On Sunday 23 August 2020, the Danish speedway lost a great personality and a unique and warm person who has characterized the sport for many years.
It feels unbearable that we no longer have to greet Jan Jakobsen in the equestrian farm when his son Frederik is in action.
Jan's friendly smile, his positive twinkle in his eye and his candor made him something special in the sport he fell in love with as a teenager, which gave him a lifelong work in many functions.
Not only for the benefit of himself or for Fjelsted, but for the benefit of the Danish speedway in general.
Jan Jakobsen was born in Middelfart on 12 May 1965 and was thus only 55 years old. But he managed to leave clear traces and make an indelible impression on the many people he came in contact with both in the speedway environment, but also as a private person and in his daily work at Middelfart Fjernvarme.
As hundreds of young boys all over Denmark, he was inspired by Ole Olsen's success, and began with moped speedway in Fjelsted in 1977. Despite a height above the average of a speedway driver, Jan Jakobsen had success in this West Funen club, which was run by hard-working enthusiasts, and which for a number of years was the country's leading club for the development of Danish talent.
As early as 1973, Fjelsted was able to gather 1,500 spectators for history's very first individual DM of 50cc. A race that was won by Alf Busk, but which also gave birth to the West Funen speedway boom, of which Jan became a part.
Fjelsted became the cradle of great speedway profiles such as Bo Petersen, Preben Eriksen, Jan O. Pedersen, John Jørgensen, Allan Johansen, Morten Andersen and later the brothers Ronnie and Nicki Pedersen.
Back in 1984, Jan Jakobsen as a 19-year-old was able to join the prestigious series of Danish U21 champions, and two years later it became a 5th place at the U21 World Cup in Rivne - the current Ukraine.
The talent also extended to a year at Cradley Heath in the British league, where Jan Jakobsen became a teammate with Jan O. Pedersen and the then reigning world champion Erik Gundersen:
- Jan was a mood spreader in the equestrian farm with his Funen temperament. By virtue of his height and spectacular driving style, the audience also got a good eye for him. He was brave and daring, and I certainly think he could have done well if not a crash in Leicester put him back a few steps, Erik Gundersen remembers.
It was in those years when British speedway promoters were constantly on the hunt for young Danish talent.
- Often the young drivers were almost just a number in the row, and if they did not make it through the eye of the needle and created relatively quick results, it could be very difficult to establish themselves as a professional, Erik Gundersen explains.
- I do not think Jan was disappointed that he did not get a breakthrough in England. He was - as always - a very realistic and analytical person, which was also reflected in his impressive work after the active career, says Erik Gundersen.
Back home in Denmark, Jan Jakobsen became a profile in the Danish speedway league both as a driver, but especially also as a successful team leader with several championships for Fjelsted and Fredericia.
He married Lene, and together in 1998 the couple had a son, Frederik, who today is one of the country's biggest speedway hopes.
It was also in the early 90's that a special friendship with Jacob Olsen began:
- Jan and I met both as opponents on the field, but were also teammates for example on Fjelsted's gold team in 1992. We had from the beginning a special chemistry and the same approach to the sport, and in my eyes Jan Jakobsen was one of the most visionary and far-sighted people in Danish speedway. He was a real boy man characterized by decency, where a word was a word, and an agreement was an agreement, says Jacob Olsen from the office at Vojens Speedway Center.
Jan Jakobsen became youth national coach in the years when Erik Gundersen was national coach, and when Jacob Olsen took over the national coach job in 2001, he appointed Jan Jakobsen as assistant.
- I feel that Jan and I have had a long journey together. We often met with him and Lene in Ejby and made plans for talent development for both U19 and U21, but Jan also had the vision that the Danish senior national team should be rebuilt and made attractive, says Jacob Olsen.
As assistant national coach, Jan Jakobsen had an important role in the formation of the litter, which after the turn of the millennium was to bring Danish speedway forward. The team with Nicki Pedersen, Hans Andersen, Bjarne Pedersen, Ronni Pedersen and Charlie Gjedde, who sensationally won silver at the Team WC in Peterborough in 2002. It heralded new times, where also Niels Kr. Iversen and Kenneth Bjerre achieved success.
In recent years, Jan Jakobsen was an invaluable member of the childhood club at Ridderstien 31 in Fjelsted. He was always ready with a helping hand if needed, while - without pace - he trained his son Frederik to be the excellent speedway driver he is today.
Frederik Jakobsen won the YGT World Cup in 2013 and has since belonged to the absolute elite in the youth ranks. In both 2018 and 2019, Frederik Jakobsen was on the Danish national team in SON - Speedway Of Nations.
Over three years ago, Jan Jakobsen was stricken with cancer, and again he was candid about the challenge he and his family now had to face.
His harsh period of illness, alternating between hope and uncertainty, ended Sunday morning.
As Frederik shortly after wrote on his Facebook profile:
The sky has got one of the very best, brightest and happiest stars!
Jan Jakobsen will be buried in Ejby Church on Tuesday 1 September at 11 am.
By Ib Søby