The Farnham Flyer

Mike Hawthorn (1929-1959)


1953 Trophy race at Silverstone. Courtesy of the Museum of Farnham

The first Englishman to win the World Championship Motor racing title. His passion for cars came from his father, who ran a garage in Farnham. Enzo Ferrari signed Mike for the Italian team in 1952. He won the World Championship in 1958.

In the 1950s a wave of public interest in motor racing helped propel British drivers such as Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn to the forefront of international acclaim.  During his short career Mike Hawthorn became one of Britain’s most famous racing drivers.  He was born in Yorkshire but at an early age the family moved to Farnham where Mike’s father went into partnership to set up the Tourist Trophy Garage, selling and tuning motorcycles and cars.

Mike’s driving talents were soon apparent.  With a string of victories this confident, blond haired, young driver quickly captured the imagination of the racing public.  A formidable competitor, Mike also impressed Ferrari, who recruited him as a junior driver in 1953.  He came to world attention by winning the 1953 French Grand Prix.  Described as the race of the century, it involved a neck a neck duel between Mike and the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio, ‘…such a duel that even the other drivers slowed to watch those two.  It was a personal triumph as Mike took the chequered flag only feet ahead of Fangio.’

The crowning moment of his career came in October 1958 when Mike Hawthorn became Formula One World Champion, the first British driver to achieve this. Almost immediately, at the age of 29, he announced his retirement. Despite his glamorous public image, he was sickened by the racing business. Instead he decided to devote all his time to running the garage business. Tragically just a few months after his retirement Mike was killed when his car skidded and crashed on the Guildford by-pass.

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