1996 World Champion Billy Hamill
2012 Speedway World Cup leader, Speedway Academy owner, Gumball Rally Promoter
July 13, 2011 Billy Hamill has a perfect night at the Industry Hills Expo Center. Five rides, five wins. Another Main event win just like opening night at the Grand Area on June 4th. I'm a longtime fan so it's not the first time I've seen "the Bullet" do his magic and bring the crowd to their feet.
I first meet William Gordon Hamill when he was 13 years old. Butch Fish who worked for Terry Kennedy's trucking firm in Monrovia CA. introduced us. You have to meet this kid, I'm going to teach him how to ride Speedway. Butch was right and Billy quickly became a force on the Junior Speedway Circuit.
Speedway did have competition. The Hamill loved Ice Hockey. He was good at it and for awhile it looked like it could steal him. Fortunately for him and us Speedway turned out to be the love he wanted.
Billy turned professional in 1986 and was ICE Rookie of the Year 89. In1990 he left California to race for Cradley Heath in England. 1991 saw Hamill again at the Heathens. It was also the first year he competed in a World Final. His 1992 World Championship campaign was cut short after breaking his wrist at the Overseas Final. In 1993 he returned to Cradley. 1993 was also Billy's second World Final appearance in Pocking. 1994 and Hamill missed out on a place in the World Final by losing a run off at the semi final stage to Greg Hancock in Vojens Denmark. 1995 saw him win the Austrian Grand Prix, 1996 the Swedish Prix and Danish Grand Prix and of course his World Championship victory. 1997 a 2nd place in the World Championship. 1998 Billy becomes World Team Champion. After several attempts 1999 saw his first U.S. National Championship win. 2000 the Czech and Polish Grand Prix along with a 2nd in the World Final. 2001 the Czech Grand Prix and his 2nd U.S. National Championship. 2002 the SRA and 3rd US National Championship, the Bullet won his fourth U.S. National Championship in 2006. Hamill for the fifth time again became US National Champion defeating Greg Hancock in 2007. Billy retired from racing in Europe at the end of the 2007 and returned to his home in California. His 2008 California season was cut short when again he was injured. On Doctors orders he retired from competitive racing.
Now you would think the story ends there but it has a much happier continuation. Billy served on the AMA Speedway Board. He started the Speedway Academy, promoted the Gumball Rally and returned to competition in 2011. Some of his wins since returning include Victorville 4/2/11, Industry 6/1/11 and 7/13/11, Costa Mesa Fair Derby 7/15/11, a South Team Win in the North-South Challenge on 7/22/11 and a 1st Place Scratch Main win at the Gumball Rally on 02/25/12. This year Billy will also lead an assault on capturing the Speedway World Cup with teammates Ryan Fisher, Ricky Wells, Kenny Ingalls and reigning FIM Speedway World Champion Greg Hancock.
Now these achievements are not a complete list as there are way to many titles and wins in his record book. They are accurate to the best of my knowledge but I'm old so memory does not serve as well as it once did. Still there is one thing time will never erase from my memory bank. Billy Hamill, he is a American Speedway hero.
Having been around this sport for the last forty or so years I've seen a lot and experienced more. Some stories can be told. Some not so much. Here is one of my favorite Billy Hamill tales.
It was 1996 and I was in Germany for the World Final. I'm driving though Pocking and I see the Hamill guy in this gas station. Pulling in I yell 'how you doing brother". The Bullet was blown away. He didn't know I was coming so the jaw jacking was intense. Before we knew it the time to go racing had come but we made our plans to hook up after the event. Like all World Finals it was intense. Fellow American Sam Ermolenko won the day and the celebration was also a world class event. Billy didn't have much time to join in the partying. He had to be back in England to compete. There's room in the van so why don't you come with me he teased. So I did. Left the rent a car in the parking lot and we were off. Through Germany and into France and then the ferry to England. Now I did not have my passport with me but Billy knew all the tricks so when we boarded the ferry I hid in the sleeper. Oh yeah, what we did when we were young. Anyway long story short I spent a couple of weeks with the Bullet as he did what he does best before flying back to the continent and retrieving my rent a car. A great experience but not a once in a lifetime experience as we had a similar but different adventure at the Swedish GP a few years later. But that's another story for another time.