Rider Of The Week is a segment that looks at a famous rider and gets to the heart of what made them so memorable. Bill Ivy was an English Grand Prix racer who achieved several accolades, such as winning the 1967 125cc world championship. Throughout his career, Ivy possessed a sense of fair play and sportsmanship that made him one of the all-time greats. At 5’3, Ivy was diminutive in size, but had a big heart.
Ivy was born on August 27th 1942 in Maidstone. His first race bike was a 50cc Itom and he started racing at Brands Hatch, Kent in 1959. Ivy went on to ride various machines, including Honda, Yamaha, Norton, Bultaco and Matchless. In 1965, he joined the Tom Kirby racing team, which allowed him to race on larger circuits.
In 1965, Ivy competed in his first Grand Prix race after being selected as a replacement for Yamaha rider Mike Duff. He finished fourth in the 125cc race and third in the 250 cc class, giving Yamaha a great showing. Ivy went on to win his first race at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona in 1966.
The next year, Ivy won eight out of twelve races to capture the 125cc world championship, beating Phil Read by 16 points. For the 1968 season, Yamaha ordered Ivy and Read to win one title each, with Ivy scheduled to win the 250cc championship and Read the 125 cc championship. After winning the 125 cc championship, Read ignored team orders and won the 250cc championship, beating Ivy on overall race time.
This caused a rift between the riders, leading to Ivy announcing his retirement in 1969. Then, he decided to go into Formula 2 car racing
Despite being successful in Formula Two, Ivy came back to the motorbike world to fund his car racing. In 1969, he raced a 350cc motorbike for Jawa and started off with a promising season. During a practice race in East Germany, the engine seized up and Ivy was thrown from the bike. His helmet came off and he collided with a fence post. Ivy died from his injuries, which included a fractured skull, punctured lung and severe brain hemorrhage.
Ivy was only 27 when he passed away, but his legacy as a skilled racer remains. He dedicated much of his life to the sport, and he’ll always be remembered.