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