Ove Fundin

World Speedway Champion

Ove Fundin 5 Times World Speedway Champion

Ove with the Match Race Trophy

OVE 'The Fox' Fundin is one of the giants of speedway racing. A combination of tenacity, temperament and talent carried him to the very top in the sport and a unique World Championship record.

They called him The Fox because he had flaming red hair, and he was hot enough to win the supreme individual title five times - one fewer than his great New Zealand rival Ivan Mauger. But he stood on the World Final rostrum for ten consecutive years following his first title win in 1956. No other rider in the history of the sport has yet been able to match that.

He came from a family of furriers in Tranas, central Sweden, and began to emerge as a world pospect in 1953 during a tour of England with the Swedish side Filbyterna. The following year he made his World Final debut at Wembley, finishing last with two points on a bike that was virtually home-made. And painted fire engine red. But his potential was spotted by the veteran stars Aub Lawson of Australia and Jack Parker of England and, after a winter's season in Australia with them, he joined Lawson at Norwich in 1955, rapidly becoming a star.

After his first world title in 1956, he won again in 1960, 1961, 1963 and finally in 1967 following a brief retirement. He was the first Continental European to become World Champion, and it was largely due to him that the speedway World Final was staged out of England for the first time in 1961. That year's championship final took place at Malmo, and he led a clean Swedish sweep, with his fellow countrymen Bjorn Knutsson and Gote Nordin filling the minor placings.

His ruthless pursuit of success - no one hated to lose more than Fundin - often upset the British crowds, but at Norwich he was adored. The legend grew up around him that, though he was utterly brilliant astride a speedway machine, he knew nothing about the mechanics of the game. And it was true. He also never owned a bike. Most tracks in those days had a spare machine for anyone to use, so Fundin's was christened Norwich Track Spare No.2 - and it was on that bike that he rode to so much glory.

He freely admits that his ruthless determination to be, and remain, the very best made him 'hell' to be around when he was racing. He says: 'I had red hair, and red-haired people are aggressive and hot-tempered, which I certainly was. But you have got to be ruthless, and like in any individual sport you've got to be selfish. I am the first one to admit I am very selfish.'

It swept him to the pinnacle. As well as his world titles, he was European Champion five times, Swedish Champion nine times and the first Swedish rider to top 1,000 points in internationals.

He quit when Norwich closed at the end of 1964, but he was tempted away from his flourishing haulage business three times after that - to ride briefly at Long Eaton, Belle Vue and Wembley. He is still remembered within the sport of speedway racing with awe and presently lives in some luxury in the South of France.

But at the age of 71, he is still not above climbing back into the saddle to give exhibition races, or take part in Golden Greats meetings. When he competes, of course he still likes to win. But not, he will tell you now, at any cost.

Fundin is probably the greatest of the Golden Greats, and his incomparable contribution to the sport was acknowledged recently when the new, 10,000-plus World Cup Trophy was named after him.

He still likes to keep active. He is a keen golfer, and recently made the 1,500 mile trip between his home in France and his home town in Sweden - by bicycle.

By JOHN CHAPLIN