Great stories for speedway fans!
Great stories for speedway fans!
…is the only author writing novels specifically aimed at fans of motorcycle speedway racing.
Sadly, speedway in Britain today is very much a niche sport but it was not always the case. In the years between its introduction in 1928 and the war, crowds at dirt track meetings were huge and speedway riders were some of the highest-
These are the periods in which Michael Hansen’s novels are set -
In doing the preparation for the book Cobble Street Speedway Star, much of the research involved life in Salford during the 1920s and 1930s. I was lucky enough to be able to consult many, highly-
For the episode set in Egypt during the autumn and winter of 1928, however, material was far thinner on the ground and often ambiguous. The story follows the real-
According to a website celebrating and commemorating the life of Gus Kuhn, one of the pioneers of motorcycle racing, two of the group, Ivor Creek and Billy Galloway went ahead of the main party in late September to supervise construction of the track which was reportedly built inside the dog racing circuit of a facility belonging to the Egyptian Greyhound Racing Association. The remainder left Liverpool on October 24 on the SS California.
The article sites the track at Zamalek, ‘a district of Cairo on an island in the Nile River’. Another report in the Auto Motor Journal of January 31, 1929, written by Les Blakebrough, one of the riders on the tour, describes it as ‘situated at Zamalek, Cairo, hard by the swift-
Zamalek Speedway, Cairo, 1928. The track was reportedly constructed inside the dog track belonging to the Egyptian Greyhound Racing Association
Riders on the Egyptian tour lined up at Zamalek Speedway, Cairo in 1928
Confirmation that the track was in Zamalek also comes in the books ‘Ride It!’ by Cyril May, ‘Speedway Panorama’ by Ron Hoare and ‘Warzone Speedway’ by Trevor Davies’. On the Speedway Archive website (edinburghspeedway.blogspot.co.uk) under the heading ‘Speedway Timeline 1928’ and also on the website Speedway Years (timetoast.com), however, it is claimed that the Cairo speedway track was at the Heliopolis Race Course. On the Edinburgh site (to whose webmaster I am very grateful for all the information he supplied), their naming of Heliopolis is based on articles in the Auto Motor Journal of November and December 1928. There is even a group photo of the riders sitting in mufti in the grandstand at heliopolis. Even so, I can find no evidence anywhere that any speedway racing took place there and the difference is quite significant. My own conclusion is that the racing took place on Boulaq Island, (now known as Gezireh Island or Zamalek Island) at the Gezira Sporting Club. This club, originally named the Khedivial Sporting Club was first opened in 1882 when Britain consolidated its military hold over Egypt. It was named in honour of the Kedive or ruler of Egypt, Mohammed Tewfiq but when the Khedive was replaced with a Sultan, the name of the club was changed to the Gezirah Club. It included a race course, golf course, polo grounds, tennis courts, squash courts and a cricket ground.
It may well be, of course, that there was a connection of some sort with Heliopolis but, on checking with Atef Ramses of the Egyptian Travel Link, he stated that the speedway track which, of course, no longer exists, was indeed on Zamalek, between the northern part of the island and the Boulaq Bridge.
As this 1930s map indicates, Heliopolis and its racecourse are almost five miles away from the River Nile. This does not comply with a description that says the speedway circuit was built ‘on an island in the Nile River, or ‘close by the swift-
The arrangements were made via the Bentley racing driver and shareholder Woolf Barnato, who was a director of the Egyptian Greyhound Racing Association. As a wealthy member of the British Establishment, Barnato is more likely to have been connected with the Gezira Sporting Club than the city of Heliopolis which was built by the Belgians.
is 4.5 miles from the River Nile in this direction
In addition, the programmes for the meetings were headed ‘Zamalek Speedway’. If the track were in Heliopolis rather than Zamalek, it is difficult to see why it would not have been named ‘Heliopolis Speedway’.
The old aerial photograph below, taken in 1936, shows Gezirah Island and, arrowed at the top right is a stadium that could be the Zamalek speedway and greyhound circuit. We do know the track was narrow and 440 yards in length.
Gezirah Sporting Club. The circuit (arrowed) at the top right looks tantalisingly like a speedway track although there is no evidence that it actually is. Zamalek Speedway was a narrow, 440 yard track.
If you know of any evidence I have missed, do share it if you would like to. You can e-
© Michael Hansen 2014
Atef Ramses of the Egyptian Travel Link believes this is the stadium. It later became the Mukhtar al-