Mike Hawthorn was the golden boy of motor racing. He drove fast, lived with style, had fun …. and died young at age 29. He was the first British world Formula One motor racing champion. In 1958, although only winning one grand prix to the four victories that year of Stirling Moss, Hawthorn’s greater consistency in his Ferrari won the title by just one point over his gallant and senior rival. He became the first in now a long and illustrious line of British drivers to win the prestigious drivers’ title.
His racing career took off in 1952 when he was spotted, and later mentored, by Jaguar’s racing manager, Lofty England. Winning the French Grand Prix over Juan Fangio in 1953, Hawthorn was clearly destined for motor racing greatness. He was nicknamed ‘Le Papillon’ (the butterfly) by the French.
As lead driver for Jaguar, he was involved, if indirectly as he pulled into the pits, in the terrible crash at Le Mans in 1955 that killed more than 80 spectators. Even in his year of Formula One triumph, in 1958, there was sadness. His great racing friend, Peter Collins, was killed at Germany’s notorious Nurburgring track. Hawthorn felt disillusioned. About to be engaged to a beautiful fashion model, Jean Howarth, he announced his retirement shortly after clinching his title. Just months later, on 22nd January 1959, Hawthorn died in a car accident on the A3 Guildford bypass in Surrey. It was front-page headline news.
Since 2005, a charming life-size bronze sculpture of Mike Hawthorn with Lofty England, sculpted by David Annand, stands at Goodwood racetrack more than 50 years after his death. It was funded entirely by donations. It is a warm sculpture reflecting the friendship of the two men. Hawthorn’s bow-tie shines in the sun.