Rider Of The Week is a segment that looks at famous motorbike riders and examines what they’ve accomplished in their lives. Mike Hailwood will go down as one of the greatest racers in history. He was known as ‘Mike The Bike’ because of his natural riding ability. A multiple time world champion, Hailwood continually pushed himself to be the best on the track, and his love of motorbikes started from an early age.
Hailwood was born in Oxfordshire in 1940. His father, a successful motorbike dealer, taught him how to ride. He saw his first race at the age of 10 and spectated at the Isle of Man TT races in 1956. After being educated at Pangbourne Nautical College, Hailwood went on to work in the family business until his dad sent him to work at Triumph motorcycles.
In 1957, Hailwood took part in his first race at Oulton Park. He came in 11th place, but it didn’t take him long to be successful. He won the ACU Stars at 125 cc, 250 cc, 350 cc classes in 1958, which earned him the Pinhard Prize, an award given to riders under 21.
In 1961, Hailwood became the first man in the history of the Isle of Mann TT to win three races in one week after coming first in the 125 cc, 250 cc and 500 cc categories. While preparing for the US Grand Prix in 1964, he set a new one-hour speed record on the MV 500 cc, recording a speed of 144.8 mph.
During 1965, Hailwood won the Hutchinson 100 Production race at the Silverstone circuit. What made this even more impressive was that despite heavy rain, Hailwood achieved laps of 83 mph.
Hailwood’s most famous achievements come from his performance at the Isle of Mann TT. By 1967, he’d won 12 times. During this time he also had what historians consider the greatest race on the course against rival Giacomo Agostini.
When he’d accomplished everything he could on bikes, Hailwood moved on to motor racing. In his first year, he came third at Le Mans and went on to win the Formula Two European Championship.
Hailwood took an eleven year break from mainstream motorcycling, only to return in 1978 for the Isle of Mann TT in the Formula I race. At 38 years old, few believed Hailwood could go far. Instead, he proved everyone wrong and scored a major comeback win. He raced for another year before retiring for good at 39.
In 1979, Hailwood was involved in a road accident while his children were in the car. A truck made an illegal turn through a barrier and Hailwood collided with it. Hailwood and his daughter died, while his son David survived with minor injuries. Eerily, Hailwood had claimed he was told by a fortune teller in South Africa that he wouldn’t live past 40 and would be killed by a truck.
In total, Hailwood won nine world championships, 78 Grand Prixs and 14 TT races. He left behind a legacy that will never be matched.