Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen (born 8 October 1959 in Esbjerg, Denmark)[1] is a former motorcycle speedway rider in the late 1970s and 1980s. Gundersen is one of the most successful speedway riders of all time. He was the Speedway World Champion on three occasions, a two time Long Track World Champion, a five time World Pairs Champion, and a seven time World Team Cup winner with Denmark

Erik Gundersen
Erik Gundersen.jpg
Born (1959-10-08) 8 October 1959 (age 60)
Esbjerg, Denmark
Nationality Denmark
Current club information
Career statusRetired (1989)
Career history
1979-1989Cradley Heathens United Kingdom
1987-1989Vargarna Sweden
Individual honours
1984, 1985, 1988World Speedway Champion
1984, 1986Long Track World Champion
1983, 1985British League Riders Speedway Champion
1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1989Danish Speedway Champion
1983, 1985, 1986Danish Under-21 Speedway Champion
1985, 1986Denmark Longtrack Champion
1985, 1986Golden Helmet of Pardubice (CZE)
1986, 1987Intercontinental Speedway Champion
1987Nordic Speedway Champion
1981, 1982, 1986Danish Gold Bar
1981, 1982, 1983Midland Riders Speedway Champion
1982, 1986Golden Gala Italy
1986, 1987Golden Hammer
1983Blue Riband
1983Second City Trophy
Team honours
1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986,
1987, 1988
World Team Cup winner
1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989World Pairs Champion
1981, 1983British League Champion
1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986,
1987, 1988, 1989
British League KO Cup Winner
1980Midland Cup
Competition record
Representing  Denmark
Speedway World Championship
Gold medal – first place 1984
Gold medal – first place 1985
Gold medal – first place 1988
Silver medal – second place 1987
Speedway World Team Cup
Gold medal – first place 1981
Gold medal – first place 1983
Gold medal – first place 1984
Gold medal – first place 1985
Gold medal – first place 1986
Gold medal – first place 1987
Gold medal – first place 1988
Silver medal – second place 1979
Silver medal – second place 1982
Silver medal – second place 1989
Speedway World Pairs Championship
Gold medal – first place 1985
Gold medal – first place 1986
Gold medal – first place 1987
Gold medal – first place 1988
Gold medal – first place 1989
Silver medal – second place 1984
Bronze medal – third place 1982
Bronze medal – third place 1983
Intercontinental Championship
Gold medal – first place 1986
Gold medal – first place 1987
Silver medal – second place 1981
Silver medal – second place 1989
Bronze medal – third place 1988
Golden Helmet
Gold medal – first place 1985
Gold medal – first place 1986
Bronze medal – third place 1995
Long Track World Championship
Gold medal – first place 1984
Gold medal – first place 1986

Gundersen won the World Pairs Championship a record five years in succession from 1985-1989, and won the World Team Cup a record six years in succession from 1983-1988. His 17 World Championship wins sees him sit second for the most World Championships won. Fellow Dane and Gundersen's long time Danish team mate Hans Nielsen holds the record with 22 World titles, though unlike Gundersen, Nielsen never won the Long Track World Championship.


Gundersen rode for the Cradley Heathens from 1979 until 1989 when he almost died in a racing accident. He began his career at Cradley with Bruce Penhall but after Penhall's premature retirement in 1982, Gundersen became the club's number one rider – a position he held until his crash.[2]

Gundersen first appeared in the Speedway World Championship Final in 1981 at Wembley Stadium where in front of 92,500 fans he finished 4th with 11 points. On the night he set a new 4 lap record for the 345 metres (377 yards) track of 66.8 seconds, a record that will stand forever as this was the last time that speedway was raced at the famous venue. His 1982 title chase ended on a sour note when he failed to qualify for the final held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum after finishing a surprising 16th and last in the 1982 Intercontinental Final in Sweden.[3] He made amends for his 1982 failure, easily qualifying for the 1983 World Final in West Germany where he would again finish in a strong 4th place.

Erik Gundersen would go on to win the World Championship three times: in 1984 at Ullevi in Gothenburg, Sweden, 1985 at the Odsal Stadium in Bradford, England, and lastly in 1988 at a packed to capacity Vojens Speedway Center in what was the first ever World Individual Final held in his home country of Denmark. Engine failure during the heats had stopped his chances of winning a 3rd championship in a row at the 1986 World Final in Poland, while he suffered the same fate in 1989 at the Munich Olympic Stadium in West Germany. He also finished second behind Hans Nielsen in the 2-day 1987 World Final at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium.[4]

Gundersen's career was ended just a few weeks after the 1989 World Final when he was involved in an accident whilst riding for Denmark at the Odsal Stadium on the 17 September 1989, in the World Team Cup final. Starting from the outside in Gate 4, he won the start but his motorcycle locked up on the first bend and he was knocked off by the rider behind. As he lay on the race track he was hit in the head by another rider's rear wheel. After the accident he was not expected to live and he remained in a coma for three days, but he eventually regained consciousness. He was then confined to a bed in hospital for the next month with grim prospects for resuming a normal life as doctors reported he had no neurological function below his neck.[5] Gundersen defied the experts though and was determined to walk again. He had to learn to walk again and raised a large amount of money for the hospital which saved his life. He later went on to manage the Danish national speedway team.[6]

During his career, Gundersen never finished off of the podium in the final of either the Speedway World Team Cup or the Speedway World Pairs Championship, though he was unable to take the podium of the 1989 World Team Cup in which Denmark finished in third place.

World final appearancesEdit

World Championship Final results timeline
Year 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
Finishing position - - 4 - 4 1 1 10 2 1 4

Individual World ChampionshipEdit

World Pairs ChampionshipEdit

World Team CupEdit

* The 1989 Speedway World Team Cup final was where Gundersen suffered his career ending crash in turn 1 of Heat 1.

Individual Under-21 World ChampionshipEdit

World Longtrack ChampionshipEdit

One Day FinalsEdit


  1. ^ Oakes, P & Rising, P (1986). 1986 Speedway Yearbook. ISBN 0-948882-00-X
  2. ^ Foster, P. (2003) Heathens: Cradley Heath Speedway 1977-1996, The History Press Ltd. ISBN 0-7524-2738-5
  3. ^ Speedway World Championship History - 1982
  4. ^ Speedway World Championship History - 1987
  5. ^ a b Bamford, R. & Shailes, G. (2002). A History of the World Speedway Championship. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-2402-5
  6. ^ Erik Gundersen crash and rehabilitation