Mike Hawthorn, one of the greatest talents in motor racing, became a racing driver almost by accident. Born in 1929 he inherited his father’s passion, enthusiasm and determination: these were the necessary requisites to become one of the most feared drivers of his times.
His debut in the year 1952 at the Eastern Trophy Goodwood was a merited business card in the world of racing and not just pure luck. Only several months later he repeated his success at the Boreham race under pouring rain, where Hawthorn almost stultified his competitors. After another several extraordinary performances Enzo Ferrari noted this exceptional driver. In the season’s last race, held at the Modena circuit, Mike drove a Ferrari, but his performance was not the best, although it was enough to sign a contract with the Scuderia for the following season. In the year 1953, with Hawthorn part of the Team Ferrari, he won the French GP and therefore was the youngest driver ever to win a Formula One race.
At the age of 24 Mike was a real national hero. During an exceptional season the English driver was not only extremely fast on the track but, in contrast to his free spirit, also remarkably reliable.
The Englishman’s popularity was sky-high and he was one of the favourites for the ongoing season. On 11th April 1954 at the Syracuse circuit Mike raced the new Ferrari single-seater fighting for the lead. Trying to avoid an obstacle on the track he lost control over the car and came crashing into the protection wall next to the track, his car bursting into flames. A terrible scene, but Mike saved himself as by a miracle. But the worst was yet to come. One month after his accident John’s father, with whom he had a very close relationship, died and Hawthorn fell into an abyss. It was a season to forget, just like the following one in 1955, the year with the greatest tragedy in motor sports. It was at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the most demanding competitions in the world, where Hawthom and Fangio fought a fierce duel. After the pit stop Mike drove an extremely risky manoeuvre triggering off a dreadful collision. It was a real tragedy: 82 spectators died and more than 90 were injured. Mike was unhurt and had to finish the race according to the rules, winning one of the most dramatic races in the history of motorsports.
After this difficult season the year 1956 was a year of transition for Mike, who had to make a drastic decision. In the year 1957 Hawthom came back to Maranello for another two exceptional years. He wasn’t the English daredevil anymore, but still the fast and victorious driver we knew. The car-driver combination went well and the Scuderia Ferrari was on top. Although it was again his destiny that slowed him down. At the German GP Collins, Mike’s old friend, following Brooks took a bend too wide and had an impact he paid for with his life. Mike lost his will to race, but the fundamental support from his teammate Hill enabled him to win the longed for first Title. Hawthorn was World Champion. At the peak of his success he decided to retire from racing, dedicating his life to his family and his father Leslie’s passion: the TT garage.