Belle Vue Ace 1969 - 1972


Friday Septemeber 6th 1968, the Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden. The World Speedway final. The stadium was full of Swedes, there to watch their folk hero Ove Fundin. The current champion and 5 times winner.

The Swedish fans watched in disbelief as they watched their hero score only 4 points from his first four rides. He approached the tapes for what was his fifth and last ride, knowing that his title hopes had already slipped away. Within five minutes, a new World Champion would be crowned.

Ivan Mauger rode out of the pits for Heat 19. He had already won his first four rides and now needed only a second place to secure the title. The tapes went up and from that moment, there was only one man who was going to win the race. Ivan took the chequered flag to the sound of a cannon fired from somewhere on the centre green. I can still see the sight of my hero, stood on the rostrum, raising aloft the famous Winged Wheel trophy. At last, He'd made it. Ivan Mauger was the new World Speedway Champion!

Someone else who watched him that night was the then manager of the Belle Vue Aces, Dent Oliver. Unlike Ivan, 1968 was not to be a good year for Dent and  his Aces, finishing 10th in the League. Indeed their British League record had been poor since 1965. Dent knew something had to be done.

During the winter of that year, he heard how the relationship with Newcastle Diamonds manager, Mike Parker, and his number one rider, Ivan Mauger had strained. So much so that they parted company at the end of that season. Dent Oliver, single handidly masterminded what was probably the greatest ever transfer of a rider by signing Ivan to ride for the Aces.

And so it was, that come the start of the 1969 season,  Ivan Mauger rode out onto the infamous Belle Vue bowl as an Ace in the pack.

In what was to be an unbelievable season, Ivan dropped only 9 points in 149 rides! Alongside the legendary Soren Sjosten and Tommy Roper, he steered the Aces to second place in the League that year, taking six away wins along the way.

Ivan was again crowned World Champion, this time at the famous twin towered Wembley Stadium. His teammate, Soren Sjosten, taking 3rd place on the rostrum. Suddenly Belle Vue was alive again. Could this be the revival that everyone had dreamt of? Better was to come.

The 1970 season started as successfully as the 1969 season had finished. Although now there were a few new faces in the pack. The young Chris Pusey and Eric Broadbelt were brought in to plug the gap of the former captain, Tommy Roper. They provided terrific back up and support with the Aces taking the League title by a massive 11 points! Only the Knockout Cup slipped through their hands that season. That going to the Wimbledon Dons, who beat the Aces in the final.

Ivan again won the World Championship. this time in Katowice, Poland.

Three World Championships back to back, and in three different countries. A feat never before achieved and one that has never been equalled or bettered some 35 years on. The famous Triple Crown was Ivan's!

The 1971 season held mixed fortunes for Ivan. The Aces brought in Peter Collins and Alan Wilkinson to replace outgoing members of the previous seasons team. It seemed that Dent Oliver could magic up these riders at will, or at the drop of his famous flat cap! From the likes of the Rochdale Hornets, who like Ellesmere Port seemed like something of a feeder track for Belle Vue.

Ivan's average for the season was again well over the 11 point mark. Belle Vue took the League title for the second year running, this time it was a little closer with Leicester and Coventry coming second and third.

The Midlands did, however, get a Championship that season. This was to be the year that Ole Olsen won the first of his 3 World Championships. Ivan was second with 12 points, not enough to beat his star pupil. Indeed if anyone reading this ever had the pleasure of watching these two famous gladiators ride together, I'm sure they would agree with me that if it weren't for the different leathers and colours etc, one could be forgiven for mistaking one for the other!

Although thrilled for Ole, Ivan's disappointment for personal glory was there, and he was quoted at the time as saying,  "Ole, it's only on loan to you for a year".

Never was a truer word spoken in jest. In 1972, Ivan took the title back, 12 months after relinquishing it to Ole. Again at Wembley stadium and after a run off with Bernie Persson. This took his personal tally to 4 Individual World Speedway titles. The famous Winged Wheel was back in his possession. Years later the trophy was replaced by a chalice style trophy and Ivan was given the Winged Wheel to keep as the holder of the most wins of it.

Belle Vue again took the League title in what was to be an incredible season by any club's standards. The Aces lost just two matches all season. In fact the records shows that they lost by only 3 points to Reading and by 9 points at Wimbledon. There was one drawn match too, at Halifax. Every other match was won! They also won every one of their matches in the Knockout Cup competition. Registering wins at home to Glasgow and Newport, and an away win at Kings Lynn in the semi final. They then went into a home and away final against Hackney, winning 45-33 and 37-40.

The teams averages for that season were:Ivan Mauger (11.42 ), Soren Sjosten ( 8.82 ), Peter Collins ( 8.63 ), Chris Pusey ( 8.29 ), Eric Broadbelt ( 6.83 ), Alan Wilkinson ( 6.69 ), and Ken Eyre ( 5.80 ). A combined average of 56.48.

So this was, on a personal note, the second Triple Crown for Ivan: 3 World Speedway titles on the trot and now 3 League titles on the trot as well!

All good things eventually come to an end. During the close season of 1972, the Rider Control board deemed that Belle Vue had to shed a rider to comply with its League averages. The Rider Control board not surprisingly chose Ivan. He moved to the Exeter Falcons for the 1973 season. Chris Pusey took over as captain at Belle Vue...but that's another tale that I am sure you can read in the Belle Vue Aces archives within this website.

Ivan went on to take the World title again in 1977 and 1979. Indeed his 1979 title,again, set another worlds first. Ivan celebrated his 40th birthday that year, and was credited for being the first speedway rider to win the World title as a Granddad! His final and official tally reads as follows:-

6 Times:   World Speedway Individual Champion  1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1977, and 1979
3 Times:   World Longtrack Individual Champion 1971, 1972, and 1976
1 Time:     World Pairs Champion 1970
4 Times:   World Team Cup Champion (Gt. Britain 1968, 1971 and 1972) ( New Zealand 1979)
4 Times:   British Champion 1968, 1970, 1971, and 1972
1 Time   :  Intercontinental Champion 1975
4 Times:  European Champion 1966, 1970, 1971, and 1975
2 Times:  British League Riders Championship 1971, 1973

To this day, Ivan still has the title winning bikes in his possession. Amongst them, that famous Gold Bike!

After winning the World title in 1969 for the second time, Ivan visited his friend George Wenn over in California USA. He took with him the bike that he won the title on, intending to do some promotional riding out there. Whilst there George introduced Ivan to Ray Bekelman, a close friend of his. Ray looked at the bike which was in George's garage and commented on how tatty it looked. George agreed that it looked too rough a machine to be owned by a double World Champion. Now Ivan didn't know at the time that Ray was one of the worlds leading Metal-Platers. George and Ray both suggested that they tidy it up a bit, and polish up the rough spots.

When Ivan returned from his tour of America, they had done much more than that. They had completely chrome plated the whole bike, even down to the smallest parts including the carburettor! It looked so good that Ivan didn't want to ride it again. But they insisted, saying " Ride this one and win the World Championship this year, and we will Gold Plate it!

And so it was, that Ivan rode it at all of his meetings that year in Australia and New Zealand, causing a sensation where ever he appeared with it.  Ivan duly won the World  Championship for the third time and in all the celebrations, forgot the promise. A week later a letter arrived at his home. It was from America and simply said " What's happened to that bike? We are waiting to get started on it"

Ivan wasted no time at all in getting it to Manchester airport and on a plane to Los Angeles. Some 14 months later, Ivan was presented with his Gold Plated Jawa at a ceremony amidst television and newspaper cameras. They were there to capture the moment.

Ivan said at the time: " I couldn't speak when I first saw the bike. It was incredible.  Even now I have to gasp every now and again when I look at the incredible workmanship that has gone into it!"

At the time of the presentation, Ivan was also presented with a Golden Helmet to go with the bike. It was given to him by Chuck Finch who was the President of the American motor-cycle company, Premier Pacific Incorporated following his company's sponsorship of Ivan during the1972 season. This indeed captured the imagination of the Speedway world. From then on, Ivan was known as the Golden Boy of Speedway.

I was so fortunate to have been Ivan's personal track staff member at his farewell meeting at Belle Vue on Sunday 3rd November 1985. I have some terrific memories of the day including lots of photos, some are featured here. The day started by helping to set up the track, flags, tapes etc. Then I helped to set out the display of Ivan's collection of his winning bikes, on the centre green. The best part of this, was seeing that Golden Jawa glimmering in the sunshine close to the start line! The meeting which was an individual, was won by Erik Gundersen, who on the day, was unstoppable and at his magnificent best. But the day belonged to Ivan. The huge crowd were there to watch the man, that many including myself, feel is the greatest speedway rider ever to grace the sport. He didn't disappoint either. I don't think he refused anyone an autograph, or photograph. He found time for everyone that day. It has been said of Ivan that he was some what unapproachable. I never found this in all the years I followed him. Even to this day, he will often turn up at speedway meetings, and is always glad to chat with fans and sign autographs.

Remember, this is the man who graced the sport for 30 years. In that time, he scored 250 maximums in British League and Knockout Cup competitions. No other rider has, as yet, done so. He also holds to this day, the record of averaging over 11points in British League matches in 11 successive seasons! More famously, he won 6 World Speedway Championships. The last one back in 1979.

25 years on, this feat has never been beaten, and I don't believe it ever will be. The statistics say that Tony Rickardsson equalled it. If this is the case, let's add the three World Long Track titles that Ivan won. Tony, no doubt one of today's brilliant riders, won only one World Championship final and five Grand Prix's.

50 years on from the time he first rode in England, Ivan is still an ambassador for the sport and continues to promote it world wide.

by Kevan P. Platts
Pictured here is me at Belle Vue in 1985, pushing the
"Greatest Speedway Rider Ever" at his farewell meeting,