Lionel Van Praag
Page updated 12-Jan-2011
Lionel Van Praag (1908 - 1987) was from Sydney, NSW and first arrived in the UK to ride for Wembley in 1931. He was to remain based at the Empire Stadium right the way through to the outbreak of war, during which time he became a real legend of the sport. He made his Test match debut for Australia against England in 1931, before going on to represent his country in a further eight series.

Lionel won the run-off for the Speedway World Championship against Eric Langton in 1936 in somewhat controversial circumstances. As they lined up at the tapes, Langton broke them, which would ordinarily lead to disqualification. However, Van Praag did not want to win the title by default and insisted that a race should take place. At the restart Langton made it to the first bend in front and lead until the final bend on the last lap when Van Praag darted through the smallest of gaps to win by less than a wheel length.

Van Praag was awarded the George Medal for bravery during World War II, when a Royal Australian Air Force Douglas DC-2 he was piloting was shot down by a Japanese aircraft over the Sumba Strait in Indonesia.

After the war, Van Praag returned to British Speedway and the Control Board allocated him to New Cross. He qualified for the British Rider's championship final. Returning to Australia he re-appeared in the 1950/51 test series in Australia, but retired to concentrate on his career as a pilot.

Other sites that tell parts of the Lionel Van Praag story: