Hans Nielsen (speedway rider)

Hans Hollen Nielsen (born 26 December 1959) is a Danish former professional motorcycle speedway rider.[1] He competed in the Speedway World Championships from 1977 to 1999. Nielsen is notable for winning four Speedway World Championship titles. During his career, he won a total of 22 World Championships, making him arguably the most successful speedway rider of all time. In 2012, Nielsen was named an FIM Legend for his motorcycling achievements.[2] He later managed the Danish national team.

Hans Nielsen
Hans Nielsen, Piotr Świst.jpg
Hans Nielsen (left), 1994
Born (1959-12-26) 26 December 1959 (age 63)
Brovst, Denmark
NationalityDanish
Current club information
Career statusRetired (1999)
Career history
1977-1980Wolverhampton Wolves
1981-1983Birmingham Brummies
1984-1992Oxford Cheetahs
1990-1993Motor Lublin (POL)
1990-Vetlanda (SWE)
1993-1994Coventry Bees
1994-1999Polonia Piła (POL)
Individual honours
1986, 1987, 1989, 1995World Individual Champion
1986, 1987, 1990British League Riders Champion
1978, 1982, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1994Danish Champion
1976Danish Under-21 Champion
1983Intercontinental Champion
1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988,
1989, 1991, 1994
Nordic Champion
1987, 1998Golden Helmet of Pardubice (CZE)
1984Pride of the Midlands winner
1981Internationale
1982, 1984, 1988Olympique
1988Golden Hammer
1990Littlechild Trophy
1983, 1991The Laurels
1983, 1985, 1987, 1999Golden Gala - Italy
1979, 1985Midland Riders' Champion
1985Brandonapolis
1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987Star of Anglia
1983, 1984, 1988Gold Bar - Denmark
1983Golden Sovereign
Team honours
1978, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986,
1987, 1988, 1991, 1995, 1997
World Team Cup winner
1979, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990,
1991
World Pairs Champion
1985, 1986, 1989British League Champion
1985, 1986British League KO Cup Winner
1985, 1986, 1987British League Pairs Champion
Competition record
Representing  Denmark
Speedway World Championship
Gold medal – first place 1986
Gold medal – first place 1987
Gold medal – first place 1989
Gold medal – first place 1995
Silver medal – second place 1984
Silver medal – second place 1985
Silver medal – second place 1988
Silver medal – second place 1993
Silver medal – second place 1994
Silver medal – second place 1996
Bronze medal – third place 1991
Bronze medal – third place 1999
Speedway World Team Cup
Gold medal – first place 1978
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
Gold medal – first place 1991
Gold medal – first place 1995
Gold medal – first place 1997
Silver medal – second place 1979
Silver medal – second place 1982
Silver medal – second place 1989
Silver medal – second place 1993
Bronze medal – third place 1990
Bronze medal – third place 1994
Bronze medal – third place 1996
Bronze medal – third place 1998
Speedway World Pairs Championship
Gold medal – first place 1979
Gold medal – first place 1986
Gold medal – first place 1987
Gold medal – first place 1988
Gold medal – first place 1989
Gold medal – first place 1990
Gold medal – first place 1991
Silver medal – second place 1984
Bronze medal – third place 1980
Bronze medal – third place 1982
Bronze medal – third place 1983
Bronze medal – third place 1993
Intercontinental Championship
Gold medal – first place 1983
Silver medal – second place 1986
Silver medal – second place 1988
Bronze medal – third place 1981
Bronze medal – third place 1985
Bronze medal – third place 1987
Bronze medal – third place 1989
Bronze medal – third place 1990
Speedway Champions Cup
Gold medal – first place 1990
Bronze medal – third place 1991
Golden Helmet
Gold medal – first place 1987
Gold medal – first place 1998
Bronze medal – third place 1995

CareerEdit

Nielsen was born in Arentsminde near Brovst, Denmark. He was one of, if not the most successful riders the sport has ever seen. Altogether he participated in winning 22 World Championships for Denmark (out of the 46 won by Danish riders/teams in all competitions to the end of 2014). This included the individual World Championship in 1986, 1987 (the only time the final was held over two days), 1989 and the first ever championship ran in the Grand Prix format in 1995. Nielsen and Sweden's Tony Rickardsson are the only 2 riders to have won world titles in both the old single meeting format and the Speedway Grand Prix series.

He was known as "The Main Dane" to fans, taking over the title from triple World Champion Ole Olsen, but was referred to as "The Professor" by his fellow riders due to his immaculate style and ability to ride speedway. Nielsen won the Danish Championship in 1978, 1982, 1987, 1990, 1993 and 1994. He was also the Nordic Champion in 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1994 as well as winning the Intercontinental Final in 1983.

Nielsen rode in the British League for the Oxford Cheetahs from 1984 to 1992. In 1986 he recorded a league average of 11.57, his average in away league matches that season was a perfect 12.00.[3] With the Cheetahs, Nielsen won the British League Riders' Championship in 1986, 1987 and 1990, the British League Pairs Championship with Simon Wigg in 1985 and 1986 and in 1987 with Andy Grahame, the British League in 1985, 1986 and 1989, as well as winning the British League Knockout Cup in 1985 and 1986. He was also the 1984 "Pride of the Midlands" winner at the Norfolk Arena in King's Lynn.

Hans Nielsen was successful almost everywhere he rode. As well as his World Championship winning feats in Europe, he would win the Speedway World Team Cup as part of the Danish team in the USA in 1985 and 1988, as well as winning major meetings in Australia, including the 1987 West End Speedway International at the Wayville Showground in Adelaide.

Hans Nielsen rode in a record 18 straight Speedway World Team Cup Finals for Denmark between 1978 and 1995, winning 10 which included a record six in a row from 1983 until 1988 and finishing on the podium a record 14 times in a row between 1978 and 1991. Denmark were the favourites to win again in 1989 at the Odsal Stadium in Bradford, but would eventually finish 3rd after the opening heat crash which ended the career and nearly took the life of Neilsen's friend, teammate and closest rival, triple World Champion Erik Gundersen.

Neilsen also represented Denmark in the World Pairs Championship on 14 occasions from 1979 until 1993, following which the Pairs Championship was merged with the World Team Cup. He won the Pairs title in 1979 with Ole Olsen, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989 with Erik Gundersen, 1990 with Jan O. Pedersen and 1991 with Pedersen and Tommy Knudsen.

By yearEdit

1977
Nielsen aged just 17, signed for Wolverhampton Wolves for the 1977 British League season.

1978
Nielsen won his first Danish Championship and rode in the 1978 European Under-21 Final at the Pista Speedway in Lonigo, Italy where he finished 5th with 11 points. The European U/21 Championship was later renamed the World U/21 Championship in 1988.

1979
Nielsen won the World Pairs with Ole Olsen and finished runner-up to Jan Andersson in the Scandinavian final.[4] In his third season with Wolverhampton he finished 6th in the 1979 British League season averages.

1980
Nielsen reached his first World individual final at the 1980 Individual Speedway World Championship, finishing 11th in Gothenburg. He had won the Scandinavian final on his way to the final.[5] During the 1980 British League season he topped the averages with Peter Collins on 10.70. After the season had ended he put in a transfer request but Wolverhampton then withdrew from the British League.[6]

1981
He appeared in his second World final at the 1981 Individual Speedway World Championship, where he improved two places on the previous year, finishing in 9th place at Wembley Stadium.[5] He was allocated to Birmingham Brummies for the 1981 British League season.[6]

1982
A 7th-place finish in his third world final constituted another two place improvement. He also won his second Danish Championship.[5]

1983
Nielsen finished 7th in his fourth world individual final, this was a disappointment for Nielsen who expected to go better. During the 1983 World Pairs Final at the Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden, Nielsen was involved in one of the more bizarre tape exclusions ever seen in speedway. While lining up for the start of Heat 10 against eventual champions England, represented by 1976 World Champion Peter Collins and the highly rated Kenny Carter, Nielsen was in gate 2 and initially attempted to line up across on Carter on his inside before being forced by the official to move as he was deemed to be across the line and out of his gate. After moving he then almost broke the tapes once before coming forward again, this time actually falling over his handlebars and onto the track as he tried to stop his bike which had actually rolled over the tapes (without breaking them), leaving Australian referee Sam Bass no option but to exclude him from the race. During the 1983 British League season Nielsen topped the league averages for Birmingham Brummies with a 10.82 average.[7]

1984
A winner of the Scandinavian final on the way to his fifth world final at the 1984 Individual Speedway World Championship, where he finished runner-up to his great rival Erik Gundersen. Nielsen defeated American Lance King in the silver medal run-off. Earlier in the year Nielsen was signed by Oxford Cheetahs on their return to the British League for a record £30,000, Oxford also signed Simon Wigg for £25,000, Marvyn Cox for £15,000, Melvyn Taylor for £12,000 and Jens Rasmussen. Nielsen topped the league averages with 10.76.[8]

1985
Nielsen won the Danish final with a perfect 15 point maximum but finished runner-up once again to the defending champion Erik Gundersen in the 1985 Individual Speedway World Championship.[9] He helped the Oxford Cheetahs team win the league and cup double during a 1985 British League season. Nielsen topped the league averages with an incredible 11.35.[10]

1986
After winning both the Danish and Nordic qualifying finals, Nielsen finally won his first world title after finishing in second place during the two previous Championships. In the 1987 Individual Speedway World Championship he lost his first ride to Erik Gundersen but then won his next four rides to be crowned the champion. Fellow Dane Jan O. Pedersen took silver and England's Kelvin Tatum took the bronze while Gundersen faded into tenth place.[11] Despite his rivalry with Gundersen he teamed up with him in the World Pairs winning the gold medal. He helped the Oxford Cheetahs team win the league and cup double for the second consecutive season during a 1986 British League season. Nielsen topped the league averages with a record 11.57.[12]

1987
Nielsen won his second individual world crown by winning the 1987 Individual Speedway World Championship. In a two-day final in Amsterdam Nielsen trailed after day one by 1 point to Erik Gundersen and the American Sam Ermolenko. However, in trademark style Nielsen produced a 15-point maximum on day two to wrap up the World Title, with Gundersen claiming silver and Ermolenko bronze.[13][14] He also won a third World Pairs[15] and third Danish title and the prestigious Golden Helmet of Pardubice in Czech Republic (one of the world's oldest speedway races).[16] In the 1987 British League season Nielsen finished top of the league averages (11.38) for a remarkable fifth season running.[17]

1988
Nielsen was denied a third world title in his home country at Vojens in the 1988 Individual Speedway World Championship. The Gundersen-Nielsen rivalry continued with both finishing on 13 points to tie for the lead of the Championship. However it was Gundersen that won the toss to choose his starting gate for the run-off. He chose the outside and on a wet track he won his third title by defeating Nielsen in the run-off.[18] Nielsen won a fourth World Pairs and extended his average topping record, a sixth consecutive season during the 1988 British League season.

1989
A third World title at the Olympic Stadium in Munich was well deserved after a 15-point maximum.[19] Nielsen joined fellow Danes Ole Olsen and Erik Gundersen as a three time Speedway World Champion.[20] Nielsen also helped Oxford Cheetahs to another title and topped the averages for the seventh season running, during the 1989 British League season. In a memorable season he also won a fourth consecutive World Pairs (fifth in total).

1990
Nielsen finished fourth at the 1990 Individual Speedway World Championship and was champion of Denmark for the fourth time. Nielsen topped the league averages for the eighth season running and last time during the 1990 British League season. His consistency that led to being the top rider for eight seasons running was an astonishing and unique achievement. He won a fifth consecutive World Pairs (sixth in total).

1991
He won the bronze medal run-off beating Tommy Knudsen at the 1991 Individual Speedway World Championship in Gothenburg. There was consolation in winning a sixth consecutive World Pairs (seventh in total and a record for any rider).[21][22]

1992
Nielsen failed to qualify for the world final for the first time since 1979 after finishing 12th in the Nordic Final.[23]

1993
Neilsen had another excellent performance in the 1993 Individual Speedway World Championship but was unable to win the fourth title he was seeking, he had to settle for the runner-up position behind Sam Ermolenko.[24] He was champion of Denmark for the fifth time. He was forced to leave his beloved Oxford Cheetahs following their decision not to compete in the top division, he joined the Coventry Bees.[25]

1994
Nielsen just failed to win his fourth World title in the 1984 Individual Speedway World Championship after losing a run-off to Swede Tony Rickardsson in the last ever one-off race final. It was also the sixth and last time he was champion of Denmark and his last season in the British leagues.[25]

1995
In the first Grand Prix six race series (the new format for the World Championship) Nielsen claimed his fourth world title. He won with a commanding 103 points, which was 15 points clear of his nearest rival Rickardsson. It would be his last individual World title.[26]

1996
Nielsen was set to win his fifth world crown with a nine-point lead going into the last of the six events at Vojens in the World Championship Grand Prix series. However Billy Hamill won the event gaining 25 points and Nielsen only managed 14 points leaving the Dane two points behind the American in the final standings.[27]

1997
During the 1997 Speedway Grand Prix Nielsen won the 1997 Speedway Grand Prix of Germany but finished 7th in the World title standings behind Greg Hancock.[28]

1998
During the 1998 Speedway Grand Prix Nielsen won the 1998 Speedway Grand Prix of Denmark but finished fourth in the World title standings behind Tony Rickardsson.[29] He won his second Golden Helmet of Pardubice in the Czech Republic.[16]

1999
In his last World Championship during the 1999 Speedway Grand Prix Nielsen won the 1999 Speedway Grand Prix of Poland II and won the bronze medal in the World title standings behind Rickardsson.

RetirementEdit

Hans Nielsen retired at the end of 1999 having finished third in the 1999 Speedway Grand Prix series, proving he could still win by winning the Grand Prix of Poland II in Bydgoszcz. Many judges, from other riders, the media and the fans, feel he was the greatest rider of all time.

After retiring, he returned to Denmark, where he continued playing golf in his spare time. He became the Danish national team manager in June 2016, a post which he held until February 2023.[30]

World final appearancesEdit

Individual World Championship results timelineEdit

World Final/Speedway Grand Prix results timeline
Year 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988
Finishing position - - 11 9 7 7 2 2 1 1 2
Year 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Finishing position 1 4 3 - 2 2 1 2 7 4 3

Individual World ChampionshipEdit

World Pairs ChampionshipEdit

World Team CupEdit

Individual Under-21 World ChampionshipEdit

Speedway Grand Prix resultsEdit

Year Position Points Best Finish Notes
1995 1st 103 Winner Won Danish Grand Prix
1996 2nd 111 Winner Won Italian and German Grand Prix
1997 7th 75 Winner Won German Grand Prix
1998 4th 76 Winner Won Danish Grand Prix
1999 3rd 76 Winner Won Polish II Grand Prix

World Longtrack ChampionshipEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Montague, Trevor (2004). The A-Z of Sport. Little, Brown. p. 526. ISBN 0-316-72645-1.
  2. ^ "FIM Legends" (PDF). fim-live.com. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
  3. ^ "Nielsen regret at Oxford". Oxford Mail. 2008-04-25. Retrieved 2009-07-10.
  4. ^ "Speedway .org". 1979 World Championships. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "WORLD FINALS 1936-1994" (PDF). Speedway Researcher. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  6. ^ a b Oakes, Peter (1981). 1981 Speedway Yearbook. Studio Publications (Ipswich) Ltd. pp. 20–21. ISBN 0-86215-017-5.
  7. ^ "1983 league tables". Speedway GB.
  8. ^ Bamford/Shailes, Robert/Glynn (2007). The Story of Oxford Speedway. Tempus Publishing Ltd. pp. 128–135. ISBN 978-0-7524-4161-0.
  9. ^ "Speedway riders, history and results". wwosbackup. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  10. ^ "HISTORY ARCHIVE". British Speedway. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  11. ^ "Great Dane". Sunday Mirror. 31 August 1986. Retrieved 10 July 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  12. ^ "1986 league tables". Speedway GB. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  13. ^ "Erik truce". Sandwell Evening Mail. 7 September 1987. Retrieved 10 July 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  14. ^ "Hans roars to world triumph". Sandwell Evening Mail. 7 September 1987. Retrieved 10 July 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  15. ^ "Danes defeat spirited challenge". Sandwell Evening Mail. 29 June 1987. Retrieved 11 July 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  16. ^ a b "Golden Helmet of Pardubice". Edinburgh Speedway. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  17. ^ "1987 league tables". Speedway GB.
  18. ^ "Great Dane world champ". Sandwell Evening Mail. 5 September 1988. Retrieved 10 July 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  19. ^ "Nielsen topples King Eric". Sandwell Evening Mail. 4 September 1989. Retrieved 10 July 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  20. ^ "WORLD FINALS 1936-1994" (PDF). Speedway Researcher. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  21. ^ "Speedway riders, history and results". wwosbackup. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
  22. ^ "'For the Record' (1991)". The Times. 22 July 1991. Retrieved 11 July 2021 – via Gale Primary Sources.
  23. ^ "HISTORY SPEEDWAY and LONGTRACK 1992". Speedway.org. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  24. ^ "'Ermolenko takes title'". The Times. 30 August 1993. Retrieved 10 April 2021 – via Gale Primary Sources.
  25. ^ a b "Hans Nielsen record". wwosbackup. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  26. ^ "World champ Wednesday Hans Nielsen". Speedway GP. Retrieved 10 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. ^ "Sportsdesk". Reading Evening Post. 23 September 1996. Retrieved 11 July 2021 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  28. ^ "'For the Record' (1997)". The Times. 22 September 1997. Retrieved 11 July 2021 – via Gale Primary Sources.
  29. ^ "Hoare, T. (1998) 'Hamill crashes out in Poland',". The Times. 21 September 1998. Retrieved 11 July 2021 – via Gale Primary Sources.
  30. ^ "End of an Era". Speedway Star page 17. 19 November 2022.
  • Bamford, R. & Shailes, G. (2002). A History of the World Speedway Championship. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-2402-5