Des Lukehurst



Des Lukehurst (bottom left) lines up with Exeter in 1964.
(Photo courtesy Exeter Falcons website)

Des Lukehurst became the biggest talking point in Second Division speedway as he revived the Bombers fortunes during the 1969 season and drove them to a last-minute third place in the Division 2 league table. A sheep shearer from Ashford, Kent, Lukehurst was born in Romney on 3rd October 1937. His age made him something of a veteran in Division 2 terms, but his speedway career had begun relatively recently. Following one ride in an open meeting at Eastbourne in 1962, Lukehurst was connected to New Cross in 1964 before joining Exeter. Des moved on to Oxford for two seasons and then transferred to Hackney.

During the 1969 season, Lukehurst had the bad luck to find himself in the riders' pool, having been released by Hackney following a Rider Control decision that the Hawks, on paper, were too strong. Once in the pool, Lukehurst was available to any Division I team that could justifiably claim his services.  There  was not an enormous rush. One outing for Swindon, followed by three weeks with Wolverhampton, were the only opportunities to come Des's way. 

Des Lukehurst (left) with Ian Gills and Phil Woodcock

Romford bosses Wally Mawdsley and Pete Lansdale had been keeping an eye on the situation and, with no Division I outfit wanting Lukehurst, they applied for his services at Romford. Des wanted to ride and he was willing to drop into Division 2. His arrival at Romford transformed the Bombers' faltering season. In his first appearance for Romford, at Belle Vue, Lukehurst's 11 points helped to consign the Colts to their first ever home defeat. The Bombers went the rest of the season unbeaten, Lukehurst picking up 12 points in each of three away victories at Reading, Doncaster and Eastbourne. But the triple experienced spearhead of Lukehurst, Ross Gilbertson and Brian Davies, was causing comment to be levelled against the Bombers. And when West Ham arrived at Exeter for a Division 1 fixture to find three Romford riders, Lukehurst, Gilbertson and Phil Woodcock in the Falcon's team, protests about the Bombers' strength began to fly. "There couldn't have been a bigger fuss if we'd been sneaking Ivan Mauger into the Romford team", said Wally Mawdsley. "As it was, we'd sneaked nothing. Everything was above board. We went through all the usual channels. Anyone could have protested in good time, but nobody did."

Inevitably, Lukehurst was not to line up for the Bombers at the start of the 1970 season. He had been allocated to the new Wembley Lions Division 1 team, along with Bombers team mate Brian Davies. But Lukehurst failed to impress at the Empire Stadium and, when the Bombers again experienced a mid-season dip in form, they applied to re-sign him. The Control Board deemed that if Lukehurst returned to Romford, Phil Woodcock would have to be released to Exeter. Lukehurst was initially banned from riding for Romford but the Bombers fielded Des in the away fixture at Crewe without clearance from the Control Board. Romford subsequently received permission to include both Lukehurst and Woodcock in the same team but Des was unable to repeat his feat of the previous season as the Bombers finished in 8th place. Lukehurst retired at the end of the season, to concentrate on his Construction business.