J. M. (Mike) Hawthorn

As we close for press we hear of the tragic and somehow ironic death of Mike Hawthorn, Britain’s first World Champion. He died in a road accident driving one of the cars he loved most – a Jaguar.

With his irrepressible good humour, Mike was perhaps the best loved of British racing drivers. Having reached the peak of his profession he made the decision to retire, which was perhaps accelerated by the death of Peter Collins, his close friend and “mon ami-mate,” as he called him.

Mike Hawthorn’s father Leslie put him on the road to motor-racing fame when he bought a 1,100-c.c. Riley, with which Mike took part in his first competition event, the Brighton Speed Trials. Later, a 1-1/2-litre Riley was purchased and Mike began his racing career in earnest. He first came to the public eye when he won the Motor Sport  Brooklands Memorial Trophy in 1951, at Goodwood, a circuit of which he was particularly fond.

From then on, there was no holding the youthful Hawthorn and he quickly progressed from Cooper-Bristol single-seaters into the Ferrari team. In 1953 he won the French Grand Prix in one of the most exciting finishes ever seen to a motor race, and followed this up in 1954 with a win in the Spanish Grand Prix over the all-conquering Mercedes. From then on he had a lean time, mainly due to leaving the Ferrari team to drive British cars, but in 1958 he really hit his best form, driving with his head instead of a heavy right foot, he clinched the World Championship which he so richly deserved.

He always remained an enthusiast for cars of all types, and drove a Bentley at Le Mans last year before doing his stint in the race. If he wasn’t driving at a meeting he would always come to the track to drop the flag and drink the winner’s champagne. Indeed, no better epitaph can be given to Mike Hawthorn than to say that he loved cars.