TRIBUTES have been paid to Oxford Cheetahs speedway legend Ronnie Genz who has died aged 86 after a period of illness.

Blackbird Leys parish councillor Ann Booker, who worked at the speedway venue in Oxford for 30 years, said: "I knew Ronnie. He was a smashing guy. Our thoughts are with his family."

Former supporters’ club treasurer Cliff Peasley said of the star, who lived in London in his later years: "Ronnie was such a good rider for such a long time for the Cheetahs.

"These days, he would have been granted a testimonial meeting for his lengthy service.

"Apart from a couple of years, we had a pretty poor team for most of the years that Ronnie rode for Oxford, but he was always a strong scorer."

London-born Mr Genz launched his career at New Cross in 1950, also racing for Wolverhampton and Yarmouth over the next few seasons.

He moved to Oxford in 1954 and was often a leading light, topping the Cheetahs’ averages for the first time in 1955.

Oxford moved up to the top flight for the first time in 1957.

Mr Genz, alongside Jack Biggs, led the Cheetahs’ charge, but he suffered an eye injury that affected him for the rest of his career.

The Cheetahs were surprising National League contenders in 1960, before having to settle for third place in the table, behind Wimbledon and Belle Vue in Manchester.

Mr Genz reached the penultimate stage of the World Championship in 1961, the British Final at Wembley, and narrowly missed out on claiming a place for the final in Malmo, Sweden.

It was closest he came to reaching a world final.

The same year a serious injury to Cheetahs’ Danish superstar Arne Pander placed even more emphasis on the contributions of Mr Genz towards the side.

In 1964, new promoters Cyril Melville and Rodney Rycroft took over at Oxford.

They brought in Ron How and Jimmy Gooch, and Cheetahs swept to a glorious treble of National League, National Trophy and Britannia Shield.

During that season, Mr Genz found himself in trouble after riding one meeting for Provincial League Exeter under the assumed name of Reg Neal.

The Provincial League tracks were involved in a dispute with the Speedway Control Board and Mr Genz was fined £5 for his indiscretion.

Then, in 1965, the British League was set up, and the newly-formed rider control committee ordered Mr Genz to move away from Oxford to Poole in Dorset.

Nevertheless, he enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career, leading the Pirates’ averages on 9.45.

After three seasons at Poole, Mr Genz returned ‘home’ in 1968, and once more topped the Oxford score-chart.

He completely missed the 1969 season through injury, but was still a heat-leader on his return in 1970.

Halfway through the 1971 season, Oxford decided to strengthen its team but a move for Belle Vue’s Tommy Roper was counter-balanced by the enforced release by the rider control committee of Mr Genz to Newport.

He spent one-and-a-half seasons with Newport Wasps, before retiring from speedway at the age of 42.

Mr Genz scored 2740.5 points from 314 meetings across 14 seasons (1954-1964, 1968, 1970-71) for the Cheetahs.

He died on August 27.