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The Fastest Driver This Side of Hades
The saga of Guy's need for speed
by Christopher Doty

Sweet, smooth music may have been the style of the Royal Canadians but it didn't always apply to Guy Lombardo's method of travel.

As a teenager, Lombardo's father bought him an English bicycle. Soon he became the fastest kid cyclist in London. One evening someone challenged Guy to ride the bike down a set of concrete steps. Ten hours later young Guy woke up in his bedroom.

"They didn't have X-ray in those days and the doctor's prognosis was that I had a sumptuous bump on my head," Guy recalled. "His prescription was to avoid concrete steps on a bicycle. I walked around with a headache for a month."

But he wasn't deterred when he graduated to cars. Early in the morning of September 19, 1922 Guy was clocked doing between 30 to 40 miles an hour in an East London neighbourhood - more than twice the speed limit. It wasn't Lombardo's first brush with the traffic cops.

"I really think that I ought to send him to jail this morning," said Magistrate Graydon at the sentencing. "There is no question in my mind but that he is guilty, the only question is whether or not I should send him to jail."

Guy escaped with a $50 fine and court costs.

Guy's speedy career also extended to water. Guy's father had purchased one of the first motor boats in London and would reward his sons with cruises down the Thames River in London. The experience must have planted a seed in Guy's mind. Years later it led to a near famous and near fatal career as a hydroplane racer.

Guy began racing in 1940, losing only one race in 1942. Four years later he won the Red Bank Sweepstakes and the Gold Cup with Tempo VI, a 450-horsepower boat. While attempting to recapture the Gold Cup on the Detroit River in 1948, the Tempo overturned when Guy veered to avoid a disabled boat in front of him. He escaped from the crash with a broken arm.

Growing business obligations - in addition to pleas from colleagues and family - convinced Guy to give up professional racing in 1954.

Guy's enthusiasm for speed may have also been dampened by another incident. On December 9, 1951, while driving in New York City, Guy struck and killed Isack Lilien, a hardware store owner. No charges were laid against Lombardo because Lilien had been jaywalking.

Guy continued to race hydroplanes at exhibition runs - including a 1955 demonstration on Fanshawe Lake in London. But there would be no more trophies - or broken arms.

Click here for more information on Guy's hydroplane career.