IVAN GERALD MA UGER MBE, OBE OCTOBER 4, 1939– APRIL 16, 2018)
nspired by the achievements of Christchurch Speedway riders Ronnie Moore and Barry Briggs, from the age of 12, Ivan Gerald Mauger, the New Zealander described as the best motorcycle speedway rider ever, dedicated himself to becoming speedway’s champion of the world, working as a delivery boy for a local chemist in Christchurch after school and in the school holidays to save money for his first racing solo speedway bike.
He once said in an interview, “Everyone thought I had wealthy parents because I could afford to buy a bike before I was 16 but for three years I never bought an icecream, a Coca- Cola or anything like that. After I left school I had two jobs, as did my girlfriend Raye and that’s how we saved enough money to go to England when we were little more than children.”
I first met Ivan and Raye at the nowlegendary speedway of Aranui in Christchurch during the 1955/’56 season. Ronnie Moore, Barry Briggs and Geoff Mardon, Craig Jones, Trevor Redmond, and many others were the local stars and were idolized by Ivan. Ivan was older than me by 11 months and eight days. My brother, Jim, was riding there also, and, as my family lived just around the corner from Aranui Speedway, I spent every Saturday night there each season and even some Sunday mornings when the practice sessions were held. I remember that once Ivan’s races were over and the focus turned to the midget and stock car races, Ivan and Raye would stand up against the back six-foot-high fence around the perimeter and have a cuddle. Lorraine and I would have just been 15 and 16, respectively, and Ivan and Raye 16 and 17, respectively. Each couple married one year later.
When he was 17 or 18, Ivan sailed to England aboard the SS Rangitoto, which docked at Tilbury in 1957, with his teenage bride Raye, renting a one-bedroom flat in Wimbledon. Ivan was immediately successful in getting employment at Plough Lane, where he also rode in the second-half ‘ faces of the future’ races and assisted Mac the groundsman. He once stated, “I never, ever felt I was going to work, for the simple reason that I just loved the atmosphere of being in Wimbledon Stadium. I cleaned the dressing rooms, the toilets, the pit and the workshop. I helped Mac work on the track, I weeded the tulip beds and on Monday afternoons I had to cut the grass out in the centre before the speedway meeting. And not just any old cut would do. It had to be mowed in one direction then the other”.
However, his first attempts to make a breakthrough in the sport of speedway failed and he returned home to race locally and in Australia, before, in 1963, returning to Britain once more. This time, his fortunes changed, and he became a dominant figure in British speedway, then on the international stage. He won his first individual World Championship in 1968, the first of what would be three in a row. In 1970, a pair of Americans — George Wenn and Roy Bokelman — vowed that they would gold plate Mauger’s winning Jawa 500cc bike if he won his third World Championship in a row. Ivan duly won the world final, and, true to their promises, the motorcycle was taken to America and gold plated, becoming known as the ‘Triple Crown Special’. Ivan loaned it on a long-term basis to the Canterbury Museum in his home town Christchurch, where it was put on display.
Ivan Mauger’s many achievements are far too great to detail here, but briefly, they include the following. He was holder of six international World Championship titles between 1968 and 1979. During his career, he also raced in the Long Track World Championship, winning
the title in 1971, 1972, and 1976 — bringing his total world-championship speedway titles to 15 — and he was also runner-up in 1974 and 1975. He was recognized with an MBE in 1976 and an OBE in 1989, and was one of the 75 inaugural members inducted into New Zealand’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. He was voted the prestigious Millennium Man of Speedway by readers of Speedway Star and Vintage Speedway magazines in December 1999. In 2000, he was selected by the Olympic Committee to carry the Olympic torch at the Sydney games, an honour which he performed in June of that year.
Life in retirement
While Ivan spent most of his racing career in Britain, he never forgot his roots. From 1965 until he retired in 1986 to Australia’s Gold Coast with Raye, he returned to New Zealand every year to promote speedway. He remained an active supporter of speedway, attending many meetings throughout the Australian season, as well as the Speedway Grand Prix of New Zealand, held at Western Springs Stadium in Auckland.
As a proud Kiwi, Mauger was also an avid supporter of New Zealand’s rugby union team, the legendary All Blacks, and proudly flew the team’s flag at his home whenever they played an international match.
Ivan was also president of the World Speedway Riders Association from 2007 to 2008. In 2013, he withdrew from public life due to ill health, then in May of 2015 it was revealed that he was being treated for cognitive dementia, a communication disorder, and was receiving daily treatment at a Gold Coast nursing home.
Ivan died at the age of 78, on April 16, 2018. He is survived by his wife Raye and their three children.