Co team manager Mat Stevens has switched his management skills to delve into a piece of the Racers history as he interviews ex Racer Dag Lovaas. Dag rode for the Racers between 1971-1973 and reached the finals of the Speedway World Championship in 1974.
Dag won the British League in 1973 with the Racers finishing with the 5th highest average in the league. When Reading closed for a year he moved to the Hackney Hawks in 1974, finishing the season with the highest recorded average in the Hawks’ history. He then rode for Oxford Rebels in 1975 and then White City Rebels in 1976. On deciding not to return to England in 1977, White City were granted a ‘Dag Lovaas (Rider Replacement)’ facility for the entire season, in which they ended up as champions.
1. At what age did you first get on a Speedway bike, and what drew you into the sport?
As an eight year old I bought an old Cyclemaster, this was a complete engine in a back wheel that would fit into any pushbike. I got the money from collecting old bottles anywhere I could find them. I fitted this engine to my pushbike and made a track in our garden, my father was Norwegian Speedway champion in 1932 and after seeing a man named Basse Wheem at a long track meeting as a five year old, all I wanted to do was be a Speedway rider.
When I was 17 my brother and I made a Speedway frame and fitted a Suzuki 100cc that was given to me by the Suzuki distributor of Norway.
2. Did you have a racing hero who inspired you?
As a youngster my hero was Sverre Harrfelt who rode for West Ham, I had a picture over my bed of Sverre.
3. Was there much opportunity to race in Norway or anywhere in Scandinavia “team racing or individual” or was the UK the place to learn the trade?
There weren’t many places for Speedway in Norway, it was more Long Track, my brother and I used to practice on the frozen fjords in winter. We had spikes in the tyres that had been cut down so it would be as close to the gravel as possible. There was no team racing at that time just individual, from the very beginning my wish was to ride in England like Sverre Harrfeldt did.
4. How did you get your team place at Newcastle, where you spent your first season? After Newcastle you came to Tilehurst to ride for the Racers. How did that come about?
A man called Ian Hoskins got me to England and Newcastle, if I remember correctly Newcastle closed down after the 1970 season and Anders Michanek, Geoff Curtis and myself moved to Reading, which went from the second division to the first in 1971.
I was really lucky to get the move to Reading as my first season for Newcastle was not an impressive one, but Ian Hoskins did believe in me and convinced the Reading promoters to give me a chance, this was a very good move for me because Tilehurst was a track that suited me and I soon built my confidence up.
5. 1973 was the last season at Tilehurst, was it disappointing to leave the track and was the track enjoyable to race?
I loved riding for Reading, it was great to win the league championship. At Tilehurst you could ride inside, middle or outside so it was a great track for developing your riding skills, but for me it was best to move after the 73 season because I did not get on that well with the promotor and with Anders Michanek on the team there was no way I would be number one. I ended the 1973 season with a 10.37 average.
6. In the same year that the Racers won the league title, who were their main rivals and what meeting stood out the most? Also what was the Racers team like that season?
Dicky May and I made a 5-1 for the Racers, also Mick Bell was a good captain as well as a likeable chap. Bob Radford was a good team manager (R.I.P Bob) all in all it was a happy and good team that season and we deserved to win the title in 73.
If I remember right I think Belle Vue was our main rival, but to me all the league meetings were equally important, we knew we had a chance at winning the league when the 73 season started.
7. You had one World final appearance in 1974 in Sweden, did you have practice on the track beforehand, was it a good track and what are your overall thoughts on the meeting?
I could write a book about what happened in the world final of 1974 but to make it short, practice went well, I loved the track! The night before the final, it rained and rained and RAINED!! Normally I loved riding in the wet (can’t remember not winning a race in the wet, Ask your dad!) so a few came to me on the day and said, this weather is just made for you….
But the organisers decided to bring on a rocket car with big flames, driving it around the track with a helicopter over it, to try and dry the track, this altered the track from wet and slick to very deep and heavy.
I had an Amal carburettor on my bike and the heavy track made the engine want more fuel, the Amal just did not give enough fuel so the engine misfired out of the corners and down the straights. There was no way I could fix the problem there and then also I have never liked the deep and heavy tracks, so I was very disappointed about the World final and the result.
8. You also rode for Newcastle, Hackney, Oxford and White City, what memories stick out the most about riding for these clubs?
My first year in England was with Newcastle, this for me was a learning year! And the racing was so much harder in England than what I had known from riding in Norway, plus I had only raced in four meeting in the 500 class in Norway before I came to England, it was a sharp learning curve. In my first race at Newcastle, Charley Monk put me through the fence big time!
At Reading in 71 I remember beating Barry Briggs for the first time, that was big for me and did my confidence a lot of good, after all Barry had been World champion. After a while I began winning races by passing on the outside that was always a trill and confidence boost.
I also remember having some close and good races with one of my heroes Peter Collins, he was always fair leaving you that little bit of room that made the racing safe.
Wolverhampton was one of my favourite tracks and Ole Olsen’s home track, I beat him several times on his own turf and that felt great.
I remember setting a new track record at Oxford and regretting that I turned off the gas, out of the last corner, just rolling over the finish line because I was so far in front, as in the next race Phil Crump beat my record with a tenth of a second. I remember being really happy with my promotor Len Silver at Hackney and Bobby Dugard and Danny Dunton at Oxford and White City.
9. Throughout your riding career, who was your best team mate and your hardest opponent? Also who did you think was the best rider at that time?
I had so many great team mates at different clubs, so to mention someone special I feel would be wrong, in case I forget someone. For me Ivan Mauger was the greatest and I still think he is the best and most professional rider to date, I have so much respect for that man!
10. We all know Speedway can be a dangerous sport, which accidents if any, stick in your mind?
It was hard when Geoff Curtis lost his life in Australia, after all we were team mates first at Newcastle and then 3 years at Reading. Also when Garry Peterson was killed at Wolverhampton, I was leading the race when it got red flagged and I instantly felt that something terrible had happened.
In Norway in 1969 when I was leading Bjerke Travbane in Oslo when Sven Tollefsen lost his life and it was a shock when Tommy Jansson died because he was such a high class rider that never seemed to get into any kind of trouble.
11. What year did you decide to call it a day? And why?
For me it was sad that Oxford closed down and the team moved to White City in 76, I just loved the Oxford track and everything around it. I never really got the hang of White City, like I said before I like passing on the outside if I lost the gate, but this didn’t work for me at White City. Also I had some big crashes through the years and riders around me died, which began to make me a bit scared.
12. Do you still follow or watch any Speedway?
I watch the Speedway GP on TV.
13. What’s your best 1-7 team mates?
I wouldn’t like to answer that one! But I did love my stay in England, I met so many nice, friendly and helpful people, inside speedway, riders, mechanics, team managers, track staff, photographers, supporters you name it!
I also loved going into shops and the women behind the counter asking: can I help you love! I loved driving my car around looking all the fantastic buildings, churches, London city and the small cosy villages.