This serialisation is taken from a 1966 magazine by Stan Hailwood about his son Mike…
Sorry to disappoint anybody but Mike was no prodigy. In fact, until the age of 16 he was a constant worry. At school he always seemed to get a bad report. “Not paying enough attention” was the remark which appeared most regularly and the only bright spot was his prowess at sports such as cricket and football and particularly boxing.
Invariably, at the headmaster’s request I had to get him on his own and, looking very severe, give the usual father to son dressing down.
He had gone to Pangbourne Naval College at 14 and every Sunday after church parade I collected him. He couldn’t get home quickly enough to get on an old trials James I had bought for him.
Sometimes he brought pals with him and it was a constant source of worry as they rode round and round the eight-acre field near our home in case they got injured. Motorcycling at that school, I’m afraid to say, was strictly taboo and some of the neighbours did not exactly welcome having their Sunday afternoons shattered by a machine with no silencer bashing around for about four hours.
It was during this period that I began to have an idea that Mike might make a good rider. Yes, just a good rider. The thought that one day he would be a world champion never entered my head.
At 16 he asked me if he could leave the naval college. He was fed up with the discipline and heartily disliked getting up at six o’clock in the morning, going for a five-mile run and then a cold shower. I told him I didn’t like the idea but secretly I was delighted because, like any other father,I was anxious he should go into business with me. Little did I dream that he would never settle down because, as I discovered later, a humdrum existence and being tied down to a daily routine was not for Mike.
However, he started work at Kings of Oxford and like anybody other newcomer was given the job of driving the motorbike and float, taking bikes to the station and running errands. It was a 15-minute job taking a machine to that station and putting it on the train. The foreman reported, quite rightly, that it was taking Mike an hour or more.
It turned out that he was just pushing off for a ‘blind’ and, son or no son, this was no good so he got a job at Triumph. I suppose he thought he was going to be a tester but I made sure he was given the dirtiest job in the factory.
However, he used to enter trials and scrambles at the weekend and, some how or other, he must have been noticed because, much to my surprise, he was given a 125 Triumph for the Scottish Six Days. And so, at 17, he went off to Scotland with his first works bike.
In the meantime, he had been pestering me to let him have a go at racing but I thought he was too young and finding a small machine was most difficult. Naturally, he wanted a big bike but here I had very strong views. It is a mistake, in my opinion, to start in the big classes - it is expensive, one is immediately thrown among the best riders and to come last, or nearly last, for several months is very disheartening.
To start at the bottom in the smallest class and work upwards is the finest experience and to my mind breeds the ‘best in the end’ riders. For this reason I think it is a pity that the 50cc class is fading. It provides wonderful experience and is an inexpensive way to prove whether boys have it in them or not.
The latest example of this theory is Bill Ivy, without doubt a future world champion. Bill, like Mike, and for instance Dan Shorey can jump on any machine and be a potential winner. Surely, it is better to be first, second or third in a small class to start with than be a rabbit for many months in the bigger classes. I know so many good riders who started on big bikes but with no prize money and many disappointments gave up.
However, my good friend the late Bill Webster of Crewe, had two 125cc MVs, a double ‘knocker’ and a single. I asked if he would sell me one but Bill explained that Count Agusta, the boss of the Italian MV factory, had let him have them on condition that top riders only were allowed to buy them. But he offered to lend Mike the single overhead camshaft model and he was entered for Oulton Park on the Saturday following the SSDT.
On the Wednesday, Mike retired from the trialwith ignition trouble. He had been doing very well considering he was the youngest rider there and it was his first effort but I don’t think he was too unhappy. The sight of those massive rocks and boulders frightened even me but Mike, with his phlegmatic outlook on life, just shrugged them, and his retirement, off.
So to Oulton Park for that fateful day which, as its turned out, decided Mike’s future. Bill and I agreed to overgear and overjet the machine to save the motor and slow Mike up a bit. It was also decided that Mike should try and follow Bill around.
Bill was glancing over his shoulder, obviously waiting for Mike, but it after four laps he caught up and went ahead of Bill who followed behind to see how he was shaping. I have never forgotten his words after the race: ”Stan, you have a future world champion there.You can buy a machine for him.”
Those words, coming from a man who had found so many brilliant riders and who seemed to be an unofficial talent scout for the Italian factories seemed too good to be true. I muttered:”Oh rubbish Bill.”
How prophetic his words were and years later it was again thanks to Bill that Mike, like other famous names before him, got his first ride on the works MVs.
From then on it was a standard 196 MV bored out to 240cc and a 50cc Itom that Mike rode at Castle Combe, Blandford Camp and anywhere else we could get entries. Various wins and places came our way including one race which really made people sit up and take notice. This was at Cookstown in Northern Ireland where Mike won the 250cc race and smashed the lap record to smithereens.
I should like at this point to finally kill the myth that it was money and backing that made Mike. For a start, I am opposed to parents who spoil their children by giving them everything they want. And this applied to Mike. I believe that if anybody wants anything really badly enough they will earn it. Whatever Mike has got, it is by his own natural ability as a rider.
All that I gave him was my enthusiasm, encouragement, advice and a temporary loan towards that first 125 MV. He had saved some money from working at Kings and Triumph then he won sufficient to buy the Itom for £90.
During the winter he worked at Kings of Manchester but spent practically every evening with that wonderful character Reggie Dearden, listening and learning. And what better professor could he have had than Reg who has helped so many riders past and present…
Part two of four will be published on Friday.
About the author
Stan Hailwood was a self-made millionaire who made his fortune selling motorbikes. He was so successful earning commission as a salesman for Kings of Oxford he eventually ran the company and able to spend most of his later years in the Bahamas. He was affectionately known as ‘Stan the Wallet’ in Grand Prix paddocks all over Europe.
This tribute to his son Mike was written from his suite at the Montagu Beach Hotel in Nassau at the end of 1965 when the switch had just been been made from MV to Honda. It therefore doesn’t cover the latter part of the career of a rider who, to many people, remains the greatest of all time having, at the age of 21, won three TTs in a week and the 250cc world championship. And then went on to complete a tally of 14 TTs, 76 GPs and 9 world championships.
Nor his motor racing career where he became European F2 champion in a team owned by John Surtees, the only man to win world championships on two and four wheels; and successes in F1, F5000 and Le Mans. He was awarded the George Medal for rescuing Clay Regazzoni from his burning Ferrari in 1973 but a year later his motor racing career came to an end from leg injuries sustained in a crash while driving a Yardley Maclaren at Nurburgring.
Stan Hailwood was to die only months before seeing what many believe to be his son’s greatest achievement, his winning return to the Isle of Man in 1978. Nothing would have made him prouder.
These edited extracts are taken from the magazine book “MY SON MIKE - THE HAILWOOD STORY” the original content of which was written by Stan Hailwood, edited by Robin Miller and published in 1966.
This year’s Classic TT is a celebration of the greatest comeback of all time, forty years on, when the original Ducati will be ridden round the TT circuit by John McGuinness, and a new version the V2 Hailwood will be launched by David Hailwood assisted by his mother Pauline.
Full details of the event, the Hailwood collection and merchandise can be viewed and obtained via the official website mikethebike.com.