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15th June 2005


Mike Hailwood: The Fans' Favourite by Mick Walker

Mike Hailwood: The Fans' Favourite, by Mick Walker - From Amazon.co.uk Breedon Books are an unusual publisher of motorcycle books. They're not an automotive specialist but instead major on local history, walking and travel guides, biographies and memoirs, and historic sporting events.

It's into the latter category that Mick Walker's trio of 'motorcycle champions' books fall. The most recent addition looks at Mike Hailwood, and together with its companion volumes about John Surtees and Giacomo Agostini it forms a handsome mini-library. Best of all - and unlike the majority of motorsport publications - this book was actually printed and bound in Britain. It's far cheaper to have printing done elsewhere, of course, but it's nice to know that some volumes are still produced at home.

The publishers suggest that; 'never in the history of motorcycle racing has there been a more popular champion than 'Mike-the-Bike' Hailwood'. In this 285-page hardback, which comes almost 25 years after Mike's untimely death, Mick Walker examines his long career, from his first race, aged 17, at Oulton Park in April 1957, to his final race at Mallory Park in June 1979.

In the course of his competitive career Mike rode in more races than any other rider, and he proved time and again that he could ride any bike to take the chequered flag. In his time he straddled everything from a 49cc Itom single-cylinder two-stroke to a 1000cc Dunstall-Suzuki GS1000 four-cylinder superbike. He could switch capacity sizes and makes at the same meeting on the same day and give breathtaking winning performances regardless. Among his many achievements he could count 12 TT victories, 10 world titles and 76 Grand Prix victories.

As ever, you'd be hard pressed to criticise Mick Walker's writing for being superficial or poorly researched. It's extremely detailed - if not quite lap-by-lap then certainly race-by-race - and Mick is really at home when talking about Hailwood's years with Ducati and MV. Mick must now be the greatest authority on racing motorcycles of this period, and I was pleased to find plenty of details about the bikes alongside the anecdotes and lap times. There's an explanation of desmodromics; a profile of Taglioni; the history of the EMC racers; even the background to Walter Kaaden's MZ 250 twin!


Mike Hailwood: The Fans' Favourite, by Mick Walker - From Amazon.co.uk

Mike Hailwood stuff on eBay.co.uk

Much of this material will be familiar to those who have an extensive library of Mick's other books. He's written, what, 80 of the things, and it would be hard not to repeat yourself at some point in a writing career of that breadth! After an afternoon's browsing through 'The Fan's Favourite' I didn't stumble over any shock revelations which might redefine the legend of Mike Hailwood - but I did enjoy many of the interview quotes taken from the press of the day, like this one:-

'The 250 class is a real hot potato. Phil Read has been champion for the past two years and given a bit of luck with the new two-stroke four, he is going to take some beating. The TT will be one of the year's highspots and, nice though they are, I hope that I'm not eating the marshals' jam butties somewhere out on the course during any of the races!'

(He didn't quite thank his tyre supplier, team and sponsors… but the standard competitor's press release plainly existed back in Hailwood's day!).

Hailwood's larger-than-life father, Stan, was a multi-millionaire who could ensure his son always had access to the best bikes. Stan put Mike on the path to success, but it soon became clear that Mike had more than enough talent to hold his own at the highest level. A modest, even shy man, never motivated by money or glamour, Hailwood shied away from the massive publicity he attracted.

Mike Hailwood: The Fans' Favourite, by Mick Walker - From Amazon.co.uk

Mick Walker's book concentrates on Hailwood's racing years and the motorcycles, but also considers the influence of his father and his life away from the track. If God is in the details then there's a fair dollop of divine influence herein, in the form of the profiles which give fair credit to Hailwood's famous rivals, the bikes they rode, and the key figures in the industry - men like Soichiro Honda and Count Agusta.

There's also an extensive index and a complete race-by-race record from 1957 to 1979. There are plenty of relevant, well-captioned photos, too; 200 or more mono illustrations capturing Mike and his bikes from the days of Ecurie Sportive to his final rides at Mallory and Donington aboard a Dunstall GS1000.

One for the fans? Well, there may not be anything here which has not already appeared elsewhere - but you are unlikely to have discovered another biography of Hailwood which contains so much detail in just the one place.

Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason

******

Mike Hailwood: The Fans' Favourite by Mick Walker

  • Breedon Books, ISBN 1 85983 447 7, normal price £19.99
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