It’s fair to say Manchester speedway stars the Belle Vue Aces leave most other teams for dust when it comes to winning trophies.
Since they started racing in 1928, the Gorton-based outfit have ridden off with the British League five times and the British League Knockout Cup three times.
They’ve also won the National League on five occasions and have lifted the National Trophy nine times from 1933 to 1958.
Just for good measure they won the National League Cup six times too from 1934 to 1946.
On the international stage, Belle Vue has proudly produced five World Champions, including the incomparable Ivan Mauger, and two Under-21 World Champions.
It’s an impressive record which all began with the first races at Belle Vue greyhound stadium in Kirkmanshulme Lane in 1928.
Speedway stayed there for a year before moving to a purpose-built stadium on nearby Hyde Road in 1929. The new arena could house 40,000 spectators around a track of 418 yards.
It is believed that Britain’s first open grass-track event took place at Hyde Road on February 25th 1928.
The opening speedway meeting at Hyde Road, when there was no grass, was staged on March 23rd 1929. Rider Arthur Franklyn won the Golden Helmet.
With such a large stadium to fill, Belle Vue quickly decided that the English Dirt Track League was just not popular enough for them – so they resigned from league racing in 1929.
By 1930, they were leading members of the Northern League and the next year their reserves took over Harringay’s fixtures in the Southern League.
In 1934 Belle Vue had one team in the National League and a second team, known as the Goats, in the reserve league.
By 1935, speedway was well established at Hyde Road and the riders were becoming more well-known. Our team photo from that time shows, from left, Bill Kitchen, Max Grosskreutz, Oliver Langton, Stanley Dobson, Tommy Price, Joe Abbott, Bob Harrison and Frank Varey.
Seated in front is skipper Eric Langton. He had a lot to celebrate. Belle Vue were National Trophy Winners for five years running from 1933 to 1937.
The Aces got even stronger when Liverpool transferred their provincial league operation to Belle Vue in 1937.
Belle Vue had the distinction of being the only track to continue racing in the Second World War. It staged 176 meetings attended by 2,816,000 spectators.
After the war, the number of speedway tracks declined. By 1957 the Aces were part of an 11-team National League.
Belle Vue was hit by fire in October 1964 – and the speedway track narrowly escaped damage. The blaze broke out in the Cumberland and Windermere Suites close to the stadium.
More than 3,000 people playing bingo in the nearby Kings Hall were led to safety. Two of the 75 firemen at the scene were injured.
The Aces become founder members of the British League in 1965. Dent Oliver took over as speedway manager in 1967 and stayed in post until 1973.
Former rider Frank Varey became speedway manager in 1974 then handed over the reins to Jack Fearnley in the same year.
Racing was keen and competitive – and tempers sometimes flared on the track. M.E.N. photographers recorded a major bust-up in July 1971 when Leicester were the visitors.
Leicester skipper Ray Wilson, wearing Number One, was forced to hold back team-mate Alan Cowland while officials did their best to restrain Belle Vue rider Alan Wilkinson.
Many of Belle Vue’s greatest riders took a bow when the Aces celebrated their Golden Jubilee in 1978. They were towed round the track in a special float to cheers from the crowd.
The team had a very different look in March 1989, more than 60 years after the Aces’ historic first meeting. Lining up in our photo are, back from left, team manager John Perrin, Joe Screen, Peter Rayn, Gordon Whitaker, Paul Smith and promoter Peter Collins.
In the front row are Carl Stonehewer, Captain Chris Morton and Kelly Moran.
The Hyde Road track took on a new dimension in 1982 when former World Stock-Car Champion Stuart Bamforth became the team’s promoter. He swiftly introduced stock car racing which remained at the track until its closure in 1987.
The last meeting took place at Hyde Road on November 1st 1987. Bamforth had sold it for redevelopment.
The Aces moved back to where they started – the old greyhound racing track on Kirkmanshulme Road – and rode there until the end of the 2015 season.
Their home now is the purpose-built National Stadium in Gorton.
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