I had wanted to do this back in March… in line with the start of the British season but here we are in September. So September it is. I want to try to see if I can pull a programme from a meeting I attended over the years, that matches this day of the blog. So here’s my first edition a meeting from the 14 September 1978.
For much of the 1978 season the Wimbledon Dons were up near the top of the Gulf Oil British League challenging for the title. At home they racked up big scores, scoring over 50 points 5 times including a 61-17 demolition of Birmingham and the team was solid from one to seven with Larry Ross at #1 averaging 9.45 and Colin Richardson (father of current British Elite League star Lee Richardson) at #7 averaging 6.46. The week before this meeting, Wimbledon’s title hopes ended with a shocking home defeat by the struggling Wolverhampton Wolves (who finished 17th out of 19 teams). The 1978 Kings Lynn Stars were primed for a great league season and after storming through to the final of the Spring Gold Cup – losing to (American) Scott Autrey’s Exeter – they then went through a period of gaining only 3 league points from 15 league meetings and ended up finishing 13th in the League having been a pre-season favourite to win the title. A massive let down of a season for a team featuring Terry Betts and Michael Lee. Kings Lynn is my team (to this day) and during the late 70’s and 80’s I made sure to that I saw every ‘Stars’ meeting in the capital and cities and towns close by and accessible by the train schedule.
I had moved to London in the first week in September 1978 and the second week in, I got to see my team at the famous Wimbledon Stadium. I was then living in Bayswater W2 and so took the tube to Putney Bridge and then a bus to get to the Wimbledon track . I invariably got there at least an hour before the start so I could chance a conversation with the riders. If you notice, this programme’s front cover was signed by Terry Betts. Turns out that Betts would be one, if not the prime, reason why the Stars were to lose this meeting. The Stars line-up for this meeting featured newcomer Pete Seur from Holland who was to ride at #4 in his second and last ever meeting in a Stars body colour. Rickard Hellsen was riding at #7 for the Stars, his place under threat for a poor summer performance as a second tier heat leader. He had dropped into a reserve slot in August where starting around mid-month he scored no lower than 5 in the next 12 league matches and notched 5 double figure scores in those 12 matches to secure his place in the team, where he continued to ride until the end of 1985. Let’s take a look at the heat details and scorers.
Wimbledon won the league fixture by the score of 42 – 36. Michael Lee recorded a 4 ride 12 point maximum for the Stars. Larry Ross top scored for the Dons with 10 +1 in 5 rides, as the Dons rode rider replacement for the missing Polish rider Edward Jancarz. At the time, the Plough Lane track record was held by Scott Autrey @ 58.2 seconds recorded on March 24 of 1978. The fastest time this particular night was 60.6 (twice) by Michael Lee. Terry Betts only scored 5 points from 4 rides. Most disappointingly, in the crucial heat 11 with the Stars only trailing the Dons by 2 points, he finished third. His third place came against the Wimbledon pairing of #7 Trevor Geer (who had 2 points at that juncture) and #3 Mick Hines the Dons’ skipper who only had 2 points from 3 rides. The 5-1 heat loss left the Stars too much to do with two heats remaining . Pete Seur managed (actually he was gifted) 1 point in this meeting, due to a Dons engine failure and was replaced in his subsequent 3 rides. He finished his career with the Stars that night a career record of two meetings, 3 rides and scored 1 point. The meeting was unusual in one other respect, Wimbledon also had a Dutchman in the lineup, Rudy Muts. Not too many Dutch riders have cracked British team lineups over the years and we got to see two on show in one meeting. So the Stars lost the league match and I stuck around for the second half of the meeting….
In most of the programmes I have there will be the odd comment scrawled after a particular heat, especially if something significant happened. As you can see from this program, the Heur Time trophy Final was a dead bore. Follow my leader. From the gate. Steve Weatherly rides in the second half, taking Michael Lee’s spot, winning his heat and making the final. I wonder if the Wimbledon riders agreed to divide the total prize money equally amongst themselves (probably all of 50 quid) before the heat started ?
So, there you have it. Just another meeting, another pay-day and a home win to keep the Dons fans coming back.
The Final scorers chart read thus:
For Wimbledon :
# 1 Larry Ross : 10 points paid 11 from 5 rides
#2 Steve Weatherley: 6 paid 8 from 4 rides
#3 Mick Hines: 5 paid 6 from 5 rides
#4 Roger Johns: 13 from 5 rides
#5 Rider Replacement
#6 Rudy Muts: 3 from 4 rides
# 7 Trevor Geer: 5 paid 6 from 3 rides
And for the Kings Lynn Stars
# 1 Terry Betts: 5 points from 4 rides
#2 David Gagen: 1 point from 4 rides
#3 Ian Turner: 6 paid 7 from 4 rides
#4 Peter Seur: 1 from 1 ride
# 5 Michael Lee: 12 point maximum from 4 rides
#6 Bent Rasmussen : 1 paid 2 from 4 rides
#7 Rickard Hellsen: 10 paid 11 from 6 rides
And if the Wimbledon greyhound Stadium at Plough Lane still had speedway, how happy would we all be today ?