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Hamill Becomes Quick Motorcycle Champion

September 24, 1996|SHAV GLICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In 1990, when 19-year-old speedway motorcycle racer Billy Hamill left Monrovia to ride in the British Speedway League, racing impresario Harry Oxley predicted, "He'll be the world champion within five years."

He missed by a year.

Hamill became the fourth American to win the World Speedway Grand Prix when he overtook four-time champion Hans Nielsen over the weekend in a stunning upset on Nielsen's home track in Vojens, Denmark in the final event of a six-race series.

"I had to win, regardless, and Hans had to finish worse than fourth," Hamill said from his home in Tamworth, England. "The big race was Heat 16 where I had both Nielsen and [former champion] Tony Rickardsson [of Sweden] inside of me. I got a perfect start and rode my tail off for four laps."

Nielsen failed to qualify for the four-rider A final, but when he won the B final, assuring himself fifth-place points overall, it meant Hamill had to win the A final.

In the six Grand Prix events, Hamill finished fourth in Poland, second in Italy, ninth in Germany, first in Sweden and Denmark, and third in England. He finished with 113 points to 111 for Nielsen and 88 for Greg Hancock, the United States champion from Newport Beach. A third American, 1993 world champion Sam Ermolenko of Cypress, finished ninth.

Other American champions were the late Jack Milne of Pasadena in 1937 and Bruce Penhall of Laguna Niguel in 1981 and 1982.

*

Three riders from Riverside County, Jeremy McGrath of Menifee, and Jeff Emig and Steve Lamson of Riverside, teamed to win the Motocross des Nations--the Olympics of motocross--for the United States on Sunday in Jerez, Spain. McGrath won two of the three heats and Lamson the other.

It was the first U.S. victory since 1993, when a streak of 13 victories was broken.

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