Bob Kehoe of Portland, Oregon has released a biography about Victoria race driver, Billy Foster. The book touches on motor sport history in B.C. as well. (Photo courtesy of Bob Kehoe)

Racing biography of Victoria’s Billy Foster leads to exploration of local auto racing scene

Portland author Bob Kehoe fascinated with the depth of the city’s high-level racing connections

Bob Kehoe of Portland, Oregon always had an affinity for cars and car racing.

He spent a lot of his youth watching local races and finding personal heroes amongst the drivers. He also always liked to write and next week, will be releasing a book about Victoria’s own race car driver, Billy Foster.

Foster, who raced at the Western Speedway, became the first Canadian to race in the Indianapolis 500. He was also best friends with Mario Andretti, one of the most successful Americans in the history of the sport. 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.

About 50 years later in 2016, Kehoe met Gordon Alberg, a Saanich resident who was friends with Foster.

RELATED: ‘Old Bess’ has been through the racing wars

Alberg met Foster while the two of them were working at separate gas stations. He vividly described his first encounter with Foster, remembering the vehicle he was driving.

“He delivered parts … and he had a little Austin A40 pickup truck,” Alberg said. “I’m standing in the gas station and all of a sudden this Austin pickup comes flying down the hill, turned in the driveway and it’s sideways and I think it’s coming right into the office … that car stopped 10 feet from the office door, the door opens and he steps out with a set of brake shoes he’s delivering.”

Now, Kehoe has written a book on the life and times of Billy Foster as well as the racing community that surrounded him in Victoria.

“I knew of Billy Foster … I knew his name and knew a little bit of what he had been involved in, but that was about it,” Kehoe said. “So (Alberg) and I put our heads together and said ‘yeah let’s do something.’”

Alberg was able to put him in touch with people in Victoria that would help with research. Once Kehoe started conducting interviews, he realized how popular the sport is in the area.

“I started doing a little more research … I became aware of how deep the world of motor sports is up there,” he said. “I thought, ‘wow, this is really interesting stuff. I didn’t know about it and I wonder how many other people know about it.’”

What started as a biography of Billy Foster became his story, with Victoria and B.C.’s rich motorsport history woven throughout.

Alberg, who has refurbished some of Foster’s old cars, said he’s very happy with the book, calling it a well-researched “job well done.”

“It’s a great book,” he said. “There’s lots of history in it. A lot of Victoria people will read names that they’ve heard but don’t really know about.”

The book, Billy Foster: The Victoria Flash…plus a walk through the history of motor racing in British Columbia is available at amazon.com, coastal181.com and through Kehoe, who can be reached at bkehoe@gmail.com or by phone at 1-503-746-4134.

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com

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