Speed demons hard to top

July 18, 2017

Andrew Cleave and Dave Power no longer race competitively, but still travel across Australia following the sport.

Dave Power and Andrew Cleave leaning into a bend during their motorcycle speedway racing career.

Dave Power in hospital after a 1997 accident at Murray Bridge.

Sports Resort Masters Achievement Award (40 and over) for Australia's champion sidecar speedway racers Andrew Cleave and Dave Power.

Greater Shepparton Sports Hall of Fame

The motorcycle speedway team of Andrew Cleave and Dave Power became a champion combination and one rivals across the country feared.

The dynamic duo from Shepparton teamed up to win Australian titles and become world class competitors.

In the 1980s, Cleave started in motocross at Pine Lodge aged 14.

‘‘I lost my licence for two years, which was devastating ... but was still able to ride sidecars, which were bigger and faster, so that was great,’’ he said.

‘‘So my brother Tom and I bought a sidecar at 19 years of age.’’

Tom rode with Andrew as a passenger — known as a swinger — and they became favourites at the Undera speedway, finishing third in the Australian championships in the 1985-86 season.

‘‘Tom got married and settled down, so he gave it up,’’ Cleave said.

Their close friend and mechanic at the time, Dave Power, was asked to fill his spot and he did so with reluctance at first.

‘‘I used to ride around out in the bush with the boys ... I even won a club championship for motocross in 1979 at about 17 years of age,’’ Power said.

‘‘It took a bit to convince me, but at our first local meeting we finished first and in our next meeting, the Victorian champs, we took out the title.’’

The fearless Power took on the dangerous job of swinging off the bike as Cleave negotiated the bends at breakneck speeds.

They soon became stars of speedways across the country, amassing hundreds of admirers and drawing crowds with their performances.

It was not long before the pair was travelling across Australia for meetings.

‘‘We were the youngest ever to win the Australian Championships (in 1986-87) ... I don’t know where we got the time to travel ... we did nothing else besides race and prepare,’’ Cleave said.

‘‘We missed a lot of weddings and parties, losing a lot of friends in the process, but we were committed.’’

The duo developed a trick where Power jumped on Cleave’s back at the start of the race to get more traction on the back wheel.

‘‘We tried all sorts of different techniques, they all do it now, but back then no-one did it, so we more or less started it,’’ Cleave said.

In the 1987-88 season, the pair took all before them to win the Australian title along with the Grand Slam of events.

It did not mean much to the bank accounts as sponsorship was scarce and prize money was low.

‘‘We’d make a bit from speedway, the top three in Australia make a living out of it these days, but we barely covered our costs,’’ Power said.

Ten years later, their dream almost came to and end when at Murray Bridge in South Australia they had a horrific accident that catapulted the pair into the air.

‘‘On the second corner the plastic floor broke on our bike and it flipped us over,’’ Power said.

‘‘My leg was buggered, I took out a main artery and messed up my ankle and my Achilles pretty bad.

‘‘I ended up spending 10 days in hospital, but more than six months off work because of the injury.’’

It took Power some time to recover, but the pair joined a group of Goulburn Valley motorcycling enthusiasts travelling across the country to compete at the top level.

In 2003, the pair won their second Grand Slam, becoming the first combination to do so.

‘‘We tried our luck and went overseas in 2003-04, but when we got over there, we basically had to build a bike from scratch,’’ Cleave said.

‘‘So it took us weeks before we even started riding.

‘‘It was our quickest year ... we had a really good bike, but in the fourth heat of a meet our bike blew up.’’

In 2004, the pair retired as Cleave failed to fully recover from a wrist injury he received racing the previous year.

‘‘We’re still doing a little bit of riding, mainly demo races, which are a bit of fun,’’ he said.

‘‘It was all great fun ... we’ve raced in front of thousands of people, but the competition locally really helped us to get to where we got to.

‘‘The competition in Undera was tough and really pushed us.’’

In retirement, Cleave and Power had plenty to reminisce on, including third-placed finishes in two overseas series, two Australian Grand Slam titles, eight state titles, and 14 placings in Australian titles.

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