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Legends: Mike Hailwood

Submitted by on October 18, 2010

What made Mike Hailwood stand apart — precise lines on the fast public road circuits of his day? Tick. But he was just as comfortable on artificial circuits.

Bravery? Tick. He rode the fearsome Honda 500-4 in 1966-67 and earned a George Medal for rescuing Clay Rezzazoni from his burning BRM at Kyalami in 1973.

Versatility? Tick. Hailwood could seemingly ride any bike on any tarmac surface, and four bikes in a day.

Perfect temperament? Tick again. Laid back and ready to joke at his own expense, yet super determined.  He said after one crash: “Luckily I fell on my head – otherwise I might have been hurt!”

Hailwood was the first man to win four consecutive world 500 championships, and the first to win world crowns in three classes (250, 350 and 500). He won nine world GP championships and 77 GPs. At the Isle of Man he won 14 times, including two trebles and wins in his famed 1978-79 TT comeback at age 38-39.

Dubbed “Mike the Bike”, he was a legend as much for the fighting nature of his wins. His victory in the 1961 Senior TT — when he averaged 100.6 mph on a Norton  to hound Gary Hocking’s MV four into submission — made him a hero to anyone who read English motorcycle publications.

And his fastest lap of 108.77 mph in the 1967 Senior TT on that Honda stood as the Isle of Man outright record until mid-way through the 1970s!

On March 21, 1981, Mike Hailwood took his children for fish and chips near his Warwickshire home. His car collided with the rear of a truck that was making a U turn. Daughter Michelle was killed; Mike and son Paul were critically injured. Mike died two days later, just short of his 41st birthday.

Said one Australian racer who had shared the odd beer with Hailwood: “Mike was a great bloke who just liked to have a good time.”

Don Cox

Images: HondaWorldWide.com

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