Friday, March 22, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, March 22, 1981



  Champion British TT and Grand Prix racer, Alfred Robert "Fearless Bob" Foster dies.


  Born in Gloucestershire, UK, in 1911, Bob Foster was one the great "all-rounders" of motorcycle racing.  In a career that began in 1932, he competed in everything he could find his way into, road racing, trials and scrambles.  In a time when many riders dabbled in a variety of races trying to find their niche, "Fearless Bob" Foster excelled at all of them.


  Like Evelyn next door, it was road racing stole his heart.  While acting as an honorary mechanic to a friend competing in the Manx Grand Prix he knew the Isle of Man was for him.  Determined not to be the one on the outside looking in, he purchased a Grand Prix 350 New Imperial.


  Four years later Bob Foster would win at the Isle of Man.  Sadly, his win on he unit-construction New Imperial in the 1936 Isle of Man TT would prove to be the last occasion when a British machine would win a Lightweight TT at the Isle of Man.  Following the TT New Imperial withdrew official support from racing. It was a major disappointment to Foster, so from 1937 to 1939 he piloted an AJS 350cc R7 single, plus the supercharged 500cc V4.  This was a fearsome evil-handling bastard, and its one claim to fame was a memorable 100mph lap by team mate Walter Rusk at the 1939 Ulster GP.  Rumour has it that that's how he acquired the nickname 'Fearless'; a tribute to his courage in handling the more fearsome models being raced at the time.


  For the first two years following WWII he competed on the continent in scrambles and road races.  He rode a Velocette and won the 1947 Junior TT.  In 1948 Bob kicked serious ass in the 350 Belgian Grand Prix against strong opposition.  Once again he rode a Velocette in the '49 Junior TT and, in the Senior he opted for a twin Moto Guzzi, similar to Stanley Woods’1935 TT winning model.  In the Junior he finished in a very disappointing 6th place, and was looking forward to a better result in the Senior. After disposing of the early Norton and AJS challengers, Foster had things in hand and by lap 5 it seemed the race was his but alas, it was not to be.  A screwed-up transmission problem brought with it yet another Senior early-retirement.


  1950 was a memorable year for Bob and for racing, for it heralded the appearance of the ‘Featherbed’ Norton.  Their Isle of Man results were reminiscent of the 1930 glory days, with 1-2-3 finishes in both Junior and Senior TTs.  At the Belgian GP, Foster surprised the all-conquering Nortons with a masterly win in the 350cc event, ahead of Artie Bell and Geoff Duke.  To reinforce Velocette’s dominance he repeated the performance at the Dutch TT and Ulster GP . These wins, plus second place at the  rain-soaked Swiss GP ensured a World Championship for Alfred Robert Foster and the Manufacturers Championship for Velocette.