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Bend man reflects on triumphant race car career

Bill Foster raced to more than 200 career wins

Bend road racer reflects on life in...

BEND, Ore. - While Bill Foster now lives a quiet life on Boonesborough Drive north of Bend, his very successful racing career was anything but that. It was loud, exciting -- and victorious.

 

"They picked me up and carried me, and 'Hoorah!’ All that kind of stuff," Foster recalled during a recent conversation.

 

Foster, now 70, was an autocross and road race car driver for 15 years. He had a unique career, which had an unusual start.

 

In 1974, at the age of 25, Foster said he was driving home from church with a friend in his new Camaro. They passed by an autocross event going on at Pasadena City College in Los Angeles.

 

Foster decided to enter.

 

“I borrowed a helmet, made a run, came out shaking, and I loved it,” Foster said. So, I go, 'Man, this would be fun.’"

 

Fast forward to 1980. It's the U.S. Autocross Nationals in Salina, Kansas. Foster, a virtual unknown, is preparing to square off against six-time champion Gene Hanchett.

 

"Empires rise, and empires fall. Rome, Britain, Gene Hanchett, Foster said, reading aloud the lead sentence of a SportsCar magazine article about the big race. The six-time national champion, Hanchett, reigns no more. Hail the new king of C-Prepared, Bill Foster."

 

Foster called it quite the story. He dethroned the most decorated driver in the history of the sport.

 

"I get emotional about that, Foster said. I had finally, after six or seven years, accomplished what I wanted to do."

 

Even then, Foster refused to take his foot off the gas. Over the next nine seasons, Foster tallied three U.S. championships, eight international championships and more than 200 career wins.

 

"I quit counting after 200, Foster said. I used to have a house full, literally, of trophies."

 

Foster flew by the competition. His top speed in a race was 180 mph. That's close to a football field a second. He said that's what people outside the sport have the hardest time understanding.

 

"'Oh, I have a hot rod Corvette, or I have a Porsche, so I know what speed is,' Foster said. No. A race car is drastically different than a performance street car."

 

For Foster, the racing experience was not all about the speed.

 

"It was about learning, preparing the car and accomplishing something. That's what it was about with me."

 

Just like his tires did several times during his career, Foster crossed his own finish line in 1989.

 

"Twenty-five hours a day, seven days a week. It never stopped, Foster said. I got burned out."

 

After a life in the fast lane, it was time for Foster to hang up his helmet.

 

After retiring, Foster swore he would never compete again. After he moved to Central Oregon in 1991, however, he added a few trap-shooting state championships to his resume.


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