Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Sergei Tarabanko - The 1970s Ice King

Back in the days when Ice Speedway could still be seen on television, commentator Dave Lanning used to call Sergei Tarabanko "Sergei The Sure Guy".This softly spoken PE teacher was ice speedway's equal to Ivan Mauger... totally dominant at his chosen discipline during the 70s and guaranteed a place in the speedway history books. Away from the track, Sergei did not look like the tough guy he was taken for on the track... He was a quiet man who loved fishing and taught PE at a Moscow school for a living, but during the last half of the 70s decade, Sergei ruled the ice racing circuits of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
Ready to race... note the cut down tyres to protect his knees.
Tarabanko arrived on the ice racing scene in 1966 and was trained by Russian ice racing ace Gabdrakhman Kadyrov, who had won the World title an amazing six times. Tarabanko hit the headlines in 1975, when he won the World Championship in front of over 100,000 fanatical Russian fans in the Dynamo football stadium in Moscow. It was an emphatic display from the new Russian ace. A combination of talent, skill, nerve and training and technical advice from Kadyrov meant that Tarabanko was never beaten over the two days, racing to 10 straight race wins. It was mighty lift for the Russians, whose previous dominance of the World Ice Racing Championships had been broken in 1974 by Milan Spinka from Czechoslovakia.
In 1976, Tarabanko travelled to Assen in Holland in an attempt to retain his title. On day 1 he was invincible, scoring another maximum fifteen points. On day two, he scored thirteen points, but he was already home and dry by the time he dropped his first points of the meeting.
Sergei Tarabanko warms up his Jawa ice racer in the pits at Eindhoven in 1979
In 1977, the World Championship final was held at Inzell in what was West Germany. Tarabanko's attempt to win his third consecutive title suffered a setback when he had an uncharacteristic crash during the fist days racing, but another immaculate five ride maximum on the second day gave Tarabanko his hat-trick of World titles. Assen in Holland was the venue for the 1978 World final and another fifteen point maximum on the first day put Tarabanko on the way to a fourth title. Day two cemented his place in the history books as thirteen point were enough to give the Russian ace his fourth consecutive title.
Tarabanko leads Vladimir Subotin on his way to World tile No4 at Assen in 1978.
Tarabanko also played his part in the Soviet Union's dominance of the World Ice Racing Team championship, leading them to victory in the first ever competition in 1979 and again in 1980 and 1981.
Tarabanko's Double Over-Head Cam, 2-valve Jawa at Den Hagg in 1980.

(Text adapted from the "On Two Wheels" magazine collection... photos from Speedway Mail archives)


  1. I'm posting on my Facebook page a few words to remember of the good Kadyrov — Gabdrachman.
    I first met Tarabanko in Grenoble, or was it Inzell or Assen ? The other Russians there were Gladychev — great guy — and probably Bondarenko.
    May I use your top picture as an illustration of these classic years ? My own archives are lost in a press agency :(

    1. Good to hear from you Salvaire - please feel free to use the photo.


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Whitehaven, Cumbria, United Kingdom
Disenchanted City Boy who rode out of the fast lane and into the back lanes! Life on Two Wheels is so much fun.