Car racing enthusiasts and community members gathered at the Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Langford Friday to celebrate the release of a book about Victoria race car driver Billy Foster.
Foster raced at the Western Speedway and was the first Canadian to race in the Indianapolis 500. He was best friends with the popular and successful race car driver Mario Andretti.
In 1967, two years after Foster’s professional career kicked off, his car hit a wall at the Riverside Raceway in California and Foster lost his life.
Fifty-five years ago today, Foster won his first Strawberry Cup which racers will be competing for again this weekend at the Western Speedway in Langford.
Now, Foster’s legacy and the history of race car driving in Victoria can be remembered and recognized in book form.
Gordon Alberg, Foster’s friend and a Saanich resident, was at the book release and signed copies for those that purchased them. Alberg read a book about Art Pollard, an American race car driver, written by Bob Kehoe a few years back. Shortly after, Alberg reached out to Kehoe to get working on a book about Billy Foster.
“I went over and bought [a book about Art Pollard] and I said you’re just the guy I wanted to meet,” Alberg recalled. “I said you’re going to do a book on Billy Foster.”
Unfortunately Kehoe was unable to make it to the event from his home in Portland, Oregon due to an injury.
Alberg read a letter written by Kehoe to the crowd, adding in some of his own sentiments about Foster as he went along.
“So many of these race car books are just pictures there’s no history so I’m really pleased with the book,” Alberg said.
In the letter, Kehoe explains that as he did his research about Foster he discovered there was a rich history surrounding motor sports in Victoria. He was also able to learn more about Foster.
“The more people I spoke with and the more articles I came across the more I got to know Billy,” Alberg read from the letter, smiling slightly as he went on. “He was quite a guy, even as a youngster he was fully dedicated to the sport. Beyond that he was a lovely husband and father…and he loved playing jokes on everybody.”
The book is more than just a biography of Billy Foster. It is a biography with Victoria’s rich motorsport history woven throughout it.
Langford Coun. Matt Sahlstrom said he received a phone call and e-mail from people who heard about the book as well.
“Anyone that is a fan of auto racing on Vancouver Island should take time to read this book,” the e-mail read. It was from Larry Pollard, a former Canadian NASCAR Busch Grand National Series driver.
“It was sad his career was ended at such a young age but in racing there are no guarantees.”
The book, Billy Foster: The Victoria Flash…plus a walk through the history of motor racing in British Columbia is also available at amazon.com, coastal181.com and through Kehoe himself at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 503-746-4134. It will also be available for purchase at Western Speedway this weekend.