OBITUARY: Dave Hunting

As tributes for Dave Hunting, who passed away earlier this week, flood into social media, we reflect on Dave’s life and character through this fitting tribute written to us by Joe McLaughlin.

In our world of Cycle Speedway, we are all just limbering up for what one hopes will be a better year after all the very apparent mounting problems that we face as a sport. What a crushing blow, that on the eve of a new season, we lose one of our greatest ever figures, a true great of our sport in Dave Hunting.

I first met Dave Hunting in 1973 when my then team Kingstanding Monarchs were drawn at Grandisburgh Bombers in the British Team championships. Like at so many of our clubs, Grundisburgh were led and inspired by one individual, this being Dave. He welcomed me royally and so started a friendship that lasted, I am proud to say, of 42 years.

Even in that first meeting, Dave had real standing, flair and abundant personality. He was someone I came to admire greatly, starting his own small business from scratch and building it up so that one day it was big enough to sponsor the second biggest sports entity of his home town, the Ipswich Witches Speedway team. He was a leader. A man of substance and standing. A true larger than life character with his soft Suffolk tones. He would re-join to any bar selling his beloved real ale, where he would recant endless humorous stories long into the night. How I will miss this.

Always debonair, a real ladies man and never politically correct, Dave did not suffer fools gladly. He stood for what he believed in and was never afraid to stand his corner, particularly on the politics of the sport of Cycle Speedway which he was so passionate about and which he so loved.

He rose to the highest administrative positions of Cycle Speedway, including being the last properly freely elected chairman of the Cycle Speedway Commission, before an endless series of faceless merchants were parachuted in. As a democrat, Dave spoke loudly against, what he saw, as the lack of democracy and transparency of the sport in the past 14 years since the merger took place. Many agreed with him.

Dave will go down on record as a true colossus of the sport in his native Suffolk and nationally. He founded many teams, sought publicity and promoted top events. Even in the past few years, two of the present day leading clubs, Ipswich and Kesgrave, benefitted from his vast knowledge and expertise, not least in their huge riding numbers.

Its a sad reflection, that Dave`s wonderful service to Cycle Speedway of over 50 years, will perhaps be tainted by the events of 2006 when, having been elected by real votes in a real election by the membership, he was deposed and was replaced by an unelected `on-message` administrator, who lasted just 6 months in the hot seat. Later, Dave, at that time considered to be the sports top referee, was banned from refereeing for daring to criticise the governing body.

Dave was always keen to learn of progress and developments of the sport in all of its regions. When we met at East London in April 2013, when Coventry were the visitors, and the Coventry rebirth was in full swing, Dave was overjoyed and genuinely thrilled for Coventry and myself that we could race a challenge match in London again with all our riders who lived in the Coventry post code area.

Later in 2013, at the Coventry staged British Final, Dave stayed at the hotel for three nights. He loved our British Finals, our style of promoting and our showmanship. He told me our finals reminded him of the golden days of the sport in the 1950s. This meant so much to me.

As the many tributes on social media so rightly suggest, Dave Hunting was a giant of Cycle Speedway racing. His achievements are forever set in stone. His legacy will last forever and his memory will always be imprinted on our minds.

Dave, your race is now over. The wheels are no longer spinning. You have retired to a better place. Your whistle is silent now. We can only thank you for your immense contribution to our sport. Thank you for being my friend.

May you rest in the peace of the Lord.

Joe McLaughlin
Coventry CSC