Michel Mercier

Inducted 2009

Born in 1953, Michel Mercier bought his first motorcycle at age 17, and began racing from his Thetford Mines, Quebec home in 1973 in motocross events.

By 1977, he had won titles in the 125-cc and 250-cc Expert class in the Canadian Motorcycle Association nationals. He then decided to try his skill on dirt, and did well on the flat-tracks as well as continuing to pile up the accolades in ice racing. From 1978 to 1981, he displayed the prestigious Number One plate as Canada’s top ice racer.

Next was road racing on two wheels, and once again, Mercier, with his analytical approach, mental preparation, and aggressiveness, led to a stellar career on the pavement.

In 1985 he won the CMA’s Superbike title. He continued to compete on the road race circuit, both in Canada and abroad, and although disappointed with his results by the end of the 1980s, he wasn’t finished yet.

In 1990, riding a Yamaha, Mercier won four of the six RACE Superbike finals and the series championship before retiring from racing later that year.

Mercier continued in the sport after that time, as director of the FAST Racing School at Shannonville, Ontario, teaching up-and-coming racers.

Image via La Presse

Bill Mathews

Bill Mathews covers Norton cylinder head with his hands while Francis Beart works.

Inducted 2007

Bill Mathews career grew from hillclimbs near Hamilton to dirt ovals across Ontario through the dirty 30’s. Late in the 1930’s he had moved on to compete in Canada and the U.S. by competing in American Motorcycle Association events, racing up to 3-5 times per week.

In 1940 he entered his first Daytona 200, the biggest motocycle race then and now, finishing 23rd on the venerable beach course. He put that experience to good use coming back in to win in 1941 becoming the only Canadian and first rider on a non-American bike to win the Daytona 200. He set a new record for the race at 78.08 MPH and his 500 cc Norton was the smallest engine to win at Daytona up to that point. He also won the last race in Canada before war activity brought racing to a close, winning a special Canadian US Challenge at Lindsay in front of a crowd of 10,000 people.

In 1947 he ventured to England with fellow Canadian Eric Chitty to race on the West Ham Speedway team but 1948 found him back in North America at Daytona where he recorded a 2nd place finish. 1949 saw him finish 2nd again as part of a 1-2-3 Norton team finish. 1950 saw him record his second win and establish him as the premier Canadian motorcycle racer. Billy was part of a tour from 1948 through 1950 that raced at Dayton, Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis. His 1949 record of 51 1st’s, 23 2nd’s and 17 3rd ‘s were indicative of his competitive nature.

The 1952 Daytona was his final attempt at that famous venue.. 1953 saw him move to the west coast to work with fellow Inductee Trevor Deely and then on to a long career with BC Department of Highways.

Prior to his death of cancer in 1980, Bill Mathews set a standard for motorcycle racers to dream of matching.

Image via Access Norton

Alec Bennett

Alec Bennett after winning the 1927 TT

Inducted 2006

Alec Bennett was born on April 21, 1897, in what is now Northern Ireland. The Bennett family emigrated to Canada in 1905, living first in Alberta, then in Vancouver, B.C. Little is known of his early motorcycle racing but by the time he was 16 he was already a competitive force on the dirt tracks of B.C. In 1920, he left Canada for England to pursue his dream to be a motorcycle factory test rider and a motorcycle racer. Alec Bennett’s post-First World War racing career consisted of only 29 races but he won 13 of them – a remarkable winning percentage. Of those 13 victories, 11 were in classic races. In competition at the Isle of Man races, Bennett won the Senior Tourist Trophy three times and the Junior Tourist Trophy twice. He won the Grand Prix of France four times and the Grand Prix of Belgium twice. All of his European wins were in the premier 500cc class. The races were not for the faint of heart. When he went to the Spanish Grand Prix for the first time in 1923, the 12-hour race was on a 60-mile course that included two mountain peaks and an open stretch of near-desert. After his front fork broke, Bennett rode until his hands swelled to the size of boxing gloves. Only then did he drop out. When he retired, he did so as the most successful racer of his generation. He died in in 1973 at the age of 76. To this day, no Canadian rider has come close to matching his record. He was the most successful motorcycle racer Canada ever produced.

Image via Vintage Norton

John De Gruchy

Inducted 2005

John De Gruchy began his motorcycle racing career in 1957, entering Trials events in Southern Ontario. By the time he stopped, in 1974, he had won more than 100 Canadian Motorcycle Association and American Motorcycle Association events. He was a six-time Canadian national Trials champion – the first coming in 1960 and the last in 1971. He was also proficient at Scrambles and was an Expert Class rider in road racing. His involvement as a racer inevitably led to his long-term commitment to the policy making process within the C.M.A. and he held various executive positions until his retirement at the end of 1975. He was president of the C.M.A. Ontario Region for six years during the 1960s and EARLY ’70s and vice-president twice. Mr. De Gruchy co-authored the C.M.A. Training Course program in 1966 to introduce new riders to the sport. He was a member of the C.M.A.’s national executive for seven years and was national president in 1967, Canada’s Centennial year. His involvement as president resulted in Canada being awarded an FIA-sanctioned World Championship Motorcycle Grand Prix, which was held at Mosport in the summer of 1967, and won by Mike Hailwood. It was Canada’s first, and only, motorcycle Grand Prix. Three times, in 1969, 1970 and 1972, he was awarded the Ontario Achievement Award for his contributions to amateur sport.

Image via DurhamRegion.com

Alice & Jim Fergusson

Inducted 2004

Jim Fergusson was a successful motorcycle, sports car and sedan racer, and rally driver. He was a team manager, crew chief, mechanic, race and rally organizer, official, sponsor and patron of the sport. He was also a racing car designer and constructor. He was introduced to motorsport by members of the British Empire Motor Club (BEMC) in the year it was founded, 1928. It was like introducing a duck to water. He was a barnstorming fairgrounds motorcycle racer and sometimes motorcycle road racer until he went off to war in 1939. Alice Fergusson was one of Canada’s pioneer women racing and rally drivers. She was also a race and rally organizer and editor of BEMC’s Small Torque, probably the oldest racing club publication in Canada and now an invaluable source for the history of motorsport in central Canada. On June 25, 1950, Jim was president of theBEMC when the club held a pair of sports car races at Edenvale, the first known sports car races in eastern Canada. Jim finished third in both events; Alice was 15th in the first and official scorer of the second. It was the beginning of many years of racing and rallying for Jim and Alice. They raced at Sebring, Watkins Glen, Harewood and other circuits. They rallied in club events, national events and competed in a variety of hillclimbs, ice races and economy runs. Jim designed a formula junior car; Alice built a Flathead Ford stock car motor that set a track record in 1952 at the CNE Speedway. Their last hurrah came in the early 1970s; they were the only Canadian competitors in the very first (and highly illegal) Cannonball Baker, Sea-to-Shining-Sea, Memorial Trophy Dash that was won by Brock Yates and Dan Gurney. Jim passed away in 1976 and Alice followed in 1997. Separately and together, Jim and Alice Fergusson made a remarkable contribution to the development of Canadian motorsport. Their efforts were purely voluntary. They did what they did for the love of the sport.

Larry Bastedo

Inducted 2004

An enthusiast of any type of two-wheeled sport, Larry Bastedo of Hamilton has ridden in almost every type of motorcycle competition going. His first major win came in 1957 when he was first in the 500cc division in the Expert class at the Ontario Championship Spring Scrambles. He only lost one race that season, which he capped off by winning the Eastern Canadian Championships in Copetown. In 1958, he won the national championship Spiked Tire Ice Race at St. Agathe, Que. After that, Larry tried his hand at Road Racing and Dirt Track, attaining Senior status in both disciplines. A road race injury led him to Enduros and he was a member and later official with Team Canada at Six Day Trials in Poland, Germany, Spain and Wales. He went first as a rider but later as a support person and finally, in 1989 and 1990, as Canada’s Jury Delegate, the team’s only link to the organizers. Over the years, Larry gained a wonderful reputation as an announcer, using his knowledge of the riders and great memory to provide extraordinary commentary. In later years, his voice could be heard at Supercrosses. From the first mudbath at the CNE in 1977, through the years at SkyDome, Larry was co-announcer and did the voice-overs for the television post-production. He was also an administrator, and served the provincial and national boards of the Canadian Motorcycle Association as president, vice-president, member-at-large, and so-on. In the late 1980s, Larry arranged for his home club, the Steel City Riders, to take over the running of the legendary Corduroy Enduro from the British Empire Motor Club and it continues to this day.

Image via The Spec

Jack Canfield

Inducted 2003

Known throughout the Maritimes as Atlantic Canada’s motorsports icon, Jack Canfield was a motorcycle and car racer, the driving force behind the construction and development of Atlantic Motorsport Park, an international ambassador for Canadian motorsport and a mentor to literally hundreds of competitors. He started racing motorcycles when he was only 14 years old and collected trophies for victories in scrambles, hill climbs, trials and dirt-track races. That was in the 1940s. In the 1950s, as well as continuing to pile up the wins in Nova Scotia, he was off to compete in road races in New Brunswick and Ontario. In the 1960s, he raced – and won – at Mosport Park, Daytona International Raceway and Briar Motorsport Park in New Hampshire. One victory of note, in the Canadian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Mosport, came on a home-modified Suzuki 250 over Suzuki’s own factory team. Suzuki was so impressed, they offered him a sponsorship. That same year, he was a founding member of the Atlantic Motorcycle Competition Riders’ Association. In 1973, Canfield spearheaded the building of Atlantic Motorsport Park at Shubenacadie, N.S., just up the road from Halifax. On Aug. 2, 1974, he rode the first lap of the new track and was in charge of continuing development and maintenance at the circuit until his untimely passing in 2003. The opening of AMP got his competitive juices flowing and he decided to try his hand at car racing. He destroyed his first car – a Formula Vee – as well as one of his legs in a practice crash. But his next car, a Datsun 510, saw him win the Maritime Road Racing Championship in that class. But his true love was motorcycles and, putting the cars aside, he raced through the 1990s and into the new millenium in vintage events. He was honoured for his contributions many steps along the way.

British Empire Motor Club

Inducted 2003

Had it not been for the Toronto based British Empire Motor Club (BEMC) and its members, who organized major motorsport events and also helped to develop racing circuits such as Edenvale, Harewood Acres and Mosport Park, it is very likely that motorsport in Canada would not be as successful as it is today.

Formed originally in 1928 as a motorcycle racing club (its first event was a scramble), it has gone on to organize more motorsport events including car and motorcycle races, hill climbs, ice races, scrambles, trials and rallies, than any other club in Canada. The club promoted its first motorcycle road race in 1931 on a 1.5-mile closed circuit at the Bridle Path and Post Road in what is now midtown Toronto. By the mid 1930s, BEMC was organizing
motorcycle races on the sand at Wasaga Beach, and the crowds were huge. In 1939, the club decided to accept car enthusiasts as full members but auto racing was not promoted until 1950 when a motorcycle-car program was held at an old airport at Edenvale, near Stayner. Sixteen cars entered that first
event. Six years later, when the club moved its activities to Harewood Acres near Jarvis, 122 cars were entered for the first auto race there.

In 1958, the members – in a huge gamble – took an option on a piece of property north of Bowmanville and the first competitive event, on May 24, 1959, at what became Mosport Park was – what else? – a motorcycle scramble . The club, with partners, operated Mosport until 1966 when it was sold to private interests.

Literally thousands of people have enjoyed membership in the British Empire Motor Club. Still organizing races after all these years, the club celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2003.
British

Jake DeRosier

Inducted 2002

Jacob De Rosier is considered one of the greatest motorcycle racing champions of the 20th century.Sponsored by Indian Motorcycle and later Excelsior, De Rosier was the fastest rider in the U.S in the early 1900’s.

Born in Quebec in 1880, he moved with his family to the U.S. when he was four. Facinated with motorocycles, De Rosier persuaded Frenchman Henri Fournier, who brought the first bicycle pacing machines to the U.S., to let him ride one of the motor pacers. Impressed with his natural ability, Fournier hired him to ride the machine in the Paris races and thus started De Rosier’s professional career.

While becoming one of the best pacing riders in the world, he met Indian co-founder, Oscar Hedstrom, which later led to De Rosier’s long relationship with Indian Motorcycles. He raced Indian Motorcycle machines in the endurance runs and bicycle velodrome track races becoming the top rider at the 1908 Federation ofAmerican Motorcyclists (FAM). This led to a full-time racing contract with Indian and from that point forward, he won races nearly every weekend earning most of his victories on the newly built Los Angeles Motordome in the 100-mile record trials. De Rosier’s popularity was so great that track promoter and builder, Jack Prince, hired him to race at the opening of many of the board tracks being built across the country.

In an amazing show of dominance De Rosier held every FAM speed record for professional riders by the end of 1911 forcing hhim to search out new challenges.He travelled to Great Britain and became the first American rider to compete in the Isle of Man TT setting the fastest qualifiying speed and finishing an amazing 12th only to be disqualified for outside assistance. After leading the first lap, he began losing his tools and spares on the rough course and was forced to borrow a spark plug to complete the race after crashing out. But the loss was minor as De Rosier won the hearts of British motoracing fans who adored his magnetic style.

On March 12, 1912, while racing for Excelsior, De Rosier sustained serious injuries in a match race at the Los Angeles Motordrome. De Rosier rallied after an operation on his severly broken leg, but he never fully recovered. He returned to home to Massachusetts for a third operation , but died of complications on February 25, 1913, at the age of 33.Hundreds attended his funeral and Indian flew flags at half-mast and ceased production for five minutes tohonour the greatly loved motorcycle racer.

De Rosier won nearly 900 races during his racing career and was considered one of the most daring racers of his era. He raced everything from the early single-cylinder motor bicycles to the full-fledged motorcycles capable of triple-digit speeds.The motorcycle magazines of the time call him the most famous racer the sport had ever known.

Image via Defunct Speedway Tracks

Bill Sharpless

Bill Sharpless, on a 500cc Matchless leads Dave Daniels across the Irondale.

Inducted 2001

Scrambles, Enduros, Trials, Road Racing, Dirt Track and Ice Racing – in a career that spanned 22 years, Bill Sharpless rode them all. And he wasn’t just a dabbler. He tackled each motorcycle discipline with panache, verve and winning form, earning himself the handle “all-rounder”, not to mention a trunkload of championship titles. He started racing in 1953 when motocross went by the name “scrambles” and few serious dirt bikes were available. Most off-road competition then was done on motorcycles that were little more than modified street machines. Compared to today’s state-of-the-art motocross weapons, they were heavy, (weighing up to 180 kilograms), technically unsophisticated, and far from dirt friendly. Bill Sharpless may well be considered a motorsport anomaly, and not just because he was a master of several disciplines. Unlike most of his peers and successors, who sacrificed post-secondary education for a career in racing, Bill studied mechanical and aeronautical engineering at the University of Toronto, and spent those summers taking pilot training in the RCAF. Bill modestly credits his success in racing not so much to talent, but to a passion for motorcycles, and the fact that he rode street bikes as a chief means of transportation for 30 years. His love affair with motorcycles not only translated into “ace competitor,” but “event organizer” as well. He was a founding member of the competition- oriented Nortown Motorcycle Club in 1953. From ’54 to ’65 (except for a 2-year stint in the Air Force) he served the club as either president or treasurer and spearheaded the organization of more than 100 motorcycle events. Motorcycle competition, however, is where Bill excelled above all else. He won his first Canadian Championship in Enduros in 1955 on his modified 650cc street bike. 1956 and ’57 were spent in the RCAF in New Brunswick, where he organized the Maritimes’ first Road Race and first Enduro. Then back to Toronto to an engineering job at De Havilland Aircraft, and to begin motorcycle competition in earnest. And what success he had. 1958 was the first of 4 consecutive years that he laid claim to the coveted “White Trophy”, (named after Ron and Eve White, early CMA officials who are also members of the Hall of Fame). The trophy was awarded to the rider who accumulated the most points in Canada in the various disciplines, and with it, the overall championship. During this period, Bill’s successes included the 1959 Canadian Trials, the ’59 and ’60 Canadian 500cc Scrambles, and numerous Regional Championships. Although road racing championships escaped him, Bill was recognized as one of its top competitors, both in Canada and in the Amateur Class in the United States, where in 1961 he was sponsored by the Triumph Corporation. But then in March of ’62 disaster struck. While leading the 125 mile road race at Daytona, Bill suffered a crash that left him in traction for 6 weeks with a multiple-fractured leg. Problems with the leg and mounting family responsibilities forced him into semi-retirement, now competing only in Trials and Enduros, and refereeing at Road Races. The operative words are “semi-retirement” because Bill won the Canadian Enduro Championship in 1966 and ’67. In 1969 at age 35 he decided to go overseas to ride his first International Six Day Enduro, but one week before leaving he was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in his left hip. Since his motorcycle had already been shipped, and with a prescription of an anti- inflamatory drug that seemed to work, he left for Germany anyway. He did not finish his first ISDE, but he had to try again, so off to Spain in 1970 where he finished with a Bronze Medal, then to England’s Isle of Mann in 1971 for a Silver. In the spring of ’72 Bill again won the Canadian Enduro Championship, but further trips to the ISDE in Czechoslovakia in ’72 and the USA in ’73 did not produce the elusive Gold Metal he longed for. By 1974 arthritis in Bill’s hands prevented him from further ISDT attempts, but it didn’t stop him from trying the new sport of studded- tire ice racing. It did, however, finally put an end to his competiton career in 1975. But he still does score- keeping at enduros as his interest has never wavered.

Image via Corduroy Enduro on Picasa