I wouldn't normally post obituraries on my blog, otherwise every day would have memories of musicians and motorcyclists that have imressed, influenced or wowed me at some time, but I couldn't let the passing of American speedway star Kelly Moran go by without some kind of blogger memorial as he was definitely a hero for my teenage years. Kelly took my breath away the first time I saw him ride, hanging off the back of his bike, defying gravity and scraping the fence at Dudley Wood. I went to his van after the match to meet this daredevil an get his autograph... "Sure Kid, here ya go, want some stickers? ... hey kid, dya fancy a beer too?" and he threw me a bottle of Miller. From that moment on I made sure I watched Kelly and his brother Shawn ride whenever and wherever I could, especially in those long forgotten but desperately missed England v USA test matches. Even though I was supporting my home team, I couldn't help but notice how the American riders seemed to find a bit extra when they pulled on the Stars and Stripes and delivered some passionate and gutsy racing. "Fuelled by Excitement" as the new speedway slogan says, well Kelly "Jelly-Man" Moran sure was, plus a bit of something else I suspect!.
The Moran boys were never "angels" and they could party as hard and fast as they rode, and boy could they ride!!! and I guess that's why Kelly has a place in my heart, he was a Rock'N'Roll speedway star, living fast and enjoying life to the max. As Ivan Mauger, John Berry and others have written, if you'd put any kind of rein on Kelly's outrageous, live-for-today lifestyle, he wouldn't have been the "Jellyman" rider he was. "There will never be another Kelly Moran", said Ivan. He also said Kelly had more talent in his little finger than Ivan did in his whole body!
Moran had thrilled the crowds from the day he began riding as a teenager in Southern California. His daring tactics and anything goes style of racing soon caught the attention of overseas promoters and he was racing for Hull "Vikings" in the UK at the age of 17. The following year, 1979, the diminutive rider qualified for his first World Final in Poland and finished in 4th place, a feat he repeated at Los Angeles in 1982 and again at Gothenburg two years later. That World Final was the only chance I got to see "Jellyman" ride in 1984. To the dismay of his British fans he opted to stay at home in the Californian sunshine and pick up a second US Championship title. Kelly did eventually return to the UK in 1986, teaming up with his younger brother Shawn at Sheffield before seeing out his British career with the famous Belle Vue "Aces" and a final season at Swindon. The news of his death came to me via a message on the oldtimespeedway message board and included this message from another former USA rider Ron Preston:
Kelly Moran passed away at 11:40am California time (Easter Sunday). He was surrounded by lots of friends and family that prayed for him and made sure he had lots of hands on him. He is with Jesus in heaven and is finally comfortable. Pete from Racers for Christ was a true blessing from day 1, He and Kelly read the Bible and Kelly was ready for eternity! Thanks to everyone that sent messages on Facebook, texted and emailed me. I read them all to Kelly and showed him pictures and videos. At the end, all he wanted to do was rest and now he can. He will be missed but not forgotten.
In a recent interview in BACKTRACK magazine Kelly said with a typical shrug of the shoulders: "Whatever the Big Guy upstairs has planned, no one's gonna change it". Like all true speedway racers who won the majority of their points from the back, he maintained a fighting spirit right to the end, even though he probably knew his condition was terminal. Kelly requested the following message be passed on after he died and the message suggests that he had a few regrets over certain aspects of his lifestyle too.
"During the time that I’ve been at JFK Hospital, a Facebook page was created for me that allowed my Fans, Family and fellow racers to post comments and pictures and video about me and my racing career. The response has been overwhelming to me, and at times a burden with all the phone calls. The one message that my page has proven and given me is that we CAN put down our Guns and Swords and get along. When Ivan (Mauger) called me, he said that because of my page, he’s now talking to people he never gave a second look to in the pits at his races back then. And because of my page, there are riders from all over the world creating their own Facebook names and writing really neat stuff to me, and re-connecting with other riders all over the world. I’m humbled that this has happened, it’s like the Lord made me sick so this could happen. My wish, after I’m gone, is that they will continue to communicate and expand on it. In other words, I want more riders and their families to talk to each other. I don’t care if it’s on my page or not. But if Ivan can talk to people he used to dislike, then don’t you think we should follow his lead? In the words of that guy during the L.A. Riots…can’t we all just all get along? I’m especially appreciative that my boys, from the USA Team, have all gotten back together. Thank you for all the great messages, I love all of you! C’ya C’ya C’ya! Oh yeah, one more thing…Don’t Smoke and Don’t Drink!"