Britains’ first Formula 1 Champion, winner of the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours and numerous other accolades, Mike was a gutsy driver who wouldn’t take losing in his stride.
Mike Hawthorn made his competition debut in his 1934 Riley Ulster Imp, winning the 1,100 c.c. sports car class at the Brighton Speed Trials on 2 September 1950. In 1951, driving a 1½-litre T.T. Riley, he entered the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy, a season-long contest run at Goodwood, winning it by one point. He also won the Ulster Trophy Handicap at Dundrod and the Leinster Trophy at Wicklow that year.
By 1952, he had switched to single-seaters and during that season won his first race in a Formula Two Cooper-Bristol T20 at Goodwood. Further successes followed which brought him to the attention of Enzo Ferrari who offered him a works drive. He made his Formula One debut at the 1952 Grote Prijs van Belgie on the legendary Spa Francorchamps, finishing in fourth place. By the end of the season, he had already secured his first podium, with a third place at the RAC British Grand Prix and a brace of fourths driving a Cooper.
At Scuderia Ferrari for the 1953 season, Hawthorn immediately showed his worth with victory, at his ninth attempt, in the French Grand Prix at Reims, outmanoeuvring Juan Manuel Fangio in what became dubbed ‘the race of the century’ with the top four drivers finishing within five seconds of each other after 60 laps. This and two other podia finishes helped him end the season fourth overall. He also won the BRDC International Trophy and the Ulster Trophy as well as the 24 Heures de Spa Francorchamps with Ferrari team-mate Giuseppe Farina.
Hawthorn was less fortunate in 1954, suffering serious burns in a crash during the Gran Premio di Siracusa, but finished the year with three seconds and then victory in the season finale in Spain, placing him third in the driver’s championship. Following the death of his father, Hawthorn left Ferrari to race for Tony Vandervell’s Vanwall team, as he needed to spend more time at the family garage he had inherited, but after two races returned to Ferrari.