We write the year 1924, last weekend in July and Danish Glostrup speedway`s second season.
Glostrup speedway is located at the town of the same name just outside the Danish capital. This long weekend the stage is set for a 2 day international championship race, run both Sunday and the following Tuesday. The best motorbike riders from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany are in place to compete for honors, trophies and cash prizes.
First, lets look back at NMK's (Norwegian Motorcycle Club) international adventures before the Glostrup race which eventually will be discussed.
Norwegian riders had participated in various Swedish races until 1923, so they had been overseas. Still it was not until after NMK supported one team with our best riders to start in the international six-day races ISDT same year, a race organized by SMCK in partnership with the NMK and run at Swedish and Norwegian roads that Norwegians got blood on their teeth. Having done a formidable job in ISDT in 1923, later in the year Anders W. Nielsen and Macke Nicolaysen did start at the newly opened Glostrup speedwayss first international motorcycle competition.
Macke had previously been down at Fano beach and checked out the spectacular speed races that was held there in the early twenties. In this regard, he made many contacts with Danish motorcycle riders and he was therefore a natural competitor for NMK to send to Glostrup in 23. This race was probably the first speed race where Norwegians participated that were not held on ice, a horse track or an ordinary highway. It was hence an accomplishment when Macke managed to acquire a first place in one of the races at Glostrup speedway in 1923. Early in the season 1924 it was again time for ISDT, this time in Belgium. NMK was not in doubt after their success in the ISDT of 1923, and raised the capital required to send their best men off to Belgium. Their efforts in Belgium is more than enough for a story in itself (hopefully coming later), and we can just assume the Norwegian four man squad had quite a bit of confidence in themselves when leaving Norway for Glostrup in 1924.
The Norwegian team for 1924 consisted of; Macke Nicolaysen, Alf Granheim, Jac. (Jacob) Hansen and Herman Oppen, all keen to represent the Norwegian flag on the Danish Glostrup speedway International 2 day race. The four and several of their NMK friends (Oluf Graff, Nic. Lunde, Ernst Vaumund etc.) accommodated at hotel Dagmar after their arrival to Glostrup. Back in 24 a journey from the Norwegian capital along Swedish roads before one could cross from Øresund to Danish Helsingor by boat was quite an adventure.
It is well known, Macke was already described as "all Danish motorcycle riders good friend" in the press, in addition he was frequently titled as Norway's best motorcycle rider at the time (a title he shared with Ernst Vaumund).
So what bikes did our Norwegian friends bring along?
Macke went to Glostrup in 24 with his well tuned Harley 61" (1000cc), in Norway this was one very sharp motor. Alf Granheim came with the bike which he had had done well during the winter season from 1923 to 1924 at Norwegian races, in particular the ice races such as the ones held at Dæhlen Enga. This bike was a ACE Sports Solo, for its time the ultimate boy scout racer. Herman Oppen was also an aspiring young man who had run a number of NMK trial runs, as well as a number of races held at horse race tracks. When at home he rode either a lighter Husquarna or his favorite bike, a Henderson De-luxe, the later was what he brought to Glostrup. The last team mate was young novice Jac. Hansen (yes, indeed he would later become Norwegian Indian importer). Jac Hansen had done very well the last season in Norway, racing his slightly modified Harley IOE 61" (1000cc), the very same bike as he brought along to Glostrup.
Who were the Norwegians going to compete during the frantic days down there?
Denmark fielded their best riders, Svend Friis-Hansen and Holger Jacobsen with their Harley `s and Chr Walter and Niels Sørensen riding their " big valve " Indian racers, among the Danes known as" Daytona racers".
From Sweden came "Master" Erik Westerberg with his new "two-cam" Tuxham Harley racer. Erik is an old acquaintance for our group off Norwegians after he had scourged them on several occasions, in particular his numerous wins in the "corkscrew" hill climb did hurt, after all it was held in the Norwegian capitol. "Master Erik" did already hold the official speed record at Glostrup, a record set back in 1923 when he pushed his bike to 134 kmh. Along with Erik came Erik J. Berglund with its small but still dangerous AJS machine.
Last, but not least came the Germans Hermann Rassner with a Zenith, Rudolf Reich with a motorcycle of a completely new brand, namely a BMW and Albert Schuster with his Wanderer racer. The Wanderer was a small but very quick OHV 45" (750cc) v-twin with 4 valves per cylinder. In its time a very advanced design that did very well in races held in southern Europe at this time.
Image show: the international motorbike race's favorites, from left to right.; Macke Nicolaysen Norway, Alf Granheim Norway, Sorensen from Denmark, unknown, unknown, "Master Erik» Sweden, Herman Oppen Norway, Albert Schuster Germany andanother unknown . This picture show the width of young Granheims ACE handlebars, WIDE!
Glostrup Motor Court was private and owned by a consortium "A/S Copenhagen speedwaytrack" which after some problems raising the required capital completed the track during 1922. Some local races were run in the fall of the first year, but officially it was ready for use in the 1923 season. The track was designed with inspiration from the American "board-track ovals" and the English Brooklands track. These were tracks that were well known to the Scandinavian motorcycle riders through articles in motor media as well as advertising from importers etc. The US boardtrack ovals had up to 90 degrees steep turns and the riders pushed their bikes to outrageous speeds in front of their audience. No wonder they got nicknamed " wall of death riders" when fighting for large cash prizes. In the start of the board track race era it was good advertising for motorcycle manufacturers to win those races.
Glostrup speedway`s length was 1666 meters, 40 meters wide and the track surface concisted off hard Danish loam that was finally covered with a thin layer of tar. This surface was an precursor to the asphalt. The curves on the Glostrup track was banked as on the US tracks, those bankings was a vital key to keep the motorcycles on track at high speeds trough the curves. But dimensions were not even close to the same as "over there" as Glostrup`s curves were only 8 feet tallAs the US "board-track`s" Glostrup offered the audience to bet on the racers, as well as they were licensed to serve alcohol in their resturants.
A large part of the audience eagerly invested their money on their favorite riders, and spent their money looser after which the drinks were consumed. It was as at today's horse races, calculated odds on the individual racers that could be used by those who invested their money. Along the tracks straight were two, by the standards of the time, vast tribunes, opposite the tribunes a tower for the race speaker and this was where the judges was located. Behind the grandstand facility, there was a larger garage where drivers and their assistants could take care of the necessary repairs and adjustments on their bikes.
Image show: view of the Glostrup speedway race track as seen from the audience. Referee tower has a good view of the pitch and left the scoreboard prominently placed in view for those in the audience who carry a pair of binoculars.
Sunday morning dawned with good weather and our four Norwegian heroes leave their hotel Dagmar early in the morning to start the day with training laps, this to learn the speedway track, do the required fuel experiments and fine tuning of their engines. Herman Oppen have convinced the Norwegian Henderson importer, Johan Hellum to come along to Glostrup to ensure his De-Luxe will be in the best trim at any time during the races. While the training laps take place a growing number of people gather and eventually the audience counts the stunning total of 12000 people. One can only imagine the impression roaring racing machines have had on an ecstatic crowd, as they roared by at speeds of up to 130kmh, a monstrous speed considering that normal traffic held an average speed of around 30-40kmh in those days.
Image show: Johan Hellum, the Norwegian Henderson importer and dealer adjust Herman Oppens Henderson De-Luxe rear brake. Alf Granheim have found a place in the shade, watching Hellum`s work on Oppens bike.
When the races started, the first race was a 5 km `s race for motorcycles in what was named the tourist class. Those were standard bikes with tuned engines. They started from a standing start, with their engines running in idle. Since none of our Norwegians had racing motorcycles all four were allowed to start in this race. When the race had taken place spectators had witnessed a pure Norwegian victory, with Macke at first place, Jac. second (despite the fact that his Harley at times coughed and spit) and Alf on his ACE came in at third place.What a start to the race weekend for the Norwegian four man team.
To see Alf coming in as third was due solely his skills as a motorcycle driver. His ACE had severe problems on the speedway track, wobling and throwing the rear wheel sideways.
Second race, another 5 km `s race, now for the smaller motorbikes up to 350 ccm, as in previous heat they start with their engines running from a standing position. This time results were; 1 `st place to Swede Berglund with its AJS, second came a Dane, namely E. Jensen riding another AJS, and at third place came another Dane, G. Jacobsen who rode a small Chater Lea.
The third race was the audience`s favorite.
A 5km `s match between the four participating countries, where each country had their best man to start. In this heat the engines were started by pushing the bike after start signal was given, each rider was allowed one person to help in the push start.
Norway was represented by Macke Nicolaysen, Sweden with Erik Westerberg, Germany with Schuster and Denmark with Chr Walter. In this race the machines were of very different characters, from pure racers to Macke`s well tuned tourist machine as well as a variety of engine displacements.
Due to those variations the start was taken with a pre calculated handicap. First out was Schuster on his Wanderer, 5 seconds ahead off Macke on his Harley, another 13 seconds ahead of Westerberg and Walters who started at the same time, respectively on a Tuxham Harley and Daytona Indian. When the race was completed Schuster had come first, Walter second, Westerberg third and finally Macke as fourth.
There was some murmuring in the wake of this race as many believed Schuster had one for him favorable handicap, his machine was, after all, a real racer too. His handicap was hence corrected in later races. I bet some guys lost a few bucks in their bets!
It is worth to mention that in this race Chr Walter pushed his Indian to achieve the same speed as Master Erik did in 1923, 134kmh.
The fourth race was another 5 km standing start, now for the midsize engined motorcycles with a capasity of 350-750 cc. As in the second heat this race was not relevant for our four Norwegians bikes. Danish Georg Hansen on his Triumph took first, German Schuster with his Wanderer second and third came another Dane, Ludvig Hansen on a Sunbeam. Thus, one German machine came first followed by two English made bikes.
The fifth race was another favorite of the audience, 5 km with "flying" start for the events largest motorbikes, those sporting engines with larger capacity than 750 cc. In this race all riders leave the start line at once, during the first round all riders try to obtain ideal starting positions. Upon reaching the start line none are to cross this until the checkered flag is waved. A start like this demanded the riders to be tactical, the best position but not crossing the line until signal is given, ride fast but not too fast.
It should be off no surprise, this race gave full credit to the real racers, Swede master Erik scored a win on his Tuxham Harley racer, closely followed by the Danish Indian Daytona riders Sorensen and Walter.
The sixth race was again what is named a "handicap race", 5 km long where everyone could participate. The participating riders would get a start time based on a pre calculated time delay, thus named a handicap. Due to a large amount of bikes to start, riders were divided in four groups to run in four individual heats, where the winners of each heat competed against each other in a final heat.
Again, Norway did well in the first heat were Macke took a first place. In the third heat young Jac. Hansen got a third. When the final heats are run theare unfortunately no Norwegian among the best riders, first place goes to Danish Georg Hansen on a Triumph, second is Reiner Reinberg on a Henderson and finally German Schuster on his Wanderer.
To round up the successful race day, a combined race between sports automobiles and motorcyles with flexible sidecars was held. Those flexible sidecars was supplied by American FLXI. Their chassis was connected to motorcycle such that the bike could lean over as a solo bike, the sidecar wheel did lean as the motorbike did in the turns. The FLXI patented sidecar chassis was very popular in motorsycle racing during the twenties, especially in the American dirt track races, but also in the Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Danes Sven Friis-Hansen and Knud Rasmussen both riding Harleys connected to FLXI`s had no problem in beating the sports cars.
When Sunday came to an end, the total amount traded in with the betting cashier was an incredible amount of 27000 Danish kroners.
This is an awful lot of money when a new Henderson would take approx 1500 kroners from your wallet.
How much money that was spent on food and beverage is not known, neither do we know how our Norwegian troop spent their Sunday afternoon and Monday in Copenhagen, we can only imagine.
A cut out from the Danish magazine Motor Speed issue 9, 1924:
It is now Tuesday, our lads have got a good rest since Sunday`s races?
The sun is shining and the weather could be described as "fantastic", a situation that was by no means obliged to when there was races at the Glostrup Speedway according to the local newspapers.
Tuesday audience passes 6000 people, not bad when we take into consideration most people work on an "any Tuesday".
Image show: Glostrups tribune area was one of the best in Europe at the time. The main tribune had VIP towers, there were restaurants and a bank for those who spent money with the bookmakers.
Tuesday, first race was a 5 km`s race for the tourist bikes, standing start and pre calculated handicaps. Norway had a fresh start and managed to score all the three medals;First is Herman Oppen on his Henderson, second is Jac. Hansen on his Harley and finally comes Macke on third, he too rides his Harley, Norway outclassed the entire race.
Image show: Norway make a grand slam in the first race on Tuesday. From left is Macke Nicolaysen, Herman Oppen and Jac. Hansen.The observant reader should by now be aware of Mackes wool Harley jersey with the shield and bar logo on his left chest. This cool piece of accessory from the factory was available as early as in the 1914 accessory catalog (ref. HD book of fashions by Rin Tanaka). Team mate Jac. wear what was described as a motorcycle racing jersey in the sports press.
Second race of the day, another 5 km`s race named "invitation handicap" where the best men from each bike class in Sunday`s races will race with three so called "scratch men". The scratch men was Swede Westergaard and Danes Chr. Walters og Sørensen. Despite all three of them rode real race bikes, they didnt win. This was off course partially as they fought some really brave men, but their handicap might have played a role too.
Third race of Tuesday, the highlight of the day!
A national battle where the participants are Schuster, Walters, Westergaard og Macke.
Image show: Getting ready to start the national battle, from left is Schuster, Chr. Walters, Macke Nicolaysen and finally "Master Erik" Westerberg. This race is started with engines off, each rider have one guy to help push start the bike. Macke gets help from Alf Granheim in pushing the Harley to life.
This third race will take place just as the same did on Sunday, except from Schuster`s handicap. This is adjusted down to 10 seconds in advance of Chr. Walters & Erik Westergaard. Even if Schusters handicap is made less favourable the result of the race gets the same as Sunday, Scuster wins. Obviously the small Wanderer is pretty fast and hard to beat.
Another highlight is when Master Erik manage to get his Tuxham Harley to 134kmh in front of an ecstatic audience. When the race was finnished, the race offisers presents a laurel wreath to Schuster, loads of flowers to all four as well as they got their silver goblets and special sponsored prizes. An orchestra hired for the event played each participating country`s national hymn to applaud from the racers and their team mates. To honor the audience all bikes where again started and the drivers made an extra round around the track, receiving a wealth of applause in return.
Note; when looking carefully at the pictures from third race, it shows Macke did not race his own bike. No, Macke enters the race using a Harley that belonged to his NMK friend Ernst Vaumund who at this time work with the Sørensen & Balchen who is the Norwegian Harley importer. At least this tells us Ernst Vaumund is one of the NMK guys in the audience, we might also conclude with that his bike is tuned harder, thus giving more speed in the important race. This should be off no surprise, after all Ernst Vaumund worked with one hand in the honey pot, a granted access to the best parts availiable from the Milwaukee factory.
Image show: Third round is completed, the battle between nations, national hymns gets played and flowers shared to the heroes of the day.
From left, Norways best man Macke Nicolaysen seated on Ernst Vaumund`s Harley, Master Erik Westerberg from Sweden on his Tuxham Harley racer, Dane Chr. Walters on his Indian Daytona racer and finally Schuster on his Wanderer racer.
Note, Oppen is standing next to Macke in th epicture, a young Jac. Hansen is looking interested at the champs from the far left side in the picture.
Fourth race, another 5km`s race where the participants start with their engines turned off. This race had to be divided into two heats, and a final heat. None of the Norwegians made their way to the podium in this race.
Fifth race, still another 5km`s allowed for all bike classes, run in four heats and a final heat. All participants where started after pre calculated handicap.
It is worth to mention Herman Oppen and Jac. Hansen both made each a second place in the preliminary heats, unfortunately their times didnt allow for any participation in the final heat.
Tuesdays sixth and last race was a 25kms race for the small and medium sized bikes. Obviously none of the Norwegians could enter this race with their US made bikes.
Even if Tuesdays audience was far less than Sunday an amazing total of 22810 Danish kroners were spent in betting.
How will our exhausted Norwegian friends return back home to ol Norway & Kristiania?, by now totally worn out after their impressions at the track?
There is only one alternative, wrench their bikes ready, get into the saddle and ride 750kms on rough gravel roads trough Sweeden and Eastern Norway.
There should be no doubt by now in how tough those lads were.
It is documented Ernst Vaumund went down to Glostrup in 1925 with a Harley racer he had purchased by then, winning several races in the 1000cc class.
We can be sure his visit in 1924 had given him the taste to win at Glostrup.
Unfortunately, Glostrup Speedway would soon suffer from severe economical problems and faced bankruptcy in 1926, all tribunes, restaurants, the lot was torn down and all woodwork was sold off to ensure some cash to the investors. In 1928 one race was performed, thereafter the last breath was taken for this great motor sport arena, the track was plowed and the fields were again used in agriculture.
Sources of information for this article;
Norways national library, Aftenpostens archives, Ekstra bladets archives, The Blue book of Danish motorsports, Danish Motor=speed issue 1924, Danish Motor issue 1924, www.speedwaylife.com, private albums from Herman Oppen, Macke Nicolaysen, Oluf Graff og Nic. Lunde. Great help received from Buskerud fylkesfoto archive, Glostrup Lokalhistorical museum v. Camilla Boysen, the brilliant Danish motorhistorian Jørgen Lind for scan from Motor=Speed and not to forget Bue David Andersen for scan from NMB as well as info regarding registration plates on bikes and for sharing his knowledge regarding NMK.
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