increasingly popular foot forward however despite this change in style and a broken collar bone during the season it ended with him being one of the top scorers for the Wimbledon Dons.


1947 saw a continuation of his excellent riding skills and he was also developing into a team rider of distinction. All this while he was developing a speedway frame, the Starider, complemented by his expertly tuned engines and it was not just Mike Erskine who was succeeding on the ‘Erskine’ designed bike others were winning well on it as well. In 1950 and 1953 Freddie Williams won the World Individual Speedway Championship Final or a Erskine Staride.


He continued at Wimbledon Dons and in 1950 became a World Finalist but during the same year he suffered with a flare up of appendicitis resulting in his having an operation to removed it and as if that was not enough during the same season he broke his cheek bone. He continued his riding during 1951 still with the Dons but decided that the 1952 season would be his last. So Mike Erskine duly retired but only from racing, his engineering career continued both in racing bikes and cars.


Off track this talented Old Etonian rider and engineer enjoyed squash, golf and breeding French Poodles - he was father of Jon (also a former rider) and following his retirement from racing he became Team Manager at Southampton.

Mike Erskine died in November 1985.

MIKE ERSKINE

Return to Riders Profiles’ Index

My thanks to Ian Pressley who supplied additional information