Saturday, June 15, 2024
CheetahsOxford Speedway

GORDON KENNETT 1953-2023

OXFORD SPEEDWAY legend Gordon Kennett has died at the age of 70.

Kennett, who learnt his trade with second division Eastbourne, moved up full-time in 1973 to ride for the Oxford Rebels.

Along with Norwegian superstar Dag Lovaas, he led Oxford to their most successful year in a decade in 1975. Rebels finished seventh in a very competitive British League, and the club also won the Midland Cup.

After the near-closure of Oxford Stadium, the Rebels’ team moved en bloc to White City in London in 1976, while Oxford Cheetahs were reborn in the second tier, the National League.

Kennett reached new heights with the capital club, leading White City to the British League title in 1977, while the highlight of his individual career came a year later under Wembley’s Twin Towers.

Screamed on by 90,000 passionate British fans, Kennett finished second in the 1978 World Final on 13 points, a solitary point behind Great Dane Ole Olsen, who became World Champion for the third time.

He also won the World Pairs for England in 1978, alongside Malcolm Simmons.

More recently, before their full-time return to Oxford Stadium in 2022, Kennett was manager for nomadic Oxford Cheetahs on the Isle Of Wight in both 2019 and 2021. In 2021, Cheetahs won the three-legged Cliff Peasley Memorial Trophy – with all three legs held at the Smallbrook Stadium in Ryde – by a single point on aggregate.

Ahead of the 2019 challenge match on the Isle Of Wight, Gordon Kennett said: “I am very honoured to be asked to team manage my old club Oxford for the special one-off meeting on the Isle of Wight.

“I’ve had so many great memories with Oxford and this will be another I am sure. I would like to sincerely thank everyone involved for giving me this opportunity.”

Following victory at the final leg of the Cliff Peasley Memorial Trophy in 2021, Kennett said: “I’m very pleased that we’ve flown the Oxford flag at these meetings, which have provided some great racing. It was nice to see so many Oxford fans over here for this concluding leg. Hopefully next season, those supporters will see speedway at their own track.”

Kennett was subsequently amongst those former riders present at the re-opening meeting at Cowley in April 2022, and also visited Oxford Stadium several more times, including with old chum Dag Lovaas, when the Norwegian made a trip over to England.

Gordon was also one of four brothers, and both Dave and Brian (known universally as Barney) were also speedway riders.

He is survived by his wife Sue, his three children and his grandchildren. Oxford Speedway sends its condolences to both his family and friends.

PHOTO: Gordon as team manager of the Oxford Cheetahs on the Isle Of Wight in 2021 (PIC: IAN GROVES)