As an avid OBA reader, when issue 79 came out with the promise that in the next edition Jim Airey would be one of the featured stars, the time seemed to drag along! Finally it popped through my letterbox. I couldn’t hide my eagerness as I ripped number 80 open to page 22/23 – you beaut! While in no way wishing to denigrate the work by those devoted people who put Jim’s story to print, I felt that so much more credit could have been given to probably the greatest Australian speedway rider that existed through the 1960s and 1970s. The story failed to mention that amongst Jim’s incredible career highlights, he was fourth in the British League Division 1 averages for 1971 with an average of 10.66 points per match (out of 12). Only Ivan Mauger, (11.33), Ray Wilson (11.03), and Ole Olsen (10.99) were better that year. I well remember the visit to Townsville’s Savanna speedway by Jim in 1971, certainly after Ole Olsen and Howard Cole had set the place alight with a new track record set by Olsen, who was definitely the man of the moment internationally. Airey showed us his undoubted class in equalling the time set by Olsen, and I believe this mark still stood when the venue folded, many years later. Airey’s record in Test matches against the old enemy, the Poms, also will stand up to any scrutiny, proving in that particular era we did not produce any finer speedway rider. Undoubtedly Phil and Jason Crump have gone on to much greater rewards, but that is not my purpose in this post, merely being to pay tribute to one who should be remembered as outstanding in his speedway racing career with his mastery of the daunting Sydney Royale possibly his defining moment.
Barry Graham Via email
Ed: It would take more space that we have available to list all of Jim’s achievements in a single story, not just in speedway but other forms of racing as well as business. I think Peter Whitaker did a great job in showcasing the broadness of Jim’s talents. Truly an outstanding innings. – Ed
Jim Airey with the Peter Craven Memorial Trophy, in memory of the British World Champion and Belle Vue star.