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The National Speedway Museum

Exeter County Ground
The Falcons Return

Opening number three for speedway at this venue was to happen on the 22nd July 1957 under the promotion of Cyril Roger and Geoff Pymar, the periods first meeting being a challenge match against Norwich which the home team won 58 - 38. The promotional pair staged further Open Meetings during that first year and a series of six meetings the next year 1958. After that, the track was closed, again.

After a year of no speedway at the County Ground it returned in 1960 with Wally Mawdsley and Pete Lansdale promoting, they arranged for three open meetings that year with the team re-joining league racing the year following. Initially it was in the Provincial League where they managed to finish middle of the pack every year reaching the third place in 1962. In 1965 the Provincial and the National Leagues combined to make just one league called the British League. The Falcons remained in league racing so were now part of the eighteen team British League.

Couple of changes in 1969 - the one large British League split into two, and were now known as British League Division One and Two and Exeter was a member of the First Division and the promotion was joined by two new members and was now Wally Mawdsley, Pete Lansdale, John Richards and Pat Tapson. The four handed promotional team only lasted for a short while as in 1971 it became two again when John Richards and Pat Tapson left the hands on running of Exeter to Messrs. Mawdsley and Lansdale whilst John Richards and Pat Tapson went to concentrate on their other concern, Newport.

When Exeter signed Ivan Mauger in 1973 the spectator numbers shot up and at the first match Ivan was to ride in the gate numbers reached 10,500. During the rest of this decade the Exeter Falcons managed to finish each season middle table or better, winning in 1974, in 1976 third and 1977 second in what was now called Gulf British League and the second division was by now called the National League.

It was to this, the National League, that the Exeter management entered the team in 1980 - the drop of league was said to be for financial reasons, one assumes that the income from the support at the County Ground could not pay the money required by the British League riders. The promotion for this year was the ever present Mr Mawdsley who was joined by Peter Oakes.

1981 and Wally Mawdsley 21 year run as an Exeter promoter came to an end and Peter Oakes was joined by Pam Oakes and Reg Fearman for that season. Sad to report that this season was also the one that claimed the life of rider Tony Sanford following a second-half crash in September he was taken to the local Hospital but died the following morning from the injuries he sustained.

Strenuous efforts were made by the management to return the team to the top British League but despite their efforts to sign riders of the required ability to allow the team to compete at the top level they failed and after just the one year in the top league the team was returned to the National League, it seems the will and the money was available but the riders were not.  At this time one of the shareholders who had tried to get Exeter into the British League now took over as promoter when they returned to the National League, Colin Hill.

For a while the changes that took place for the Exeter team were outside their control, in 1991 the National League became the British Speedway League Division Two - so the Falcons were now members of this new league. 1995 and all change again this time all leagues became one to be called the Premier League, so Exeter were now racing in the Premier League and their promoter Colin Hill signed the future World Champion Mark Loram to help boost the team. This same year the County Ground had two teams one in the Premier League and the other in the Academy League, this junior team was called the Devon Demons.  

The next year 1996 the Academy League became the Conference League and in 1997 the Premier League split and became the Elite League (top league) and the Premier League (second division). If you are still with me Exeter remained with the Premier League and became the League Champions in 2000.

Colin Hill completed his twentieth season in charge of speedway at the County Ground in 2004 and sadly lost his brave fight with cancer in the early hours of the 30th October.

2005 was to be the last year that speedway would be seen at this venue, Terry Russell took over the promotion to allow the team to continue for this last year and the final meeting was held on the 10th of October, a large crowd gathered to witness this the last event with Leigh Adams taking the winning place in this grand finale,  it was perhaps fitting and nostalgic that the legend Ivan Mauger rode the last four laps on the night before the lights went out on speedway at Exeter's County Ground.

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Our thanks to John Jarvis for permission to use information and facts found in his book ‘Homes of British Speedway and to John Somerville for the images of programme covers.