Hawthorn's Day



The feature on Alan Brown (MOTOR SPORT, July 1987) and the letter from DJS Rowlands have together prompted a personal reminiscence of the advent of Mike Hawthorn and the Cooper-Bristol at Goodwood at Easter 1952.

With other members of the Brighton and Hove Motor Club, I was acting as a track marshall at Madgwick corner on both the practice day and race-day itself. During practice it soon became apparent that Mike was going very fast indeed, and was returning lap times at least as good and in many cases better than the established “stars” of the period.

Come race-day, I was intrigued to see that a bookie had set up his pitch in the public enclosure at Madgwick, reminiscent of the days when on-course betting took place at Brooklands. He was offering quite good odds on Hawthorn for the first event in which Mike ran, obviously not having done his homework on the practice times.

It was amusing to see how rapidly the odds were altered in the bookies’ favour after that first outing.

After practice and after the Richmond Trophy itself I was able to visit the paddock and listen to parts of the inevitable inquests on the performances of the Cooper-Bristols. The car driven by Alan Brown was definitely down on performance in comparison to the Hawthorn machine.

Was it fuel or ignition that was not properly sorted, or did Leslie Hawthorn and his team from the TT Garage have a wizard tuner? It would be of interest to know.

In answer to DJS Rowlands’ question “could it happen today?” one must say “no” very emphatically. The non-commercial, almost club atmosphere of those days encouraged many more people to have a go, and the sport was less enmeshed in regulations and driver “trade unionism” than at present.


Hove, East Sussex