Tributes are flowing for Kiwi speedway champion Ivan Mauger, who has passed away at the age of 78.

Mauger who won six world championships died early this morning on the Gold Coast.

He had been suffering for several years from a form of dementia.

Speedway New Zealand CEO John McCallum said Mauger was recognised as the greatest speedway racer of all time.

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"He was a true New Zealand sporting Icon," said McCallum.

Born in Christchurch in 1939, Mauger rode for several British teams, including Wimbledon Dons, Newcastle Diamonds, Belle Vue Aces, Exeter Falcons, and the Hull Vikings.

Read more:
Ivan Mauger's last interview

He was six times world champion, three times world Long track Champion, twice Australasian champion in 1997 and 1981 and four times champion in New Zealand.

He was also selected to carry the Olympic Torch at the Sydney Games and was awarded an OBE and MBE.

Mauger last raced in Adelaide in 1986 and spent his retirement years in Queensland with his family.

Mauger is survived by his wife, Raye, son, Kym, and daughters Debbie and Julie.

In October last year, Mauger's lifetime collection of memorabilia - everything from his motorbikes to trophies, bike leathers, programs and ticket stubs - was crated up and sent to the United Kingdom for auction.

1969 Speedway World Championship final-winning engine and motorcycle, which sold for $35,571 at auction last October.
1969 Speedway World Championship final-winning engine and motorcycle, which sold for $35,571 at auction last October.

Proceeds of the auction at Bonham's was $5,272,120.

Daughter Julie told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time that her father was a proud kid from Christchurch who never finished school and whose only dream was to ride bikes, which he did beyond anyone's expectations.

Because of the limitations of speedway in New Zealand, he set sail for Britain early on.

"He was 17 and married to my mum, Raye, who was 16," Julie told the SMH.

"They were literally two teenagers who got on a boat going to the other side of the world with someone's name written on a piece of paper. My mum and dad's story is a love story. She stood by him all this time. Dad wasn't money driven, he was driven by winning. Mum loved the whole thing."

In 1970 two fans in the US said that if Ivan Mauger won his third World Final in a row at Wrocław (Poland) in September that year, they would have the winning bike gold plated.

Mauger duly won the World Final and, true to their promise, the bike was taken to America and gold plated at a cost of $US500,000. Thus was created the "Triple Crown Special", which is now housed at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch.

MacCallum said there had been a decline in motorcycle speedway as the sport changed and became harder.

"But certainly in the motorcycle speedway community Ivan will be remember as the person along with Barry Briggs and Ronnie Moore forged a career path for so many young Kiwis," he said.

"We perhaps didn't realise that to the same degree here because while the sport was bigger here in the 60s and 70s it was never the professionalism that we saw in Europe where he made his trade and led the world.

"If Ivan had achieved what he had in other sports that perhaps New Zealand is quicker to recognise I'm sure we would have seen some greater honours for him," said MacCallum.

"There is no one else that achieved what Ivan has and he did it as a proud Kiwi. He never forgot the fact he was a New Zealander.

"Ivan lived in Europe and England and through the clubs he raced for there was a household name.

"He was the Pele of speedway. He was recognised wherever he went – he was a superstar."