Friday, May 23, 2008


Ah, to be young, handsome, rich, and extremely talented. I hadn't seen this shot of the legendary Mike the Bike until Dave sent a batch from August 23, 1958 from the Aberdare Park race circuit, in his first year of competition. No wonder the girls were crazy for him - his shiny new leathers fit better than Emma Peel's from the Avengers. He would have been 18 years old, and at the end of the year he would be famous.
It's time for a biopic - and doesn't he look a bit like Ewan MacGregor in this photo? Sounds like a plan; I bet Ewan would be happy to play Mike, and he can ride! Having just seen Hailwood's Honda 4 at the Legends, I'm sure all the original bikes from his racing career could be found, including his competition's machinery. Who should play Ago? Phil Read? Comments please [and we've had one - apparently a film is in the works, with Francesco Quinn slated to play Ago].
The bike is a Norton Manx 350cc with a short-circuit tank, from his father Stan Hailwood's 'Ecurie Sportiv' team. It was tuned by Bill Lacey, the former Brooklands habitue, who at first refused to work on motorcycles after 25 years' hiatus (he had been tuning racing cars instead). Lacey tuned all of Hailwood's machines until he began racing with factory teams. Mike won third place on the Norton that day.

Second bike is an MV Agusta, a 125cc ohc single with tele (not Earles) forks; given father Stan's influence, Mike's bike is a works racer and not a production model - it was purchased from Bill Webster, who had strict instructions from Count Domenico Agusta to sell the racer only to a 'top rider' - no learners! Clearly Stan's arm-twisting paid off - although the bike was loaned to Mike at first. He had to buy it himself from his race winnings, on the 'hire purchase' scheme, as Mike refused his father's money to buy his racers. Mike won first place that day with the MV.
The 'dustbin' (that's a garbage can to us Yanks) fairing would have been outlawed for GP racing after '57, as per FIM decree (dangerous in cross-winds, although they continued to be used in non-champoinship events in '58). Note team logo; 'For the Love of the Sport'. Stan Hailwood had style.

Third pic shows the comraderie among motorcycle racers in the day. The sun is fairly high, say 2pm, and the riders look relaxed, so I would imagine this is a post-race photo. The racers are (please correct me if I'm wrong): left (sitting) Derek Minter, midground - Mike H, Gary Hocking, Eric Hinton, back row - Dan Shorey, Jack Ahearn (in cap).

Bottom photo shows Mike at the '57 Isle of Man TT, after his third breakdown during practice, at the same spot! By now the ladies had figured out where to wait; the eager looks on their faces say it all - his first year of racing and already he was a sex symbol and superstar. Had he in fact 'broken down', or was the company just too compelling?


southsiders M.C. said...

it seems like young ladies from those times, were old fashioned like my grandma isn't it poor mike?

Anonymous said...

thats not gary hocking or derek minter

Anonymous said...

Hello Paul

A friend has sent me a copy of 'The Vintagent' dated Friday May 23rd 2008 - but only 2 pages of 5 arrived, can you help.

I lived in South Wales until the the mid eightees, and used to go to Aberdare park frequently. - I was there this year, and it was a shame to see that it no longer attracts some of the top guys - Ian Lougher apart.

Unless my memory is playing tricks, I beleive that Mike rode his last race as a privateer at Aberdare - it must have been in the early sixtees - I remember it was a cold day and he was wearing a maroon sweater over his leathers - during the following week he joined MV

I recall, that he seemed to 'saunter' around the circuit, his style was so fluid - he beat the likes of Dan Shorey, John Cooper, Tony Godfrey, Selwyn Griffiths and a host of others on the day.

Aberdare is a trickey short circuit which has seen all the greats - from John Surtees as an Eighteen year old thro to the likes of Carl Fogerty, and Ian Lougher in more recent times.

So, Mike's competitive 'privateer' career which began on August 23rd 1958, ended at the same track - I apologies if my 'facts' prove incorrect.

In your item, you mentioned that Dave had sent in a batch of photos from Aberdare - are they available.

I recognise the guys in the photo on page 2 - do pages 3,4,&5 relate to the same story. if so, could you please mail me copies.

Hope to hear from you

Best Wishes
Frank Dawes

Anonymous said...


When you get a chance, if you care to... Please retell the story
of Mike @ IOM on the Ducati. I
believe it was 1978... He beat
Barry Sheene. He was old, he had
a bike that was down 40 hp from
the Suzuki. It is a heroic tale.

The Bastard

Anonymous said...

At least two of those riders are not who you say, that is not Derek Minter, I dont know who it is although I feel I should, but I am pretty sure that your Gary Hocking is Paddy Driver.
Mike Hailwood did have an outing at the TT on a Beart Norton, I think it broke, DNF. Francis used to have a nice signed photo of Hailwood airborne at Ballaugh Bridge thanking him for the ride.
Every time I stray onto your site I get NO WORK DONE DAMN YOU!
Oh and 'the Bastard' has it wrong on Hailwoods comeback ride at the 78 TT he humbled Read on the works Honda, Sheene only did one TT 1971, fell off at Quarter Bridge without injury

Anonymous said...

I think the guy in the foreground is Mikes mechanic Jim Adams

Anonymous said...

Selwyn Griffiths Wasn't racing in 58

Vladd77 said...

I agree..not Gary Hocking :(