Belle Vue Ace 1967


Without doubt the super Swede is arguably his countries greatest ever rider. This is not to demean the achievements of Sweden’s current day superstar Tony Rickardsson, he too is a truly remarkable rider and Fundin’s closest rival. I honestly believe that Ove’s achievements rank higher than Tony’s, purely on the fact that they were all won on the ‘one off’ basis. Tony’s, however, have mainly been at GP level. There he can afford the luxury of an off night, but Fundin could not.

It did not take long for the young Fundin to make his mark in the sport. He made his British debut in 1953, when Filbyterna, from Linköping, toured English tracks. Progress continued, and, by 1954, Ove had qualified for his maiden World Final. Little of what happened on the night suggested what was to come; Fundin finished in last place with 2 points.  

Norwich must have been impressed by his ability, when they signed him in 1955. This was to be Ove’s longest association with an English club. At the Firs, he became the darling of the crowd. Another final appearance saw a vast improvement with 10 points. At last, in 1956, the Swede realised his dream, to become his nations first World Champion. His National League form with Norwich was nothing short of sensational. If there was one quality that he possessed in abundance, it was the dislike of defeat.

Winning became a habit with him, but he had to wait until 1960 for his next championship win. Wembley could be an awkward track to ride for some, but Ove relished the Empire Stadium circuit. In 1961, he became only the third rider to retain the championship, when recording his third championship victory in his native Sweden. The fourth title came, again at Wembley in 1963. Here he played the ‘old soldier’, complaining of not being fit after falling in practice. Fundin was a great rider, but also the master of mind games. Sometimes he appeared to have no interest whatsoever, yet on the night, he reigned supreme; the hallmark of a true champion.  No wonder he earned the nickname of the ‘The Fox’.

Norwich closed at the end of 1964, ending Ove’s association with British speedway at that time. He was tempted back in 1966 to ride at Long Eaton, but only lasted 5 matches, before he went missing. In that year, he also missed out on a World Final appearance; his only time since his first appearance. Fundin had been banned at the qualifying stages by SVEMO; the governing body in Sweden.

Once again, he talked of retirement, but many felt that he still had another final win within his powers. Ove breezed through the domestic rounds with ease, content to ride only for his Swedish club Kaparna; that was until Sören Sjösten broke a leg. Belle Vue required a genuine number one to replace him and turned to Fundin for assistance. He seemed reluctant at first, and some even thought that he should not be allowed back after letting Long Eaton down in 1966. The rider was also wanted by Kings Lynn, who saw the return of this East Anglian icon as the ideal way to boost their fortunes. However, it was the persuasive words of manager, Dent Oliver that won the day. He made his debut on 5 July 1967, during the 45-33 win over rivals Halifax, scoring 10 points. The immediate impact was that he boosted team morale; previously, losing had become a habit. Two much needed away wins at Coventry and Poole followed his arrival, although the Coventry one was later reversed on appeal.

More importantly, he was able to race against most of the riders he could face in the Wembley final. There was the problem of gaining qualification from the European Final, after three rides, Fundin had 2 points and was ‘staring down the barrel’. That was until with the generosity of the Russians, he took maximum points from his remaining rides, to scramble home for the last place.

His build up to the big night was quite low key, again he said he did not have a bike to ride, but could perhaps borrow an engine from Norwegian, Sverre Harrfeldt. During this run up to Wembley, Belle Vue built Ove a special concoction of a machine; a JAP motor in an ESO frame, a combination that met with scant success when tried in the past. Fellow Swede, Torbjorn Harrysson, tested the bike at Hyde Road in readiness for Fundin.

Any fears that the combination would be a disaster disappeared on final night, as Fundin reeled off three straight wins. Defeat to the Russian, Igor Plechanov provoked the expected outburst from Ove, who claimed the bike was useless and could not go at 10mph. Again, this was the example of the burning desire to win the fifth and record breaking win; Barry Briggs and Ove had four apiece. A fourth win guaranteed at least a run-off for Fundin, which was the outcome when fellow Swede, Bengt Jansson won the final race. In the run-off, Fundin’s experience counted, as he outwitted his compatriot, thwarting every challenge Jansson made to pass. Fundin now had a title for each of his children.

Ove made a triumphant return to Manchester, to race against Newcastle and this proved to be his last league appearance for the Aces. He did make the historic first trip to Leningrad for a team and individual event. The British League Riders Championship, the clubs yearly event, was his final appearance in Manchester; he rode in 12 matches, at an average of 9.65. Talk of a return in 1968 was a possibility, but the return of Sjösten ended that avenue of speculation.

A brief stint with the Wembley Lions in 1970 ended his British career, but he continued to race in special events. Ivan Mauger took a troupe of riders to race in Australia, New Zealand and America in our winter and Ove went with them on several occasions. In more recent times, he has ridden Barry Briggs’ Golden Greats meetings and certainly not disgraced himself. In these he has displayed all the qualities that took him to the top of the speedway ladder.

by Trevor James