Book celebrates Norwich speedway Star Ove Fundin
Derek James takes a look at a new book which pays tribute to one of the greatest sportsmen ever to represent Norwich - speedway rider Ove Fundin.
The days of a Norwich speedway rider earning as much in one night than City footballers made in a week are recalled in a great new book looking at the glory days of the speed aces and their dangerous sport back in the 1950s.
It has been described as a historical masterpiece – chronicling the highs and lows of speedway racing in Britain between 1946 and 1957...and one of the stars is probably the best sportsman ever to represent Norwich – Ove Fundin.
Five times champion of the world, many say he was the best rider of all time, and for 10 glorious years he wore the Norwich Star with pride.
Ruthless and fearless, the flying fox was the king of the track and a few years ago the city fathers honoured Ove by making him a Freeman of Norwich.
Now this modest sporting legend talks about his life and times in the city he loves with such a passion in a new book, The Golden Age of Speedway by Philip Dalling, taking an intriguing look at the world of speedway all those years ago through interviews with the leading characters in the game.
Always a colourful and controversial rider, Ove gives an insight into life at the fabulous Firs, pointing out that although his main racing career lasted until 1970 he has been closely involved with speedway racing all over the world.
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Looking back to the days when he was king of the track he says: 'From 1954 to the end of 1964 I rode only for Norwich and the majority of other riders stayed with one team. It helped to create a strong team spirit and bond with the supporters. It created local heroes.'
What was special about Norwich?
'I don't think there was anything particularly special to bring about the track's success. People around there certainly liked speedway. The football team played on a Saturday afternoon and we rode at The Firs on a Saturday evening, with many supporters coming in from the country areas,' said Ove.
And he explains: 'There was very much a family spirit at Norwich, and I think at most of the other tracks and that is something which still exists in speedway today.'
The Norwich crowds were good and he remembers them selling 6,000 tickets for a Wembley world final with people travelling by coach and on special trains. 'It was a good time to be a speedway rider. I played golf with some of the Norwich City footballers who were still on a fixed wage and earning quite a lot less in the summer than in the season.
'They were quite envious of me because football was, and still is, the top sport: I could make as much in one night at speedway as they earned in a week – and I was riding virtually every seven nights a week in England, in Sweden, Australia or elsewhere,' said Ove.
'Today I hear a lot of stories about how much riders are demanding from the sport.
'In the 1950s nearly all the riders were earning just their start and points money and travelling expenses.
'I was never paid a penny above that, although Norwich provided me with a bike and paid for my journeys between Sweden and England, something the speedway authorities insisted upon in those days,' he added.
Ove writes about his love of the city and county, its people and how proud he was to be made a Freeman of Norwich.
'Not many people rode for the money. We rode for the glory. To win was the most important thing, not only for yourself but for your team and for your country,' he added
The Golden Age of Speedway by Philip Dalling is published by the History Press at �14.99. It is in the shops now or click on www.thehistorypress.co.uk