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iris123, April 2 in Years Gone By
In what seems like an incredibly short amount of time(just 6 weeks!!!)a 50,000 capacity stadium(track length 560m!!!) was built in Hamburg in 1929.A few years later an estimated 80-102,000 went to the stadium to see a boxing fight between German heavyweights Max Schmeling and Walter Neusel!!!
It is interesting looking at the reports at the time to see the development of the Dirt Track and some of the criticisms that seem even today relevant.The report was talking about a crowd of around 20,000 for the opening night,although later it seems a crowd of 17,000 was accepted.Describing the opening night of a new sport it mentions the names of the riders,the winner of each race and the times were announced over the loudspeakers.The whole evening was very professional and 18 heats plus a 10 minute break was finished within 3 hours!!The view from all parts of the stadium are equally good,but the interesting part of the race occurs in the bends.Strangely thee parts of the track were less full than the straights,but in the next meetings that should change.The heats were over an English mile and this was one of the problems with Dirt track racing,as it made the races less exciting as usually a good start or a mistake meant the heats were won.Only once did someone(in this case 'Ginger' Lees)manage to overtake and win a heat
One part of the meeting was particularly questionable and that was the starts.The heats had both standing and flying starts and it was the flying starts that caused a bit of head scratching amongst the crowd.They were told that all 4 riders should cross the start line together,but couldn't understand why the race had to be re-started when 1 rider was behind the other 3.It seemed it was his fault and to his disadvantage and wondered why the delays and new starts........and why no explanataion was given for this!!
Ginger Lees won the main race and also set the track record of 78,4 seconds.A German record of 85,3 was set by Count Strachwitz!!!
Less than a week later and after the first meeting under floodlights the promoters were so happy they were talking about building a track in Berlin in the same amount of time!!!!
And the chance to win a new BMW motor cycle just for buying a programme - WOW!
Must have been some money around for that sort of prize!! It was reported that Eric Langton’s brother Oliver,who made the trip to spanner for Eric,but stepped in when his brother had to pull out sick,sent home 50 pounds in prize money(around 3000 today)after a week in Hamburg.Just wonder what Lees was earning there.A year later Arthur Jervis was suspended for staying in Hamburg too long,so I guess it was worth it
The second meeting was just a few days later on Wednesday evening where another 16,000 turned up to see a Dirt Track meeting under floodlights.The promoter had taken on board some of the criticisms from the first meeting.This time all races were flying starts,the main handicap race was over 4 laps instead of 3,to give those riders starting last a chance to make their way through the crowd, and the racing was much more exciting than the first.It was felt that an average crowd of around 8,000 should be achievable once the novelty wore off.
From a press report at the time a party of riders from Manchester were leaving on the 02.07 for Hamburg including brothers Arthur and Cyril.Wilcock,'Ginger' Lees,George Corney,Rex Kirby and Rex Trickett.I think all,as well as most riders that followed during the season came from the northern,English Dirt Track League and stayed for a few meetings.I guess they all had some practice on the new track before the first meeting.A couple of the german riders, Stölting for one,had a fall and ended up missing the first meeting due to injury from the session.It was also noted that a few of the german riders were known to motorcycle racing fans,so I guess they were racing at the trotting tracks like Farmsen in Hamburg
In his first heat Lees broke his own track record and took it down to 76,6 and the German record was taken by Fritz Niss,knocking a second off of the previous record.Count Strachwitz once again showed he was no push over.In one of his heats he was leading the English riders,Cyril Wilcock and Jack Wood for quite a while until he injured his hand and was praised for his courage to even finish the race.The second meeting also saw the start of a 'Golden Helmet' competition for the german riders,which would be run as a series over the season,collecting points along the way to the title.5 points for a win......In the first final Fritz Niss won the 5pts beating Count Strachwitz,who it was said rode far too wide and made it easy for Niss
The highlight was the main handicap final where 'Ginger' Lees was giving away seconds to his rivals.Morian Hansen and George Corney had 2 seconds,A.Jackson,A + O.Hansen(in the first meetings there were 4!!! Hansens riding,which caused a bit of confusion)received 4 seconds.Lees passed one after the other to finish 100m ahead of the next rider after 4 laps
In the British press it was stated the track is extremely wide and the start line is just before the first bend,so the inside gate has a big advantage and the racing is boring,but from the german press reports this really doesn't seem to be the case.They are full of praise for the organisation and after the first not so great meeting,for the racing as well
The Golden Helmet event initiated in the meeting of Wed.19th continued weekly and Niss, the winner at that first meeting, ( 2 heats and a Final) took the overall season GH prize with 42 pts. The GH continued in the second season of 1930, to be won by Herbert Drews with 68pts, but in 1931 the event was abandoned after just one mtg, which Drews won.
Full details of the weekly GH event winners, 1929- 31 are given in the 'Golden Helmets, A - Z' section of Speedway Champions site, HERE with further narrative as follows: . . . . The first purpose-built dirt track in Germany was constructed in the Hamburg district of Lokstedt in 1929 by a UK/Danish consortium, United Speedway Ltd., who operated it alongside its Roskildeveg, Copenhagen site, built the previous year. Each stadium included a greyhound circuit in addition to the 1/3 mile speedway track, and star riders and their bikes, including British stars such as Bill Kitchen, were often flown between the two venues.
From the opening Hamburg meeting in July '29 both venues ran a 'Golden Helmet' competition, - see the Roskildeveg GH results, 1929- '31, in the adjacent Danish GH table - , where weekly stagings were restricted to native riders who accumulated points towards an end-of-season total and the award of a Golden Helmet. The first winner was Fritz Niss, who won 4 of the weekly finals and totalled 42 points, (presumably from a scoring basis of 5-3-2-1 that was known to have been the Copenhagen system,) though he was being drawn down on by Herbert Drews toward the end of the year. Drews went on to become the 1930 overall winner with 5 weekly successes and 68 pts. The 1931 competition was abandoned after the initial event, though racing at Lokstedt continued up to 1933.
You come in and give the ending away when I am just starting the story!!!
Sorry old boy, didn't know it was a soap saga.
Well I can at least come to the German Dirt Track Championship later......
It is also interesting about the track being built by United Speedway Ltd,as the publicity blurb and the press only mention Motordrom A.G and one or two of those in charge.A Herr Lütgert and a Dr.Götte and I think another Count,not Strachwitz was also said to be in charge.No Danes or English,but maybe these were just the managers on the ground? This would appear to be the President of Motordrom A.G https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolaus_zu_Dohna-Schlodien
Anyway,to carry on the story......The next meeting was again on a sunday afternoon and this time only 6-7,000 came to see 'Ginger' Lees and the rest.In the press it stated that one of the reasons for this might be the cost of 1.5 Reichsmark for the cheapest tickets,which was thought to be expensive when travel and food costs were added.And I guess especially so when at this time they were hosting 2 meetings a week.Plans were to add another meeting to the two!!!
The first heat was an attempt by Ginger Lees to break his track record.He done the warm up lap and went flying through the start and was going like the clappers when he lost control and flew over the bike,the to the shock of the crowd,his bike straightened up and weaved 30m over the track and suddenly turned and headed for the fence and after the impact lay on the track still running as the crowd ducked for cover.Lees managed to get to his bike and turn the engine off,before the 5 track staff got there.
Fritz Niss stepped in whilst Lees had time to check things over and recover.He went out to attempt to break his national record and it was noted was riding in a Lees style with his left leg forward.I'd guess Lees and some of the other had spent some time training and even giving tips to the locals.He done the 3 laps in 79 seconds,which took nearly 6 seconds off of his previous best!! Then Lees came out and took the track record down to 75 seconds.In the final of the day Lees just lost out by 2 meters finishing behind K.Hansen who had a 4 second advantage over 'Ginger'.George Corney and Arthur Wilcock finished 3rd and 4th
Fritz Niss from Hamburg,although in this illustration he doesn't seem to be riding Lees-esque with his foot forward!!
I have in my collection a programme for Hamburg Motordrome which I reckon is 15th September, 1929 & the first name on the list of riders is Ginger Lees.
Amazing today to look and see that from the opening meeting on Sunday 07.07 they had managed to run 28 meetings up to the 15th September!!!.Think it was 5 days later when they had their first rain-off of the season,although one meeting was postponed but ran the next day.
Almost 10,000 turned up for the meeting in question which had a match race between Arthur Sherlock and Ned Kelly which it seems Sherlock won 2-1.In the first heat Kelly won a hard fought race by a bikes length,then in the 2nd Kelly fell and in the 3rd it was another neck and neck battle that Sherlock won on the last bend
In the B-Class final H.Krons won in 80.3,from W.Schauer,Joe Balastrand and Helge Jensen
In the A-Class Johannes Wunder won in 78.6 from J.Rasmussen,Arnold Moore and Arnold Stölting
In the Grosse Vorgaberennen over 4 laps Winks Rice won in 1.52.9,from Arnold Stölting,Kay Andersen and Th.Clausen
Ginger Lees doesn't seem to have been at this meeting and in the report for the meeting on the 22.09 it states 'our Ginger is still in Copenhagen!!'Jst 3 days later for the Wednesday evening meeting (18.09.1929)turned!
You mentioned Morian Hansen in a previous post. Is this the Danish rider who rode in Britain as well as appearing in a couple of world finals back in the 30's?
Yes,the same rider.It seems at this time and at least at Hamburg,that Niels Sorensen was the better rider,but Morian is probably better known.And possibly quite rightly so,at least for his exploits for the RAF in WW2
An action shot from the early weeks of the Lokstedt Dirt-Track showing 'the two best riders'.It states Ginger Lees is leading Niels Sorensen,but I wonder due to the styles(it looks like the rider on the left has his foot forward)if they have it the wrong way round?
10,000 turned up for the next meeting,but as a number of the German riders were missing they only held afinal for the Golden Helmet with no need for quali heats.Fritz Niss again won,but he was closely followed by Heinrichs with Max Plambeck 3rd and Johannes Wunder 4th
So the totals at this time were Niss 10pts,Plambeck 4pts,Strachwitz + Heinrichs 3,Wunder and König 1.In the main handicap final of the night Plambeck,who had a 9 second lead on the top riders naturally was out in front for a while then the favourite Ginger Lees had bike problems and dropped out,leaving K:Hansen to win,closely followed by Niels Sorensen.Lees did manage to win the Handicap race for the English riders,beating the Wilcock brothers and Jack Wood,who all had a few seconds advantage
It was said that the promoters sent out a telegram to England ....'Send someone to beat Lees' And so for the next sunday meeting Arthur Jervis from the Manchester White City team arrived in Hamburg.Unfortunately due to the bad weather a poor crowd of around 4,000 turned up to see this duel.In the first meet up Niels Sorensen came out in front of Lees and Jervis.Then there was a Denmark-England race in which Jervis beat Lees and the following DanesThen in the final handicap final Lees finished ahead of Jervis,Morian Hansen and Niels Sorensen,but all in all everyone seemed happy that Lees finally had someone of his class to race against
The next Sunday was the day Ginger Lees,the rider who they had already named the 'uncrowned king of the Hamburg track' met his match in King Arthur!!
The sunday meeting was staged in the evening for the first time.It was thought necessary to avoid a clash with Football and Boxing,but observers thought the racing under the floodlights was more exciting anyway.In the very first heat before a crowd of 16,000 Jervis made an attempt on the track record held by Lees.He went out storming ,and not only broke the track record but set a new world record for the mile of 73.8(73.4 was reported in the UK)In the highly awaited clash between Jervis and Lees,it was a bit of an anti-climax as Jervis was in a class of his own and Ginger Lees couldn't find a way past Niels Sorensen.Jervis finished almost 5 seconds ahead of Sorensen and the rest even further behind.
Fritz Niss again won the final of the Golden Helmet ahead of Heinrichs and Plambeck and was now way out in front in the points total with 15.Heinrichs and Plambeck following with 6,Strachwitz 3,Wunder 2 and König with 1
In the handicap finalArthur and his brother Hubert were up against the Danes Einar and Kay Hansen,Walter Ryle and Niels Sorensen.Lees failed to qualify,having bike problems in his heat.Jervis amazed the crowd with his skilful riding just passing Einar Hansen who had a 4 second advantage, on the home straight
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