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The National Speedway Museum

This is speedway BD-D – before dirt-deflectors. And you can see why. The boys are covered in shale and it’s a bit of a job to sort out who is who. But you have before you a fascinating foursome. The date in 1950, and in those days there were always full, season-long Test Match series.

Apart from the World Championship, the fixture list was not cluttered up with weekly obscure and confusing world title competitions as it seems to be now. The only internationals were those between England and Australia, a series was over five matches, matches were over 18 heats split into two halves of nine races, and teams were made up of six riders and two reserves.

Each pair met the opposing pair once in the first nine heats and once in the second nine heats. If a pair had the inside starting positions in the first half, they took the outside positions in the second half. Reserves could be used at any time provided they had no more than six rides. It all produced some of the very finest speedway team encounters and, in my mind – and many traditionalists – at any rate, seemed to be the perfect formula and should be reintroduced to modern speedway.

The permanent pairs got to know each other well, and with the use-any-time reserves system there was no need for complicated arrangements such as double point tactical rides, 15 yard handicaps, guest riders or rider replacements. Simple. Yet no modern promoter appears to be willing to even give it a try.

But you’re dying to know who is in the picture on a rather murky night in Manchester, yes, dear old Hyde Road. It was the second Test at Belle Vue, Australia having won the first at West Ham 60-47. Bradford’s Eddie Rigg (far left) and New Cross’s Eric French, both first Division, are leading Edinburgh’s Jack Young on the line and Norwich’s Bob Leverenz, both Second Division at the time. The result; England won 58-50.

Bring back the 1950’s
by John Chaplin

Picture: The John Somerville Collection. Words: John Chaplin. (Thank you gentlemen)
Their forthcoming book, Speedway: The Greatest Moments, is to be published by Halsgrove. To pre-order go to:  this page

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