The Exeter Falcon's were the BL Div 1 champions! For the first and last time in the history of the County Ground, the top title found it's way to Exeter.
The reasons were very obvious. For a start there was Ivan Mauger in the number one spot, a rider who rides every track as if it was home to him. Then there was Ivan's influence on the rest of the side as he led them into believing in themselves. This reaped rich dividends as the Falcons travelled to the various British League strongholds and came away with valuable points.
Another vital aspect in the Exeter armoury was the very healthy battle that went on for the number 2 position behind Mauger. Scott Autrey, Tony Lomas and Kevin Holden all vied for the heat leader positions, and when it was all over Holden found himself as the fourth man in the averages. Holden at number 4, little wonder that the Falcons were league champions.
At the beginning of the season, Falcons backed their `big four' with support from newly signed Australian star Peter Thompson, experienced New Zealander Frank Shuter and veteran Cornishman Chris Julian. The blend was to prove very effective, and waiting to seize any chances that may arise was Mike Sampson. Then as extra cover there was Glyn Facey and to boost still further the list of contracted riders, promoter Wally Mawdsley signed up 16 year-old Gerald Purkiss.
Even so, the Falcons were constantly looking out for further talent and early scares when Tony Lomas talked of possible retirement and struggled on in the face of injury, proved that the constant search for additional team strength was vital. All in all, the Exeter squad avoided too much in the way of injuries and it was ironic that when they signed reigning Aussie champion Steve Reinke to replace Peter Thompson, who had been loaned out to second division Peterborough, that it should be Reinke who went on the sick list with a busted collarbone!
But basically Exeter avoided trouble and set about picking up the important away points to boost their home pickings. There was never any real doubt right from the start that Exeter would go through the season with a 100 per cent record at the County Ground. And so it was. There were several close encounters but Ipswich came the nearest to winning at Exeter and even they eventually went down by six points.
Away from home the Falcons were always in the hunt. They started the season with a good draw at Leicester and went on to augment this with nine wins, including a tremendous revival that saw them overcome an early 12-point deficit at Swindon. Exeter were a hairsbreadth away from making it an even better season away. At Coventry, Halifax, King's Lynn and Wolves the final losing margin was a slender two points. A 4 - 2 instead of a 2-4 somewhere along the line in each match and Falcons could really have run away with the title instead of having to wait until the dying moments of the season to see whether Belle Vue could overhaul them.
Exeter were certainly powerful visitors, and only at Belle Vue where they went down by 14 points and Wimbledon (8 points) did they fail to be in with a chance in the last couple of races. Mauger naturally dominated the scorecharts and actually managed to score more points in away matches than at home. Autrey, Holden and Lomas all showed good away form. For Autrey it was a very satisfactory second year in British speedway. He topped the 300-point mark for the season and his average of 8.32 was quite outstanding. Unfortunately for Scott he just missed out on a maiden world final appearance. He had `one of those nights in the European final and blew out.
For Exeter fans, however, some world championship consolation came when Mauger took his annual place on the world final rostrum, albeit only as runner-up. Incredibly, where Ivan was concerned, second placings count as a poor night! Lomas and Holden both floated around between the 7 - 8-point mark and gave the ideal middle support. Both hit double figure scores - home and away - and were consistent match winners.
The tail end also proved to be solid enough and gave the necessary cover when the middle order were suffering a rare off night or battling against mechanical gremlins. Evergreen Chris Julian completed his fifth year at Exeter and held his handy five points plus average. Sadly Chris decided to call at the end of the season but went out in style with a league championship medal. Another of the tail to hang up his leathers was Frank Shuter. He had decided to emigrate and took up business interests in Europe. He did, however, take with him a unique British League record. Exeter's triumph gave Frank his third league winners' medal following his previous successes with Poole and Swindon. No other rider had managed three championship medals with three different clubs.
Mike Sampson rode in nine official matches for Falcons and averaged a very handy 5.5, and he was seen as a man to watch the next season. Aussies Thompson and Reinke had mixed seasons. Thompson was never really happy in the first division and didn't really hit it off in the second division. Reinke recovered well from his early collarbone break and indicated that he could be a big name in 1975 and prove that his Australian reputation was well deserved.
With the uncertainty about rider control moves still hanging over the County Ground, the chances of Exeter retaining their title were hard to assess. It looked as though they would be hanging on to Holden but losing Lomas. The middle order would need a boost to cover for Lomas. With Mauger, Autrey and Holden as the heat leaders it wouldn't need much to reproduce this year's overall scoring power. Exeter could have easily been more of a force in 1975 than they were in 1974.
Exeter made another signing during the winter of 1974, namely Mike Farrell from Australia. A proven team and an exciting new face. No wonder Exeter felt confident.
Elsewhere in 1974
Eric Boocock won the British Final of the World Speedway Championship staged at Coventry. He scored 13pts to beat runner up Terry Betts on 12pts and third placed Dave Jessup on 11pts.
In the World Team Championship staged in Chorzow, Poland, England score 42pts (with P.Collins and J.Louis both scoring maximums) to beat Sweden 31pts, Poland 13pts and the Soviet Union on 10pts. Revenge for Sweden in the World Pairs Chamionship. Anders Michanek and Soren Sjosten scored 28pts to beat Australia 23pts, N.Zealand 21pts and England 20pts.
In the World Final in Gothenburg, Anders Michanek (Pictured Left) scored a faultless 15pts to be crowned World Champion ahead of Ivan Mauger (11pts) and Soren Sjosten (11pts).
Other Individual results were, Chris Morton was crowned British Junior Champion scoring 15pts at the Canterbury Final to beat Steve bastable (13) and neil Middleditch (12). Phil Crump won the Prince of wales Trophy at Newport, Martin Ashby the Man of The Midlands trophy at Wolverhampton, Rick France the Hill's Autumn Classic at Halifax, Peter Collins the Dow Diamond Trophy at Kings Lynn, Arthur Browing the Teeside Open, Ole Olsen the Golden Wonder Olympique (Honest, that's what it was called), Soren Sjosten the Watney Mann Trophy at Cradley, Peter Jarman the Stoke Open, Ivan mauger the Pride of the East, Martin Ashby the Silver Plume at Swindon and the Welsh Open at Newport, Ivan maugrer the Brandonapolis at Coventry, Phil Crump the Yorkshire TV Trophy.
Barry Thomas wins the London Riders Championship at Hackney scoring 15pts to beat second placed Colin Goody (12) and Graeme Stapleton (11) whilst Ole Olsen comfortably won the Midlands Riders Championship with an unbeaten 15 pts ahead of Mick Bell 914) and Norman Hunter (11).
Egon Muller won the World Longtrack Final with 30pts to beat runner up Ivan Mauger on 26pts and third placed Alois Wiesbock with Peter Collins fourth on 15pts. Milam Spinka won the World Ice Final staged in Nassjo, Sweden.
Other news of 1974, Sheffield win the Speedway Star KO Cup beating Ipswich 90-66, their first ever major success, Peter Collins (15) beat Ivan Mauger (12) and Phil Crump (12) to win the BL Riders Championship whilst Carl Glover (13) wins the 2nd Div Riders Championship beating Ted Hubbard (13) and Phil Herne (12).
As already discussed, Exeter Falcons were crowned BL Champions scoring 51 points to beat runners up B.Vue (46) and in third place were Ipswich (45). In Division 2, it was Birmingham who took the honours from Eastbourne in second place and Boston in third. Birmingham also beat Eastbourne 81-74 on aggregate to win the Speedway Mail Cup.
Ole Olsen (Wolves) topped the BL Averages on 11,32, behind him was I.Mauger (Exeter) on 11.15 and P.Collins (B.Vue) on 11.01 and in Div 2, Phil Herne topped the averages on 10.48 ahead of Carl Glover on 10.29 and Arthur Browning's 10.14