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Former world champion unveils Rugby's tribute to a speedway legend

FORMER world speedway champion Peter Collins visited Rugby this week to unveil the town's tribute to a legend of the sport.

Peter Collins joined the Mayor of Rugby, Cllr Anthony Gillias, at Nightingales Motorcycles, in Lawford Road, on Tuesday to unveil a plaque in honour of Jack Parker - a former captain of England and the Coventry Bees who was known as the Champion of Champions.

Born in Birmingham in 1907, Jack's talent for motorcycle racing was first spotted while working for BSA's research and development team.

Jack represented BSA in road trials and at the Isle of Man TT races before he was encouraged to take up dirt track racing in the late 1920s.

He joined the newly formed Coventry Bees in 1929, and captained both the Bees and England before setting a new British Mile Record in 1931.

After the Second World War, Jack captained the Belle Vue Aces in the National League and was crowned British champion in 1947.

And though he never clinched a world title - finishing runner-up at Wembley Stadium in 1949 - his dominance of the British Match Race Championship during the 1940s sealed his place in speedway history.

Such was Jack's dominance of the championship, the golden helmet awarded to the winner became known as 'Parker's Pension.'

Jack retired from speedway in 1954, but remained involved in the sport as a member of the World Speedway Riders' Association.

He lived in Rugby for the majority of his working life, running a workshop and garage on Lawford Road with his former Belle Vue team mate, Bill Pitcher. The garage was taken over by Nightingales in 1983.

Jack died in 1990, and Cllr Gillias decided to commission the plaque to commemorate Jack's contribution to speedway and the town.

Cllr Gillias, who rode for the Coventry Bees from 1974 to 1977, first met Jack when riding a motorcycle in a field with friends as a youngster.

"A car pulled up and a man smoking a pipe got out and started shouting instructions to us," Cllr Gillias said.

"We thought 'who is this man telling us how to ride a bike?' totally unaware it was the great Jack Parker.

"He was a true legend of speedway, the Champion of Champions, and a man who made Rugby his home," Cllr Gillias added.

"I'm delighted to help Rugby pay tribute to Jack and can think of no better person to unveil the plaque than another speedway legend, Peter Collins."

Peter, like Jack a Belle Vue Aces rider, dominated British speedway for much of the 1970s, and was crowned European champion in 1974 and world champion in 1976.

Unveiling the plaque, he said: "It's a great honour to be invited to Rugby to unveil this tribute to Jack.

"Jack Parker is a legend of our sport and the best rider never to be crowned world champion."

Photo caption: Cllr Anthony Gillias and former speedway world champion Peter Collins unveil the plaque to commemorate the life of speedway legend, Jack Parker.

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