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

Ted Sturgess

Inducted 1996

Ted Sturgess roared out of Hamilton, Ont., in 1938 to become Canada’s most successful road and dirt-track motorcycle racer. His early exploits earned 18-year-old Sturgess an invitation to ride for Britain’s West Ham racing team in the English National League. Sturgess returned to Canada at the outbreak of WWII. In 1940, he won every track championship in Canada. He served 4-1/2 years in the RCAF, resuming racing after WWII and winning even more Canadian titles.

Image of Ted Sturgess in the Forties by Barry Brown via Tales from a Somerset Shed