Les Owen, born on the 21st April 1939 in Coventry, before Les became a speedway rider he rode for the Alvis Aces – Alvis Aces being a cycle speedway team who raced Sunday mornings in the 1950’s on a track in the Alvis Sports Ground on the corner of Holyhead Road and what is now Four Pounds Avenue, Coventry. It is said that during this time he was saving hard in order to acquire a speedway machine which he eventually managed and then pushed the said bike to the Brandon track in order to put in some ‘unauthorised’ practice with a close friend Cal Smith. I believe this to be the practice track set up in the Brandom Stadium car park and not the main track but which ever their activities did not amuse Mr Charles Ochiltree who told them in no uncertain terms that if they wish to learn to ride then they should join the organised training school, which they did.
It seems their early misdemeanours were not held against them as in 1957 they were both offered Coventry contracts and second half rides. The numbers and quality of the juniors and novices at Coventry must have been high and Les Owen’s desire to ride for Coventry paramount as it was 1965 before Les Owen was able to achieve a full team place at the age of 28. However having got his place he was content and remained with the Bees until his life threatening track accident on his home track in 1973.
By all accounts the accident took place in the first lap of the third heat and was caused by the coming together of Les and his team mate John Harrhy; both riders and machines were hurled as one along the track to be halted by the safety fence and to Les Owens misfortune a lamp standard which stopped Les when his head hit it. The injuries sustained by John were severe but he made a full recovery, Les on the other hand had brain damage from which he never fully recovered being paralysed down one side and problems with short term memory loss.
Les Owen rode exclusively for the Coventry Bees, his points averages middle of the road but his popularity amongst the Coventry faithful could not be questioned, always there or nearly so, a hard but fair rider, one who could always be relied upon to do his best and they nick-named his Muscles. During the latter half of the 1960s he was scoring over a 6 point average and was capped twice for England and once for Great Britain. At the time of the 1973 accident he was Coventry’s longest serving rider and to the best of my knowledge still remains so.
Les was a member of the World Speedway Riders’ Association until the time of his untimely death caused by another accident this time on a level crossing when he was hit by a train and received fatal injuries, this happened on the 15th January 2004 Les was 65, he did not survive the journey to hospital.