Speedway: Tribute to a legend
BELLE Vue legend Peter Craven, World champion in 1955 and 1962, was a man totally unspoiled by
massive fame and adulation.
He remained the local lad from Liverpool until his untimely death at the age of 29 following a crash at Edinburgh
in 1963 that left the entire speedway world shocked.
It was a tragic death that culminated from a series of events and one that could have been
avoided had any of them been different.
Craven's last meeting is traced in a chapter fittingly but sadly called Forever Young in a new book `Peter
Craven: Wizard of Balance,' which has been written by Brian Burford to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the rider's death.
No one in the book
has a bad word for the little guy, also known as the Mighty Atom, who was the inspiration for many - including Belle Vue's next English superstar and World
champion, Peter Collins.
But it was Craven's reluctance to disappoint his public that played a major part in his death in what was nothing more than
a high-profile friendly.
He had suffered a heavy fall when losing his World title at Wembley just before the trip north.
Some observers noted
other rare falls and felt he was tired after a long, hard season.
Craven, however, said: "I have never let anyone down yet."
He won his first
three races but was then asked by promoter Ian Hoskins to take a 20-yard handicap in the final heat so the fans had a chance to see his legendary passing
Sportingly, he agreed.
He passed teammate Billy Powell and Dudley McKean and was right behind George Hunter on the last when the
Edinburgh rider's engine seized up and Craven, trying to take evasive action, flew into the wooden safety fence.
That was Friday, September 20 and he
died four days later in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
Craven will be the focus of a special night at the George Lawton Hall, Mossley on Saturday,
November 15 (7pm to midnight).
Many who saw him ride, including members of his family, will attend the reunion organised by Derek Adrian, who can be
contacted on 0161 682 0067.
Peter Craven: Wizard of Balance is published by Tempus Ltd of Stroud at £14.99.