The speedway star who shone at his brightest during the sport’s heyday in the ’60s and ’70s
Celebrating the life and accomplishments of the speedway superstar of the ’60s and ’70s
A little-known story shows exactly why Ivan Mauger stood out among speedway’s world-class crowd.
It was played out in the pits at the 1970 World Final, when he eventually stood on the top step of the rostrum as the only man to win three world championships in a row.
He watched as his Great Britain team-mate Trevor Hedge came a mighty purler in his third race, ending up battered, bruised and in such excruciating pain he couldn’t face up to going out in the re-run. Glancing at the programme, the New Zealander, who spent most of his professional life living and racing in Britain, saw that Hedge was due to be in his next race. Mauger quickly weighed up the situation and realised that if the Wimbledon rider didn’t go out, it would be home reserve Edmund Migos taking his place in a vital heat against chief rival Pawel Waloszek and a second Pole, Zgfryd Friedek.
Hedge recalls: “I was in no fit state to ride, but Ivan came up to me and said I’d got to go to the start because if I didn’t there would be three Poles ganging up on him.
“He said he’d pay me to go out again, loaned me one of his bikes and helped lift me onto it. I can’t think of another rider who would have even thought about that – but that was Ivan!”
Hedge only completed a lap, but Mauger, who died in a nursing home on Australia’s Gold Coast in the early hours of Monday April 16, went on to win the race, inflict the only defeat on Waloszek and successfully defend his title for the second time.
His Wroclaw victory was one of six World Final victories – still a joint record – and one of nine world titles, having also been a three-time World Long Track Champion. Mauger won another six FIM gold medals in team events (for Great Britain and New Zealand), had 51 World Final appearances – another landmark achievement – and such was his dominance and national fame in the late ’60s and ’70s that he became the only speedway rider to have been awarded both an MBE and OBE by The Queen.
ABOVE: Mauger (15) at the 1979 World Speedway Final at Chorzow, Poland. It was his 14th straight World Final and his record-breaking sixth title win
Mauger racing long track – he was a three-time world champion
Mauger’s fame led to both an MBE and an OBE