The little series of features about what remains of Mike Hawthorn’s Surrey here on the Scarf & Goggles is intended as background to a man who will feature repeatedly in stories to come – and yet who could easily be written off as a one-dimensional caricature.
When following the route of Mike and the Members from Farnham to Tilford, for example, it was amusing to have a quick look at the forecourt of the specialist car dealer: Hawthorns ‘The Racing Legend’. As you can see, despite the name and location of the showroom, it’s covered in what the 1958 Formula One world champion referred to as ‘Kraut cars’.
As his ex-girlfriend Moi Kenward recalled in Mon Ami Mate, Mercedes-Benz was a subject upon which Hawthorn was particularly strident. “We were upstairs at the 1955 Earls Court Motor Show when someone told Mike that Sir Jeremy Boles was buying a gullwing Mercedes,” she recounted.
“‘He’s not buying a ****ing German car! Come on – let’s get down there,’ he said.” A somewhat bemused group of onlookers subsequently witnessed Hawthorn ranting at the Mercedes staff and Sir Jeremy – albeit too late to stop him from handing the cheque over.
Of course, Hawthorn’s passionate dislike of Mercedes was ultimately to play a part in both of the biggest tragedies of his life: the 1955 Le Mans disaster and his own death on the Guildford by-pass in 1959. Wartime scars were very evident 60 years ago, however, and national prestige depended heavily on the success of one country’s racing cars against those of another. In many ways, Hawthorn saw himself as a member of the British Foreign Office rather than an itinerant sportsman.
Since his death, meanwhile, Mike Hawthorn’s life has been commemorated in several ways – although a great many more have been declined. Perhaps the most popular is the locally-brewed beer that is light but strong at 5.3% and named in honour of the Farnham Flyer – although perhaps it would be a benefit if they could spell his name right!
Despite this little faux pas, the pub which serves this estimable pint was well known to the Hawthorn family, being about a mile north of their original home in Farnham. The Ball and Wicket – know in some quarters as the ‘Ball and Socket’ – has expanded to incorporate a well-regarded bistro and is independently-owned by the brewery responsible for the commemorative tipple, and made for a welcome pause to catch up on one’s notes.