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fubar

Alan Wilkinson's Accident - Belle Vue - 1978

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I was sitting in my seat at the front of C block as Alan Wilkinson went careering into the boards between bends 1 and 2. Behind the solid white boards were the steel lamp posts, the steel girders and the steel hawsers that were tensioned up when the stock cars were in action. Clearly, these materials wouldn't offer much impact absorption for an incoming rider but to be honest, nobody gave too much thought to rider safety in those days.

Lots of people clattered into the boards during a meeting and most got away pretty unscathed and the gathered masses fully expected Wilkie to get up a after a few moments, dust himself off,  kick his bike wheels straight and get ready for his next ride. Riders were hellish tough in those days and there weren't many tougher than Alan.

In the good old days, the medical back up seemed to consist possibly of an invisible doctor and some well-meaning first aid volunteers who stood about in the middle in white boiler suits. The primary aim of these good people appeared to be to get any crumpled and battered rider loaded onto the stretcher with it's large wheels and trundled off with the minimum of delay so that the action could be resumed before the punters became impatient.

Looking back now, it seems amazing that we seemed to know so little about how to deal with riders who might have suffered serious head and neck injuries and without doubt, if medical facilities and procedures had been better then many riders, including Wilkie might be in a rather better position today. There are plenty of things wrong with modern day speedway but at least more importance is given to looking after riders' safety and it is a shame that many have been let down in years gone by.

I spoke to Wilkie a couple of times at the Dog Bowl and whilst his body was a little worse for wear, his views were as forthright as ever. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to thank him for entertaining us humble speedway supporters over the years.

I shouldn't think that too many medical wallahs read the old guff that's written on here but thanks for doing what you do and hoping that rider injuries are few and far between in 2018.

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Saw Alan on a number of occasions as a rider and he was a tough old boy! A great competitor and I know respected throughout the speedway world and , i for one, will never forget his presence during the seventies...especially on the occasion he ripped out the starting tapes at Cowley in 1973 after a disagreement!

Edited by steve roberts

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Only see Wilkie ride at the Abbey 1972/77  i did see him ride in the 75/ 77 British Final's he was a great team man an underated  rider.I hope he and his family are keeping well and he always will be remembered as someone who loved Belle Vue and speedway i do hope he can get to see the Aces now and again.

Edited by Sidney the robin
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I remember when one of the F1 teams, perhaps it was Renault, sold off some unwanted kit and donated the proceeds (a few thousand pounds) to Wilkie, he said, "I can't believe that anyone would still remember me and Jean".

I'll always remember you Alan because you were the genuine article and in today's world full of lightweights you were a superstar before they even invented the word.

 

 

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3 hours ago, fubar said:

I remember when one of the F1 teams, perhaps it was Renault, sold off some unwanted kit and donated the proceeds (a few thousand pounds) to Wilkie, he said, "I can't believe that anyone would still remember me and Jean".

I'll always remember you Alan because you were the genuine article and in today's world full of lightweights you were a superstar before they even invented the word.

 

 

Speedway in the  day when Alan rode were terrific i loved the team racing aspect of it teams  had riders like Alan who cared about there club and were long servants and the fans could identify with them ending up with a real affinity for them.Today the sport has totally changed on its day it is still a great sport but in a different way in those days i never even cared about individual racing team racing was my thing.Looking at Alan's record in 78 he had really upped his game going great guns and no doubt would of stayed at Belle Vue for the rest of his career really wicked what happened he will never be forgotten in speedway circles.

Edited by Sidney the robin
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41 minutes ago, Sidney the robin said:

Speedway in the  day when Alan rode were terrific i loved the team racing aspect of it teams  had riders like Alan who cared about there club and were long servants and the fans could identify with them ending up with a real affinity for them.Today the sport has totally changed on its day it is still a great sport but in a different way in those days i never even cared about individual racing team racing was my thing.Looking at Alan's record in 78 he had really upped his game going great guns and no doubt would of stayed at Belle Vue for the rest of his career really wicked what happened he will never be forgotten in speedway circles.

...spot on Sid! Fans were able to identify with their chosen favourites unlike today. Riders like Alan were the life blood of the sport and he remained loyal to 'The Aces' like many others towards their own teams during speedway's last golden era.

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I was also there that night. It looked a typical slide off on the first bend, the sort of accident seen many many times and my initial reaction was that Alan would soon be up and on his feet. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that it was far more serious and we all know the terrible result. 

Alan was Belle Vue through and through. I didn't think he was ever going to be a World Champion but he was a very good rider and excellent Captain who always gave his all for the team. He may not have reached the heights of Collins and Morton and yet to many Aces fans he is held in the same high regard because of his commitment and importance to the club. Over the years Belle Vue and individuals connected with the club have continued to hold events and raise funds to help Alan. That speaks volumes to the sort of man Alan is and to the esteem in which he is held.

His book, From Two Weeks To Four/ The Alan Wilkinson Story is an excellent but emotional read. I'm not sure if new copies can still be bought but used copied can usually be found on Amazon and eBay.

 

Edited by Aces51
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Fully agree with the comments about the lack of team affinity and club loyalty. One of the reasons I've stopped going is because you can never be sure who is going to represent your team anymore. Guests, doubling/trebling up, three or four clubs in three or four different countries - its laughable. You may just as well have an open pool of riders from which the home and away team managers choose seven each on the night (God, please don't take me seriously, BSPA.....!!!).

Oh, and I fully agree with the comments about Wilkie. Saw him ride many times and he was Belle Vue through and through. Good luck to the man and his family.

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Yes, Wilike's crash was nothing spectacular. Surely he was going to get up and race the re-run - we thought?

I still remember it now: Belle Vue v. Swindon... July 1st 1978... the first race... a green-light start, the tapes were malfunctioning. Wilkie tangled with Swindon's Geoff Bouchard on the first turn, just slid into the fence, and that was it... not only his career was over, but also the normality of his everyday lifestyle. He'd be confined to a wheelchair, 40 years ago it was... aged just 29.

The 1977 season had been Alan's best. He'd won a few individual meetings that year - boasted an eight-and-half average at the zoo.

But the 1978 campaign was a slow burner. He'd lost heatleader to Les Collins but was recapturing his form - the night before the life-changing crash he'd scored a maximum at Ellesmere Port.

Belle Vue were 10 points in front of the then Gulf Oil-sponsored British League with Alan in the side. Without him, that lead was whittled away in the second-half of the season, Coventry taking the title by just two points. The title was Belle Vue's... with Wilkie in the team.

I recall Joe Owen had a terrible crash at the same time - he went over the fence at Hull. But he came back from that (although is himself confined to a life in a wheelchair after a 1985 crash). And Mike Lohmann, in 1980, just two months a Belle Vue rider, hit the same part of the fence as Wilkie two years later, suffered life-threatening injuries but returned to action in 1981, though never the same...

Lohmann's crash was sickening - the worst I've witnessed - but he raced again; Wilkie's appeared nothing more than an all-four back verdict.. his career and so much more was wrecked right then.

You could say, Belle Vue hasn't had a captain to rival him since.   

Edited by moxey63
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Yes, Sidney and moxey are so right. Speedway riders used to be like sticks of Blackpool rock - the name of their team ran through them from head to toe and the team's name became synonymous with the name of their top guy - Ole Olsen's Coventry, Doug Wyer's Sheffield, John Louis' Ipswich, Kenny Carter's Halifax, Bruce Penhall's Cradley and so on.

When you pitched up to support your team, you were 99% sure who would be riding for you and pretty nearly as sure who the opposition riders would be - they would be the same crew who rode last time.

Now you turn up for even an NL meeting and you are greeted by the mind-numbing experience of guests and rider bloody replacement.

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My first 'hero' as a seven year old in 74.....

A true leader, fearless, and someone who showed clearly his feelings for the team rather than the individual...

His book is a testimony to his humility and resilience. No self pity for him, and no regrets..

He comes across in his book as someone who feels blessed to have enjoyed the career he did and for him the chance to earn considerably more in one night's Speedway than a week in his 'real job' was something he appreciated greatly...

Sometimes Legends are not only 'winners' those born with 'God given talent' and beat all who come before them, sometimes they are created by nothing more than a steely determination, will to win and out and out bravery...

Wilkie was (and still is) a true BV Legend...

 

Edited by mikebv
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Going back a few examples of riders who were  great servants to there clubs, Collins,Morton,Wilkie,Sjosten,Haley,Wyer,Wilson,Lewis,Smith,Thommo, Boocock x2. Betts, Paulson,Broadbanks,Ashby,Keen,Kilby, Adams,Karlsson.Missed out endless other riders certain riders then just seemed to be  part of the furniture but they all had huge followings really miss that now.

Edited by Sidney the robin
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I was sat in G block at the meeting where Wilkie was injured, it appeared a simple fall considering what you can witness at speedway, I remember saying Wilkie will soon be up from that considering he was as hard as nails. I couldn't believe the extent of his injuries, it just goes to show its not always the force of an accident but how you fall. Wilkie for me epitomises what a captain should be, he carried the team along. A true Belle Vue hero, and lets not forget Jean who has stood by him all these years, a great lady. I was at Kings Lynn the day Wilkie raced up to the referee,s box to dispute a decision, who could forget that? Along with many other such stories, look at the old photo of him being held back during heat 13 of the home meeting against Leicester when a free for all occurred, the passion jumps out at you. That Wilkie is still spoken about fondly around the tracks after so many years speaks volumes about him. I would like to have seen Nikki Pedersen try his moves on Alan :)

Edited by bellevueace
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