While Mike Hailwood is regarded by some as the greatest motorcycle racer of all time, in this brief biography, we will focus on the career in racing automobiles. It was automobile racing that gave rise to the connection between Hailwood and the Heuer brand, so that’s where we will put our focus.
Stanley Michael Bailey Hailwood, was born on April 2, 1940, at Great Milton, Oxfordshire. His father was a former motorcycle racer, who then owned multiple motorcycle dealerships. Mike Hailwood took up motorcycle racing as soon as he was old enough to compete and by the age of 21, he had won his first world championship, in the 250 cc class.
Hailwood’s Motorcycle Racing Career.
Over the years 1961 through 1967, Mike Hailwood won nine motorcycling world titles as follows:
- 250cc — 1961, 1966 and 1967
- 350cc — 1966 and 1967
- 500cc — 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1965
Hailwood is best-known for his accomplishments in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races, winning 12 times over the period from 1961 to 1967. Hailwood prevailed in what many historians consider to be the most dramatic Isle of Man race of all time, the 1967 Senior TT against his great rival, Giacomo Agostini. In that race he set a lap record of 108.77 mph (175.05 km/h) on the Honda RC181, a record that stood for the next eight years.
In 1968, Honda had withdrawn from motorcycle championship competitions, but paid Hailwood £50,000 not to compete in any motorcycle series. With this, Hailwood transitioned from racing motorcycles to racing automobiles.
After an 11-year hiatus from the motorcycle racing circuit, in June 1978, Hailwood staged a comeback at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy in the Formula I race, riding a Ducati 900SS. He raced at the 1979 Isle of Man TT, riding a Suzuki RG 500, before retiring for good at the age of 39. Hailwood used that same 500 cc Suzuki in the unlimited classic and diced for the lead with Alex George (1100cc Honda) for all six laps in yet another TT epic, losing the race by two seconds.
The records show that Hailwood had 76 Grand Prix victories, 112 podium finishes, and fastest lap in 79 of his races.
Hailwood’s Automobile Racing Career.
Mike Hailwood never achieved the same level of success in racing automobiles as he achieved with motorcycles, but he did participate in 50 Formula One races. He had a third place finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1969, driving a Form GT40), won the 1972 European Formula Two title, and also competed in Formula 5000.
Hailwood’s debut in Formula One was during his motorcycle racing years, driving for Reg Parnell’s privateer team in 1963 and 1964. In his first Formula One race, Hailwood finished eighth in a Lotus 24-Climax at Silverstone. The following year, Hailwood finished sixth in the Monaco Grand Prix, driving the team’s Lotus 25-BRM.
In 1969, Hailwood competed in World Sports Car Championship races, driving GT40s and Gulf Mirages as a member of the John Wyer team. In 1970, Hailwood competed in Formula 5000. Former motorcycle racer John Surtees recognized Hailwood’s talent, and signed him to drive the Surtees TS8 in the Rothman’s Formula 5000 championship. Hailwood finished second in the series.
Hailwood returned to Formula One in 1971, driving a Surtees Ford. His first appearance was in the Italian Grand Prix, at Monza. In the closest finish in Formula One history, the first five cars were all within 0.61 second, with the race also being the fastest race in Formula One history, with an average speed of 150.75 mph. Hailwood finished fourth, 0.18 behind race winner Peter Gethin, with Ronnie Peterson and Francois Cevert also between Hailwood and the checkered flag. Hailwood may have finished off the podium, but he certainly established that he could run with the big boys. In his second and final race of the Formula One season, Hailwood finished 15th at the United States Grand Prix, at Watkins Glen. His total of three points for the season placed him only 18th among the drivers, but Hailwood showed that he had the talent to compete in Formula One.
In 1972, Hailwood started 10 races for the Surtees Formula One team, driving the Surtees TS9B Cosworth. The car suffered from reliability problems, however, with Hailwood finishing only five of the 10 races. His top finishes included 2nd place in the Canadian Grand Prix, 4th place finishes in the Italian and French GPs and a 6th place finish in the British GP, at Silverstone. For the season, Hailwood had 13 points, good enough for 8th place among the drivers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surtees_TS9
In 1973, Hailwood drove for Team Surtees, driving the TS14A Cosworth. After retiring in nine of the first 10 races of the Formula One season, Hailwood had some success in the final five races of the season. He finished 14th at the German Grand Prix (August 5), and 10th at the Austrian Grand Prix (August 9). September saw a 7th place finish at the Italian Grand Prix and a 9th place finish at the Canadian Grand Prix. Still, for the season, Hailwood collected no points.
Hailwood’s most celebrated moment of the 1973 season came on the third lap of the South African Grand Prix, at Kyalami, on March 3. Local driver Dave Charlton was challenging for sixth place, when he lost control, and was hit by Hailwood. Cars littered the track, with Clay Regazzoni hitting Hailwood, with Regazzoni’s car bursting into flames. Regazzoni was left unconscious, strapped into his burning car. Hailwood made a first attempt to pull Regazzoni from his car, but was forced to turn back when his own racing suit caught on fire. After being doused by a track marshal, Hailwood returned to Regazzoni’s car and was successful in his second attempt to pull Regazzoni from the burning wreckage. Both drivers suffered only minor burns, in an accident that could have had far worse results.
Here’s a video of Hailwood describing this crash and how he pulled Regazzoni out of his car; notice that Hailwood is wearing the Carrera 1158 in this video.
Among the awards that Hailwood received for his bravery were the Prix Rouge et Blanc Jo Siffert, named for the Swiss Formula One hero, and the George Medal, Britian’s highest civilian award for bravery.
For 1974, Hailwood switched to the Yardley McLaren team, with the McLaren-Form M23. The 1974 season started well for Hailwood, with top 10 finished in seven of the first nine races, including a third place finish in South Africa. In the 11th race of the season, the German Grand Prix, Hailwood was challenging for fourth during the closing stages of the race, but he crashed at “Pflanzgarten”, breaking his right leg. Repairing the leg would require multiple surgeries, forcing the end of Hailwood’s automobile racing career. His 12 points for the season left him tied with Jacky Ickx, for 10th among the drivers.
Hailwood and His Formula One Friends
Mike Hailwood commented that he felt more at home in the world of motorcycle racing than in the world of car racing, perhaps feeling that in the car racing world he was sometimes dismissed as “only a motorcycle racer”. Hailwood had the reputation of being a party boy, with James Hunt being one of his best buddies in the Formula One world.
Hailwood participated in the filming of the movie Le Mans, spending time with Steve McQueen and Derek Bell on the movie set.
Mike Hailwood’s 18 Karat Gold Heuer Carrera
Jack Heuer, CEO of Heuer-Leonidas in the 1960s and 1970s, was known to enter into sponsorships with drivers or teams on very simple terms — Heuer would provide the driver with a Heuer chronograph (and perhaps some cash for his team), the driver would wear a Heuer patch on his racing suit, and the car would have a decal with the Heuer logo. It appears that Heuer provided such a sponsorship for Mike Hailwood, for the 1973 season, as Hailwood wears the Heuer patch on his racing suit and a Heuer logo on his helmet, and there are Heuer decals on the Surtees TS14A Cosworth.
As was the custom, Jack Heuer presented Hailwood with an 18 karat gold automatic Carrera, Reference 1158. This was the same model that Jack Heuer presented to the Ferrari Formula One Drivers in this period. See the OnTheDash Definitive Guide to the Carrera Reference 1158.
The version presented to Hailwood is the Reference 1158 CHN, second execution, meaning that the dial is champagne (CH), with black registers (N), and the date disc is white (compared with the black date disc on the first execution of the 1158 CHN).
The case-back is engraved — “To Mike Hailwood for a Successful 1973. Jack Heuer”. This was similar to the engraving that Jack Heuer used on the 18 karat gold Carrera that he presented to Ronnie Peterson.
It appears that Hailwood wore this 18 karat gold Carrera on a regular basis. We see photos of him wearing the Carrera both during the 1973 season and after the season.
On Saturday, October 19, 2019, Bonhams sold Mike Hailwood’s 18 Karat Gold Heuer Carrera, as part of its Autumn Stafford Sale (see Lot 23 in the Bonhams catalog). The watch was sold for 56,312 GBP ($73,775 USD), including the buyer’s premium.
On Saturday, March 21, 1981, Hailwood – then age 40 — set off from his home in Tanworth-in-Arden, with his children Michelle and David, to pick up some fish and chips. As they returned to their home, a truck made an illegal turn through the barriers and collided with their car. Michelle, aged nine, was killed instantly. Mike and David were taken to hospital, where Mike died two days later from severe internal injuries. David survived with minor injuries.
So there we have it. The racer who survived over 150 Grand Prix motorcycle races and won 14 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races, the racer who competed in 50 Formula One automobile races, the racer who risked his own life to save that of a fellow racer, died driving down the road with his two children, on their way for some fish and chips. Formula One racing in the 1960s has been called the “cruel sport”, but in this instance, it was life itself that seems especially cruel.
Motorsport Magazine — Mike Hailwood racing biography.
Motorsport Magazine — Untouchable, unforgettable: Mike Hailwood
Drive-My.com — Mike the Bike in Cars
MotoGP.com — Profile of Mike Hailwood
AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame — Profile of Mike Hailwood