Tuesday, 13 April 2021

William ‘Billy D’ Deschamps



LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Our sweetheart and racing legend, William “Billy D” Deschamps, passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.

Billy D was born in Berkeley, California, on Nov. 18, 1938. In 1945, his family moved from Walnut Creek to Lakeport.

In 1946, Billy’s father Marion opened Deschamps Automotive and shortly after, owned the Richfield Station, across the street from the Deschamps Oldsmobile/GMC Dealership on Main St.

Billy D graduated from Clear Lake Union High School in 1956. After graduating, he enlisted in the Army Reserve, training at Fort Ord.

In July of 1957, while operating the family business with his dad Marion and brother-in-law Gene Lovi, Billy married Sharon Clifford. Their first child, Barbi, was born in 1961, and in 1964, the same year he became the proud owner of Deschamps Automotive, their son, Michael, was born.

In 1956, the racing bug bit Billy in a big way, with a memorable race in the Jalopy class. In his very first race, Billy, eventually known as the “Flying Frenchman,” finished in grand fashion, with his car upside down on the dirt track.

Eventually, Billy moved into a Super Modified. As one of the founding fathers of the Northern California Racing Association, Billy was instrumental in leading the drive to have both the Lakeport and nearby Ukiah tracks paved.

Always a Northern California favorite and trendsetter, Billy D was the first racer to don a fire suit at his beloved Lakeport Speedway. The suit came in handy on numerous occasions, including a memorable fiery crash with a fellow competitor that made local sports headlines with an infamous picture showing Billy D sitting in his car totally engulfed in flames. Suddenly, every other driver couldn’t suit up fast enough!

In 1972, Billy D dominated with an amazing 13 straight main event wins and a major regional championship, The International Driver's Challenge. That race included tracks in Washington, Oregon and Canada and featured an incredible 9 races in 13 days.

He competed at more than 55 tracks during his super modified career. After his successes, he moved to a sprint car, driving No. 44 and eventually becoming a car owner.

On March 10, 1979, Billy married Gaye Sabini in Lake Tahoe and gained another daughter, Sonia. They continued to reside in Lakeport, racing throughout California and the West Coast until 1999.

After finally hanging up his fire suit, Billy served on the NCRA Board of Directors for 13 years, including a four-year term as president.

Billy was proudly inducted into several racing halls of fame: the Northern California Racing Association, Calistoga Speedway, West Capital Raceway Alumni Association and Northern California Auto Racing Alumni.

Billy leaves behind Gaye, the love of his life and wife of 41 years; daughters, Barbi Jolliffe and Sonia Zieske (Marc); honorary daughter, Evie (Ed Pepper); daughter-in-law, Christi Boucher; son-in-law, David Jolliffe; grandchildren, Nicole Zabel (Jeremy), Clinton, Chelsea Lizarraga (Albert), Carson, Morgan, Katelyn, Blake, Shaylyn, Richard and Zoey; great-grandchildren, Madison, Jackson, Hayden and newly born Kyson Michael, Naomi and Anthony; nieces, Deena (Wes) Brenton, Margo Vertrees (Jeff) and Renee Teverbaugh (Bruce); great-nephews, Dylan and John, and great-niece, Brooke; and many more family members, great friends and a big racing community.

Billy is predeceased by his son, Michael; sister, Diane Y. Lovi and her husband, Gene Lovi; and parents, Marion and Irene Deschamps.

A celebration of life will be announced at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund has been established at Umpqua Bank. You can make checks payable to the Bill Deschamps Memorial Fund or mail to P.O. Box 1405, Lakeport, CA 95453, or via PayPal and Venmo search “BillyDMemorialFund."




Arrangements by Chapel of the Lakes Mortuary, 707-263-0357 or 707-994-5611, or visit www.chapelofthelakes.com.

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