The History of Poole Speedway

The story of dirt track racing at the Wimborne Road raceway from its inauguration to the present day.

 

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The late Johnny Thomson

63 years have passed since Johnny Thomson rode his last race, breaking his thigh in a high speed spill at Poole on the 9 May 1955. His Doctors were confident that he would make a complete recovery, but just five days after the accident he suffered an embolism and died. He was 27 years old.

Although born in Scotland, Johnny lived in the village of Witchampton, Dorset, where he worked with his father at the local paper mill. His got his first taste of racing on the local grass tracks before trying his hand at speedway and linking up with the Poole club during 1951.

He gained considerable experience from racing in the second half scratch races and was soon showing that he could compete with the lower order members of the Pirates line-up. These performances caught the eye of the Poole promoters who selected him to ride for the Pirates in the Festival of Britain Shield event which featured 10 man teams.

Johnny made his club debut on 9 April in the home match against Plymouth scoring five and a bonus point from his two starts as the Pirates swept to a 74 – 46 win over the Devils. His contribution guaranteed him a place in the Poole side for the rest of the competition and more than helped the Pirates to win the Shield, the first silverware won by the club.

With the successful Pirates side remaining unchanged throughout 1952, Johnny was happy to remain the club’s number nine, making 8 first team appearances to finish with a 6.88 average, good enough to get him a team place with the majority of clubs.

His breakthrough into the side came following Brian Crutcher’s transfer to Wembley at the start of the 1953 campaign, finishing the season with a total of 107 points. His efforts were good enough for him to earn a place in the Poole side that made a seven match tour of Sweden during October. He improved still further in 1954, finishing the year with a 7.59 average although an arm injury brought a premature end to his season.

Hailed as a potential heat leader by many, the start of the 1955 season saw him at his best until he was involved in a first bend crash at Wimborne Road during the Pirates National Trophy clash with Ipswich on the 9th May.

Thomson had already ridden twice in the match by the time he came to the tapes with team mate Jimmy Squibb for Heat Nine. Reg Reeves, and Bert Edwards lined up for the Witches, with Reeves on the favoured inside gate, Squibb on Gate 2, Edwards on Gate 3 and Thomson coming off of Gate 4. The tapes rose and all four riders roared away to an even start, with Edwards and Thomson racing shoulder to shoulder in the battle for the lead.

They were still neck and neck as they entered the first turn, but then appeared to collide and slide along the track, with Thomson somersaulting into the safety fence. Edwards was soon on his feet, but Thomson was taken to Poole Hospital, where it was confirmed that he had broken his left femur, which was operated on almost straight away.

At his funeral, six of the Poole team, Ken Middleditch, Tony Lewis, Jimmy Squibb, Bill Holden, Terry Small, and Allan Kidd, acted as pall bearers, with the Witchampton church filled to overflowing and the churchyard full of supporters.

The resulting inquest heard Coroner Mr J.W.Miller tell the jury that there was no evidence to suggest of any negligence or blame by the riders, with the jury returning a verdict of accidental death.

Following the funeral the Poole Supporter’s Club opened a fund to purchase a memorial shield in Johnny’s name to be competed for annually by Poole riders, plus the best riders of the Second Division. The first meeting for the Shield was held at the end of the 1955 season and was won by his fellow Poole team mate and friend Allan Kidd.
 
 

CHRISTER SJOSTEN – Pirate of the Past

A promising Swedish international who joined Poole for the 1975 season after an enforced 12 month layoff from racing in the UK.. A talented competitor, he overcame a slow start to finish the year as the club’s third highest scorer with a 7.18 league average. His performances suggested that he had a lot to offer and much was expected of him in 1976 when he started to run up some more than useful scores including two home maximums. However, his inconsistency cost him dearly and he once again finished the year as the third highest point scorer for the club. He started the following season with a string of good scores before a foot injury kept him out of the saddle, then on his track comeback he picked up a hand injury that left him on the sidelines for some time. These injuries saw him miss half of the Pirates league fixtures, but it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the sport he loved. Continued to be a third heatleader for the Pirates sides throughout the next two seasons, with his fearless style of riding winning him a host of fans both at home and away. At the end of the 1979 British season he accepted an invitation to race in Australia, which ended tragically when he sustained a severely fractured skull in a track crash at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds. He died in hospital 8 days later as a result of his injuries. He made 141 League and Knockout Cup appearances for the club, and scored 868 points.