Mike Hawthorn

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John Michael Hawthorn (10 April 1929 - 22 January 1959) was a racing driver, born in Mexborough, Yorkshire, England, and educated at Ardingly College, West Sussex.

Contents

Biography

Mike Hawthorn made his competition debut driving his 1934 Riley Ulster Imp, KV 9475, winning the 1,100 c.c. sports car class at the Brighton Speed Trials on September 2, 1950.[2] In 1951 he won the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy, a season-long contest run at Goodwood, driving his 1½-litre T.T. Riley, by one point.[3] He also won the Ulster Trophy Handicap at Dundrod and the Leinster Trophy at Wicklow that year.[4]

Hawthorn made his Formula One debut at the 1952 Belgian Grand Prix, finishing an impressive 4th place. He would later win his first Grand Prix, at only the 9th attempt, when he won the 1953 French Grand Prix at Reims.

In 1955, Hawthorn was the winner of the 24 hours of Le Mans race, despite being involved in the terrible crash that killed 84 spectators and fellow racer Pierre Levegh.

He was the winner of the 1958 Formula One Championship. With only one win that year against four wins of Stirling Moss, he benefited greatly from the gentlemanliness of Moss as shown at the Portuguese Grand Prix of Porto. Hawthorn was disqualified for pushing his car, against the rules, on the way to a second place finish. Moss interceded on Hawthorn's behalf and the decision was ultimately reversed. Those second place points at Porto contributed to Hawthorn winning the championship with a season total just one point more than that of Moss.

After winning the title, Hawthorn immediately announced his retirement from Formula One, having been badly affected by the death of his close friend and Ferrari team mate, Peter Collins, in that year's German Grand Prix.

Death

Hawthorn had previously lost a kidney to infection and, with the remaining kidney failing, he was expected to live only a few years more in 1955.[5]

A matter of only months into his retirement, on 22 January 1959, Hawthorn died in a road accident on the A3 bypass near Guildford driving his British Racing Green highly tuned Jaguar 3.4-litre sedan (now known as the 3.4 Mk 1). What happened that day is still unknown, suggested causes being driver error, mechanical failure, or blackout. The crash has been ascribed to combination of high speed, bad weather, competitiveness and impulsiveness. Rob Walker's 300 SL Mercedes was ahead of him. Perhaps Hawthorn pushed his car to pass Walker's. Hawthorn's Jaguar, nicknamed "the Merceater", was heavily modified for high power and speed. "No Kraut car could overtake or outaccelerate" Hawthorn's Jaguar (these are the words in his biography Challenge Me The Race) - a close relation had been killed in the war, hence his dislike of Germans.

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