Alf Busk became the first U21 world champion in speedway history in 1977. He was regarded as the crown prince who was to succeed Ole Olsen himself. However, as a professional in England, Alf Busk had to recognize that the talent did not reach a World Cup title anymore. But he regrets nothing and would like to sail to England once more.
By Ib Søby
At home in the beautiful area of Salten - close to the Sky Mountains - there are three things that matter a lot to Alf Busk; son Rasmus, Border Collien Spy and saw the 16 motorcycles he has standing in the garage. It's not speedway bikes all together, because in recent years Alf Busk has also flirted with Classic Road Racing. The collection includes, for example, the air-cooled 500cc Suzuki, which Alf won the German championship in 2015.
But he also still has his very first 50cc moped speed bike.
The bike that his father honored him with in the gift of confirmation - rather than the family party - and just the bike he rode in 1974, when he won both the individual Danish moped championship and the team championship together with the Spurvene from Silkeborg Speedway Club.
- My father Egon was bitten by a crazy motorcycle, and he was also one of the backers of the Silkeborg Speedway Club, which was - and continues to be - a section of the motor club itself, which was established back in 1928. In 1967, they opened the Elling Line between Funder and Engesvang, where both motocross and speedway were driven, says Alf Busk.
After Ole Olsen's World Cup in 1971, interest in speedway exploded throughout Denmark, and moped lanes in particular sprang up everywhere.
- In addition to the Ellingbanen, we drove mopeds in Middelfart, Fjelsted, Fangel, Skovby and later up in Brovst. But eventually we young people also participated in the big rallies, such as at the Korskrobanen at Esbjerg. Many weekends, both motocross and speedway were run - and also 50cc team matches. It was a great time with lots of driving fun and pioneering spirit, Alf Busk remembers.
When Vojens Speedway Center opened in 1975, Alf Busk, along with several talents on training sessions, became acquainted with the large 500cc speedway bikes.
At home in Silkeborg Alf Busk was gradually motionless, and after consulting with Father Egon, he moved in 1976 to Aarhus Motor Club, which at that time drove on the Fladbro track at Randers. Here Alf got more resistance and joined the 1st division team Pirates together with Aarhus profiles such as John Williams, Steen Normann, Krause Kjær and the great talent Finn Thomsen.
In 1977, the International Motor Union, FIM, decided to institute a U21 championship, and Vojens Speedway Center hosted the first final on Saturday 24 July. Here, slim and blonde 19-year-old Alf Busk posed as one of the advance favorites. Also in the field were two strong British cards, Les Collins and Joe Owens, as well as Russian Zaytun Gafurov and German Peter Lampenhauer. The only other Dane in the final was the quiet 18-year-old Northern Jew Hans Nielsen.
Threatening clouds lay over Southern Jutland when the historic finale was launched. After three rounds, Busk had cleaned the table with a maximum of 9 points, while Owen had 8 and Les Collins 7. The rain was now inexorable, and German judge Günter Sorber decided - regulated - after heat 12 to cancel the race, declaring Alf Busk as the winner. . British team leader Eric Boocock appealed strongly to resume the race on Sunday to keep Owens and Collins' chances alive, but to this Sorber replied that Busk had beaten Collins in heat 4 and Owen in heat 9.
Alf Busk was hailed on the podium as Denmark's third winner of an international FIM title after Kurt W. Pedersen's European Championship in 1964 and Ole Olsen's - provisionally two World Cup titles in 1971 and 1975.
He had kicked the door to a professional career wide open.
Already the year before, Alf Busk had visited Ole and Ulla Olsen in Holmes Chapel at Crewe south of Manchester. Olsen, who had switched from Wolverhampton to Coventry, had invited the young Bush over the North Sea so he could sniff a bit at the British speedway environment.
- I got a contract with Coventry in 1977 and had a great time at the club. It was also in those years when the speedway was really huge in England, so it was completely unreal to joke week after week with world stars like Ivan Mauger, Bruce Penhall, Anders Michanek, Barry Briggs or Peter Collins and Michael Lee. And sometimes I gave them back wheels, Alf Busk remembers with delight in his voice.
During those years many matches were broadcast on the BBC and the profiles of the sport were as popular as football icons a la George Best or Kevin Keegan.
For two years, Alf Busk lived with the Olsen family, where he also went to work with practical tasks. For example, he was often a babysitter for Ulla and Ole's first son Jacob, who came to the world in 1972. The close contact has continued to this day.
- Yes, I had a lot of spas by Jacob back then. He was a bit of a wild bass in the good way. I lived in a former gym on Ole and Ulla's grounds, and often Jacob came in early in the morning and threw himself in bed to me, says Alf Busk.
The close friendship between Alf and the boy Jacob was later emphasized, because when Jacob himself started driving mopedspeedway, it was Alf's mother, Rosa, who had sewn the riding suit.
It drove strong for Alf - with the nickname Busky – in the British league at Coventry and later for Swindon and Sheffield. With his kind and winning nature, he was a popular driver among British fans. It always stood on numerous autographs and photos every time he appeared on the tracks, while the big hits of the time, such as Micheal Jackson's "Billie Jean" or Queen and David Bowie, burst across the speakers.
On the other hand, the international success was a bit more complicated. He became number 6 in the Danish World Cup qualifier in 1978 and, just exactly, did not advance in the system, which ended with Ole Olsen's third individual World Cup title that year.
Alf Busk was on the Danish national team in 1976 and 1977, when Denmark did not reach the World Cup final. In 1978 he sat out in the team qualifying round in Tampere, Finland, where the Danes finally moved on. In the Intercontinental Final, he was a reserve. Here the Danes surprised again, but for the World Cup final in German Landshut the reserve place was given to Kristian Præstbro.
This is where Denmark won its first team World Cup gold.
In the World Cup context, Ole Olsen had changing buddies up through the 1970s. In 1973 he took silver with Kurt Bøgh, but otherwise it was primarily Finn Thomsen, who drove by Olsen's side with Dannebrog on his chest.
The talent pool was huge in Denmark, and young star seeds pilgrimaged to England. Bo Petersen, Peter Ravn, Michael Lohmann, Hans Nielsen, Erik Gundersen and Tommy Knudsen, just to name a few.
- I do not feel that I was overtaken by the other Danes in England. I would rather say that they were simply better than me. It was that simple. After all, the results in the 80s tell you everything, and I was still happy with my own career, even though the others took some of the limelight. The great truth is that even if four world champions start at the loss, there are in fact three who lose a minute later, acknowledges Alf Busk with regard to the many of the world's talented speedway drivers who - in the fierce competition - never reach an individual World Cup podium.
With the usual profits Alf Busk was sometimes a helper and driver for Tommy Knudsen, who, as a 17-year-old, arrived in England without a driver's license!
In 1985 Alf Busk returned to Denmark. He had now turned 27 and felt a need to take an education for posterity.
- Sure enough, Sheffield called me in 1986, but I declined and took my education as a mechanical worker. I also had some ugly crashes in England and did something with my one shoulder. During one race, my right leg was also stuck in a mast by the barrier in Wolverhampton, which hampered me for a while, says Alf Busk.
He had occasionally run 1000 meters long, and even reached the World Cup final in Czech Marianske Laszne, where it became a 15th place in 1979.
When the crossroads at Esbjerg in 1987 hosted the DM at 1000 meters, Alf Busk could not stand and started. But that day went wrong. In a heat, he smoked in a crash with North Jutland's Jens Henry Nielsen, and was subsequently hit by another driver. At Esbjerg Hospital, doctors could tell the dizzying Alf Busk that his back had broken and his career was finally over.
- Then I was almost retired for the next several years, until a few years ago I started sniffing for Classic Road Racing, says Alf Busk.
To call yourself a pensioner is now something of a truth with modifications, because in all the intervening years Alf Busk has been a tireless mechanic and highly valued helper for a large number of Danish drivers such as Jacob Olsen, Gert Handberg, Lars Henrik Jørgensen, Brian Andersen and most recently Bjarne Pedersen.
In private life, something also happened, because Alf met the Polish woman Anja and the couple, who were married for 14 years, got their son Rasmus in 2001.
- Anja lives in Denmark, and we are still good friends and sometimes see each other, even though we no longer live together, says Alf Busk, who at the same time is pleased that his son Rasmus also has a great interest in motorsport.
- He is going to trade school right now, but he does esport racing at a high level, where he runs in a simulator with teams of Jan Magnussen and Ronnie Bremer, and that is really something I think there is a future in, according to Alf Busk, who today works at Vagn Jensen Motorcycles in Horsens.
But he has not forgotten the speedway roots in Silkeborg. Every year for a weekend in October, a youth tournament is run under the name Alf Busk Cup.
- I love to be out and watch the young people go off. The organizers asked if I would just come out and hand out cups, but I'm there all the time talking to the kids. Many of them ask if I have actually driven myself, and then I nod and say that I have tried a little of each, Alf Busk smiles with Jutland modesty.
He was like a sparrow from Silkeborg, flying high in the best speedway era on the other side of the North Sea.