Saturday 15th December 1923
An early version of speedway was born at Maitland, New South Wales, Australia when New Zealand-born rider “Johnny” S. Hoskins organized a sports charity carnival called the Electric Light Carnival, staged on the Maitland Showground. Hoskins suddenly realized that there was a gap in the program of events and a couple of young, local motorcyclists told him that they were prepared to fill the gap by racing around the show ground’s grassy track. However, they found that the surface was much too slippery and caused their bikes to skid dangerously, so the cyclists covered a nearby slag-heap with a coat of cinders and all was ready for the world’s first dirt-track race on a short circuit. Hoskins quickly realised at once the great potential of the new sport and ran speedway at Maitland for two years before moving on to Newcastle in New South Wales. The first permanent dirt-track was laid in 1926 at the Sydney Show Ground. Hoskins promoted speedway during the first season of racing there in 1926–1927, but a very wet summer made the venture a flop and almost bankrupted him. Hoskins then moved on to Western Australia, where he was more successful. The first Australian Individual Speedway Championship was held at the Newcastle Showgrounds and was won by American rider Cec Brown. It is the oldest continuously running national speedway championship in the world having been run since 1926 with the exception of 1942–1945 when racing was suspended during World War II, and 1955–1961 when the championship was not held. In the 1928/29 season at the Melbourne Exhibition Speedway, Australian Colin Stewart won the prestigious Silver Gauntlet, which required the rider to win the feature race 10 times in one season. He won it 12 times in total. In 1928 Hoskins himself and A. J. Hunting, a Queenslander, went to England with their teams to establish the sport there and became its successful promoters.
The first speedway meeting in the UK to feature bikes with no brakes and broadsiding round corners on loose dirt was the third meeting held at High Beech, a village inside Epping Forest on April 9, 1928, where Colin Watson, Alf Medcalf and “Digger” Pugh demonstrated the art. Two Australians Billy Galloway and Keith McKay there to promote the sport also featured. A crowd of 5,000 watched the first ever organised speedway meeting in Britain at Celtic Park, Glasgow on April 28 1928. Celtic Park was used 12 times as a speedway venue from April to late July 1928.
The world’s first dirt-track championship was held in Wembley, London, in 1936, and was won by Van Praag, the “master of the cinders,” in the presence of 75,000 spectators.