Profile As the son of a wealthy motorcycle dealer, Mike Hailwood enjoyed a carefree childhood. With no shortage of motorised toys around, he soon developed superior riding skills that would help him to become one of the most respected motorcycle racers ever.
After steering his Honda 250cc bike to the World Championship title in 1961, ‘Mike the Bike’ switched to the 500cc class the following year, joining the MV Agusta team. Hailwood immediately dominated the elite class, winning five Grands Prix and claiming the title by a landslide in his debut year.
For the next three years, Hailwood did not relinquish his stranglehold on the World Championship, as he became the first rider to win four successive 500cc titles. But Hailwood’s dominance was not restricted to the 500cc championship: he also strung together an impressive series of wins in the legendary Isle of Man TT race.
In the late 1960s, Hailwood switched from two to four wheels to pursue a career in Formula One racing. He took part in 50 Grands Prix, finishing on the podium twice, but he found his way into the F1 history books for another reason than his racing achievements. After crashing during the 1973 Grand Prix of South Africa, Hailwood risked his own life when he dived into the flaming wreckage of Clay Regazzone’s car to free the unconscious driver. He was later awarded the George Medal, the United Kingdom’s second highest medal awarded to a civilian for an act of bravery.
Hailwood retired from Formula One in 1974 following a severe crash at the German Grand Prix, but his racing days were not over yet. At the age of 38 in 1978 he completed a fairytale comeback when he won the Isle of Man TT race for the 14th time in his career. Hailwood died in 1981 from the injuries he suffered in a car accident.