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Motor Cycle Ice Racing is arguably the most spectacular and dangerous track sport, where bikes with spiked tyres race around oval ice circuits. The origins of Ice Racing are obscure, but the first recorded meeting was held in 1925 at Eibsee (a lake near Garmisch-Partenkirchen) in Germany. By the 1930's, meetings were being held regularly on lakes in Bayern and the sport had also become popular in Scandinavia and Canada. Unfortunately, WW2 put paid to further expansion of the sport, but it was revived in the late-1940's by the Scandinavians. During the 1950's, the Russians started to dominate the sport and this has more or less continued to the present day. In 1963, the FIM (at the instigation of the Russian Federation) introduced the European Ice Racing Championship. This competition gained World Championship status three years later.
       Scandinavia and Russia is still the home of ice racing, with the majority of team and individual meetings being held there, but ice racing is also held in Germany, The Czech Rep, Italy, Kazakhstan, The Netherlands, Poland and even Mongolia! Furthermore, the introduction of artificial ice and indoor tracks has meant that meetings can now be held in those countries where it would not normally be possible to construct a natural track.  A modern version with motor-cross bikes is held in Canada and other northern countries.

This is an ice racing bike used by the man on the left to win the 1974 World Ice Racing Championship. He is Milan Spinka from the Czech Republic. It has a JAWA engine built in the Czech Republic by the man 3rd from left who is Evzen Erban who currently owns the JAWA factory.
Second from left is Dave Gifford who writes the history of Waiwakaiho Speedway on this site. Dave rode for the Glasgow Tigers and other UK teams in the 1960's.
The photo left was taken at the World Long Track final held in New Plymouth in November 2004 and organised by Ivan Mauger.  Far right is the web master, Max Rutherford who drove 3/4 midgets, or TQ's, at Waiwakaiho and later worked
as a Formula 1 mechanic for Jackie Stewart and others. 
More about them later.

 On right is Bruce Cribb at the recent 75th Palmerston North Speedway 75th jubilee. He rode this modern JAWA ice bike on the clay track and attempted the outright lap record, but missed by about 1 second. At Rosebank in Auckland a few days later he did break their record. Bruce calls himself the "Worlds fastest Maori"


Bruce is also shown below on an early Jawa in the display hall.


Saving the past -- for the future.

The picture at right tells a story. That is Ivan Cartmell on who's family farm the Penlee track was built in the 1970's. The sign in the middle speaks volumes. The leathers on the wall were being worn by Kiwi-- Jack Hunt, while riding in England. He had a bad accident and the handle bar of a bike tore his leathers near the left shoulder on the way to leaving damage which paralysed his arm.  Jack returned to NZ and became manager at Taita Speedway. The leathers later returned to England to be worn by another Kiwi. Photo taken in Ivan's private museum.



The amazing device above  is a “side car” at Stratford speedway. Note two passengers on the chair, 

presumably to hold that side down!

This article appeared in the January 1948 Hutt Speedway News. (interesting comment on where
speedway started---see also "Where did Speedway start" page)

    Hello, you Speedway fans. Meet your roving reporter, who spends most of his time raking cin­ders out of his hair because he will persist in getting a good look at Bill Bowe, Bruce Abernethy, Les. Moore, Frank Boyle, Sid. Jensen and the other fellows who make the cinders fly as they broadside around the corners.
    How did this great sport-packed sport start in any case? Well, it's generally assumed that the sport first saw the light of day in Australia-from where some of the greatest dirt-track riders have come-but this wouldn't win the 64 dollar question. No lady, though Australians rank tops among Speedway riders (ask Les. Moore), they didn't start this business. Nor did Cinderella. Her cinder ­shifting was done with a shovel, not a motor-cycle.

     Long before the sport was introduced into Australia there were motor-cycle and car races on dirt tracks in America, but the tracks were a mile in circumference and not comparable to the 440 yard track of today. But even America, where they claim the "honour" of introducing jitter-bug contests, flag-pole sitting, multi-marriages and such goings on, cannot justifiably claim the honour of starting speedway racing as we know it today.
     The first record of motor-cycle racing on a loose dirt surface took place at Pietmaritzburg, in Natal, in 1907, just a little more than 40 years ago. It was only an up-country meeting and the promoters would have been amazed had they been told they were initiating a world-wide sport, a sport, that is attracting larger gates in England than the national game of Soccer. Speedway fan clubs are the rage over there. (What about it, Bruce Abernethy fans? What about making Bruce your pin-up boy? We'll have his photo for you, soon).
     Yes, that small town of Pietmaritzburg introduced the sport that made world fame but never took on in the land of its birth. Over there they like Rugby football.
It was in Australia that Speedway really boomed. In the late summer of 1923 the management of the West Maitland (N.S.W.) showground was having trouble in making expenses. The weather had been "on the coat," the show had flopped and the running events didn't attract more than a small ate. The manager was John S. Hoskins, later to become the big noise in Speedway racing. Hoskins, though he didn't know much about motor-cycling, decided to initiate Australians into a new sport of racing on a loose dirt track. He led off the first race in an effort to make the show attractive. He crashed before completing a lap, but the meeting went on and before long the spectators were yelling for more. Their enthusiasm resulted in tracks being laid down in practically every centre in Australia, and from Australia to England and New Zealand.
     So here's to good skidding.  Oh, by the way, Bruce Abernethy tried to emulate Les Moore on the “Wall of Death" the other day.  Bruce was all right until he tried stunting. Then ... well, ask Bruce what it feels like to take a tumble from the Wall of Death. So you won't talk about it, eh? . . . See you next Saturday night. You'll know me by the cinders in my red hair. (end of quote)

Newspaper cutting from Monday 20th March 1939, Manawatu Evening Standard  (See photo at left)
Noted now for its enterprise in introducing novel and spectacular show ring attractions, the Manawatu and West. Coast A. and P. Association enhanced its reputation on Saturday when it staged a special gala day with a view to lowering the debt on the task of  re-roofing the main grand­stand at the Showgrounds. Ideal weather conditions prevailed and there were large attendances at both the afternoon and evening sessions. Always popular, the steer-riding exhibitions provided feats of skill, while, introduced in the Dominion for the first time, the motor-cycle chariot racing raised the crowd to a high pitch of excitement as the daring drivers "burned up" the track at lightning speed.

          The gate takings totaled £507, the figures for the afternoon being £370 while in the evening the receipts were £ 137. The splendid display given by members of the Manawatu-Orion Motor Cycle Club demonstrated the part which the motor-cycle can display in outdoor entertainment. Led by Mr. Ernie Pink these daring young men provided turns which were as spectacular as they were thrilling, and indicated that assiduous training must have been carried out. The formation ride would have done credit to an American motor-cycle police corps and in the evening when the riders appeared with coloured headlamps, the demonstration was particularly attractive. R: Styles per­formed a daring act by riding through a burning wall at top speed, while an element of humour was lent by a clown on a bucking motor-cycle and by the appearance of "Sissy" the cow, also on a machine. Altogether the contribution to the programme by the motor-cyclists was a highly creditable effort.
For the record the "chariots" were each towed by a pair of Harley Davidson's.

Photo on right
was sent in by John Williams of Australia with the following comment--"The purists
will cringe but Midgets
had to start somewhere. How close this was to the beginning I don’t know.  1915: Baby Vanderbilt Cup Race, San Francisco, held on 1mile trotting track.

The picture below is of a FRONT DRIVE midget, which admittedly never raced but was built in 1949/50 to race at the Brixton Bell Block and Waiwakaiho tracks here in New Plymouth. Built by Bernie Bryan it featured a cut down Jeep front axle, Austin Seven engine mounted back to front and A7 front axle at the rear.




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