Bob Andrews. Return to Personalities. Home.
Bob rode for Wimbledon 1956 to 64 then Wolverhampton in 1965 then Cradley 1968 & 69 then again 1971 & 72.
He reached the World Finals in 1960/61/62 and 64. He also represented England in test matches.
Now lives in Auckland New Zealand and is involved with Rosebank Speedway where he runs regular schools for solo riders. Photo at right shows Bob and his wife working on a bike and below he sits on a display Jawa at the recent Palmerston North speedway 75th Jubilee.
You can find more detail about Bob's career at the bottom of this page.
Below are Bob on right with his old arch rival from the 60's and 70's, Bryce Subritzky, at Rosebank, Auckland in 1993.
Bob's career by Bob Andrews as related to the webmaster in September 2007 during a visit to his home.
“My first practice was at Rye House Speedway Track and the guy that put Jack Young on the map, Clem Mitchell, was running the training school, it cost £5 for twenty laps and that was probably more than my wages for a week. So I went there on “Coronation Day,” June 1953. It was nice and quiet, with everyone watching their “telly’s” and having street parties.
I was 17 and you go in the army at 18, so everyone said “wait until you come out of the army,” but I thought I want to know if I will be able to do it?, so I went and had five practices and then Clem Mitchell the trainer says “you have got a bit of talent so I will send you to Wimbledon,” he said they have got all overseas riders and want some English talent. So I went there and I had no bike, I had a leather coat, jeans and some boots with no steel shoe and a helmet. I was signed on without being looked at, just on the word of Clem Mitchell. When I got there Ronnie Greene the promoter asked what type of bike I had and I said I hadn’t got a bike, so he said I could use the track spare which was Norman Parker’s who was Captain of England the year before. He had had an accident and that was the end for him, but they still had his bike. He wanted £150 for it but I only had £50, so Ronnie Greene said bring your Dad up here to sign a contract to say he’ll pay me if you don’t. But I will race you and out of any second half winnings we will pay for the bike.”
“We were on concrete starts then, and they where a problem, especially when wet, so sometimes from my winnings I would be giving him 4 / 6d after insurance, a gallon of fuel and that was it. The track manager was not keen to run me but Ronnie Greene would say, ‘Go on and give the boy a ride,’ in his posh accent, but I can remember going into the first corner and it was very “slick”, so I’ve gone down and ripped the arse out of my trousers and I was all red raw like, and Barry Briggs and Ronnie Moore and the others are all laughing, and Ronnie Greene says, ‘get up and have another go lad.’ Later Ronnie Moore says to me, we are having a practice here at 7.00a.m. tomorrow, which was a problem for me with travelling 1 ½ hours across London to get there.”
“Ronnie Moore says, you can use my leathers and boots from the dressing room. So I get into these leathers and in the pocket is a Cooper label because he was racing around with Cooper Cars at the time, and my girlfriends name was Cooper so that goes in my pocket, so when I go out to the track I am waiting on the bike, and I had never started it up you see because at the training school they did that for you.”
“Ronnie Greene is over at the start line saying, ‘send the boy over, send the boy over,’ so they push me but I had never started a bike so it’s going bang, bang because I am trying to turn the throttle, but they sorted me out and started it for me, then I said I had never done a start so they said, ‘just rev up and make more noise than all the other guys,’ so when I get to the line on the concrete there is a space there and they call me up, and I remember, ‘make more noise than all the others’ so I am going ‘wham, wham, wham with the throttle.’ I had done cycle speedway and knew about tapes and that you mustn’t move, so my reactions were quick, so the tape went up, I dropped the clutch and I was gone and I won that race first time out !” and there were three experienced riders in the race.”
“Ronnie Moore had filmed it but I hadn’t seen it because you were frightened to talk to Ronnie because he was like a God. I don’t know if he’s still got it now. He was a great teacher and passed things on. This was in 1954 so then they gave me a second half ride at the end of the season. In that race it was pouring with rain and I had gated well again but gone in slow and all the others came past and put me in the fence but I managed to keep running and managed to get up to second place and Ronnie Greene made a big thing of that and had me talk on the Microphone, all I could say was, ‘It’s very wet out there tonight’. So from there I used to race regularly in the “second half races”.
“I was a good gater, like Dave Gifford. When I got in the Wimbledon team I rode with Ronnie Moore and he would say “if you get to the corner first, leave a gap about a foot from the line and if I have to, I will come by. With Ronnie “nursing” me, I used to win races, but the next year they put me with “Briggo” and I would leave that hole on the line for him and he would come through and stick me straight into the fence. He would say ‘you’ve got to go in quicker,’ but I thought I don’t want this, so I was going to give it all up, but then I went to South Africa to ride for Trevor Redman. Before I went I bought a brand new chrome Rotrax bike. “Briggo” saw it and wanted to borrow my bike as a spare for the World Final. They always put their spare bike out near the start line for the presentation.”
“So it was nice to see my shiny new bike out there. When he gave it back he moaned like hell as he had to put a new clutch cable on it but that was good because then the clutch worked better, and I think he charged me for it. Ha.Ha.”
“So I went to South Africa and thinking that would be a disaster as Ove Fundin was there, also Olle Nygren was there. Racing in Pretoria and around Johannesburg you are up high above sea level and its like riding a 350cc, which was good for me because the power of a 500cc used to frighten me. I could never screw it on like the others did, but I learnt a bit of throttle control there because I could get away with less throttle on a slick track, and when we went to Durban back at sea level it was great as I was learning to cope with the full throttle and the power of a 500cc.. From there I started to “move forward” and started winning races back in England. They held the South African Championship and I got third place. I finished higher than Ove Fundin.”
“Then it was 1959 and I started to score some points for Wimbledon, but I wasn’t consistent enough, but then it got to 1960 and I got to the World Final as reserve. I had blown a motor up at the wrong time when leading a semi final round so was reserve for the Final. I had a ride and got a second. Next year I was in the first Final held outside of England. It was held at Malmo in Sweden in 1961 and I got joint fifth there with Ronnie Moore. We had 10 points each.”
“In 1962 in Wembley I was joint fifth again then the next month my son was born and suddenly my focus was gone, I was playing with the young lad and he seemed to be more important than Speedway, so 1963 I missed out on the Final. There were 16 places and I was 17th.then in 1964 I had my last World Final in Sweden at Gothenburg.
At the practice day most riders were on Jawa’s and I was still on a JAP, but I could out gate them so I thought I should be in the first half dozen on Final night, “got ‘ta be ‘ya know,” but it rained and rained so they put tons of saw dust on the track, and we thought it would be cancelled but people had come from overseas. “Briggo” was clued up. He rented a hotel room and went to bed in the afternoon so didn’t see the rain and he arrived ready to win, which he did, with the Russian Igor Pletchenov second and Ove Fundin third. But if you got behind them with that bloody sawdust it was terrible. My first start was off of gate four so I was behind three of them throwing up dirt. I weighed double my weight when I finished the race.”
“So I was still racing every year in England, except 1966. I stayed in N.Z. and in the winter I won the North Island Grass track Champs, then went on to win the N.Z. Grass Track Champs. During the next few years I was still riding for New Zealand in Test Matches and a combined team of English, N.Z. and Australian riders that was called Great Britain. Then in 1969 I had the experience of racing and had been on a Jawa but could not get the hang of them, so went back to a JAP engine in a Jawa frame, ‘this gave me throttle control again, that I missed with the Jawa because they “rev” a lot, but if you’ve got on a JAP they have the power low down. So me and Roy Trigg had the same set up of a J.A.P. in Jawa frame, and we were running lower gears with the JAP’s than we used to, and we were getting a better meeting. Years before everyone said ‘that’s the gear’ so you would use it.”
“Ronnie Moore always used to use a lower gear because he said he could get out of the gate quicker, and throttle control was a bit better. So we should have listened to him, but there’s a little story with Ronnie. I bought one of his 58 tooth back sprockets from one of his mechanics which had RM and 58 stamped on it as I already had a 59 sprocket, and someone had said always go down a “tooth” for the second half as the track is slicker. I had a young cousin about fourteen who asked what the number 58 was on the side of the sprocket and I said it meant how many of those little spike things it had. But he said no it was 59. So we counted it and sure enough it was a 59 marked 58.”
“Ronnie used to mark his sprockets with different numbers so that when other riders came along to check his bike they would get the wrong info!! So here I was for a whole season changing my gear and wondering why my chain length didn’t alter! I was no good at this stuff so used to pay people to do my bike. I could do the tyre pressures. So I thought I was going to a higher gear but it was all in the mind. But as I got older and got more experience I had some good meetings and that’s when I was put in that World’s Best Pairs as an NZ team with Ivan Mauger in Stockholm in1969. Briggo would not race in Sweden that year. He had an argument with the Swedes over something or other so he said he wouldn’t ride there any more.”
“I wasn’t going to the pair’s thing as my bike and gear was packed ready to go to NZ but the officials said if I did not go, then I would not be allowed to ride in NZ.” “There was a Test Match at Malmo and I was reserve for this match. Then next day I flew up to Stockholm with Ivan Mauger . We shared a room at a Hotel, and talked about our early days at Wimbledon, where Ivan was a grounds man, and after meetings I would wait for him to tidy up the showers then I would give him a lift home. They were good old days.”
“I had been out to Aussie in the test team in ‘59/60 and to NZ as a free lance rider in 1962 and wanted to come out here to live. On those earlier trips I had done well as I was a gater and could win from the front but out here on handicap’s sometimes 130 yards back and only three laps. I still won, but I learnt a lot about passing being that far back. So it helped me back in UK. Some English riders said you won’t like it out in N.Z. as they pay funny rates for winning, but as it happened I got paid a guaranteed amount, and had to put on a bit of a show like not passing too early but make exciting racing out of it. I kept coming out to N.Z. and was riding at Templeton and Western Springs until 1972 then just before Xmas 1973 I broke my back at Western Springs. I came back to riding later but I was just riding and not really racing, not rushing through and making gaps, because my “bottle” had gone, but they were paying me good money, and I wanted my son to ride, so I kept riding but he didn’t want to ride. So that was that. Since then I have done a few races as exhibition and have ridden this year in my 71st.year.
Webmaster—I wish I could have typed in all Bob’s great English accent and sayings, but I hope the reader enjoys this as much as we did hearing it first hand.
Bob finished with a funny story about Ronnie Moore and Barry Briggs. “Ronnie used to teach riders how to come out of a corner where Briggo would tell them to go into the corner at a million mile an hour. It’s like learning to fly and they teach you how to take off then when you are in the air they yell up at you, ‘next week I will teach you how to land.’ It really is better to teach them to come in gentle then slowly turn it on.”
He then took us into his “dungeon” and we saw the ex Bruce Abernethy bike which is partly gold plated. As used in 1973 at Taita against Briggo. It was originally copper plated but Bob had the gold put on. There were also lots of ‘bibs’ and leathers and photo’s of early greats in our sport.
There followed discussion on cheating in speedway and Bob told of working on the motor of a prominent Kiwi and he trued the flywheels then the piston would not fit and he checked and it was a 750cc barrel and piston!
“At Wembly in the old days cheating was rife. Imagine this. A story I was told years ago by an International rider. It’s World Final time and a rider has a 750cc and a 500cc. For practice on the Thursday, he runs both bikes but only gets the 500cc scrutineered. They write down all the frame and engine numbers. So both bikes have the same numbers.
“Then on race night he rides the 750cc and cleans up in the heats then wins his last race, which may be heat 17 in a 20 heat meeting, and while the celebrations are going on, on the track, the winner is thrown up in the air, photographs are being taken and his bike is wheeled away down the ramp to the gates where his 500cc has been warmed up outside the track, the bikes are swapped, and the 500cc.is brought into the pits. It still has dirt on it from the practice, so the winner’s mechanics are cleaning the bike. Then the scrutineer seals the bikes engine and takes it away for checking and the ‘big’ bike is on a trailer heading South or North.” I wonder did that ever happen.??
Webmaster. As you can imagine, I had trouble hearing the tape in places because of the laughter from our group members.