Lionel Van Praag
When Lionel Maurice van Praag won the World Speedway Championship in 1936 he became not only Australia’s first motor sport world champion but also the world’s first motor sport world champion in a series that continues to this day.
The four Australians competing on that historic night at Wembley Stadium came first, third, sixth and eighth in a field of 18 riders.
As well as qualifying for the world final for the next three years, Van Praag rode for Australia in numerous test matches against England and also won the Victorian and NSW championships.
But way above this Van Praag was awarded the George Medal for bravery during World War 2,when the aircraft he was piloting was shot down over the Sumba Strait in Indonesia.
Van Praag and his co-pilot helped two colleagues — one semi-conscious and the other a non-swimmer—to shore after spending thirty hours in the water during which they had to fight off several shark attacks.
He raced again after the War but quickly concentrated on his flying business. So we welcome a great Australian sportsman and hero, Lionel van Praag, to the Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame, almost 80 years since he became our first world motor sport champion.