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The National Speedway Museum

Here’s a star-studded line-up thrilling the multitudes at an England v Australia Test match at Harringay in 1939, one of the last before the outbreak of war.

Out in front is one of the great speedway stylists, England’s Alec Statham, riding on his home track at the time.  He qualified for three pre-war World Finals, but the zenith of his career came in 1948 when in the Speedway Riders Championship Final at Wembley, the last before the World Championship was reintroduced, he was the only rider on the night to beat eventual winner Vic Duggan but lost a run-off with Ron Johnson for second place.

In the centre Aub Lawson, then a rising young star on Wembley’s books but loaned out to Middlesbrough. He made such progress that year that Wembley recalled him and he not only appeared in all five matches of the Test series, but also qualified for the ill-fated World Final which had to be abandoned because of the hostilities.

And hugging the white line, one of speedway’s genuine immortals, the 1936 World Champion Lionel Van Praag. Notoriously one of the original hard men of the sport, Praggy remained a world class star throughout an international career which began at Wembley in 1931. He returned after the war to ride for New Cross during the 1947 season but then retired from the track to run an airline in his native Australia.

Three Pre-war Greats

By John Chaplin

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Photo Courtesy John Chaplin