Mike Hailwood was honoured at the 2018 Motor Sport Hall of Fame Awards, which took place on June 4 at the Royal Automobile Club’s Woodcote Park estate. Hailwood’s widow Pauline was at the star-studded event, which was hosted by broadcaster Suzi Perry, to receive the award from his former Honda team-mate Stuart Graham.
More than 40,000 enthusiasts from around the world voted for their favourites in a number of categories, with Hailwood topping a Motorcycle shortlist that also included TT hero Joey Dunlop and American world champion ‘King Kenny’ Roberts. Graham spoke warmly of his friend – nine times a Grand Prix world champion on 250cc, 350cc and 500cc machinery – entertaining the audience with memories of their time racing for the factory Honda team in 1966.
“When we went to Monza in September 1966, I’d got used to the ’bike and I found that, being small and light, I could pull a higher top gear than Mike and overtake him going past the pits. During practice, I’d asked him whether Curva Grande was flat and he casually said, ‘Oh yeah, no problem’. I went back out, wound myself up and finally did it. I came in, told him that it was a bit hairy but that, yes, it could be taken flat-out, and he said, ‘You silly little so and so – I was only joking!’
“Mike was so laid back and such a natural. He didn’t think too much about it because it all came so naturally. If you’d asked him how he did it, he wouldn’t have been able to explain it.
“It’s so difficult to compare different generations, but he was the best of our era. He was so versatile and could win on anything. When he came back to the Isle of Man and, in 1979, rode that RG500 Suzuki – on modern tyres and completely different to everything else he’d ridden – that proved beyond all doubt that he had exceptional talent.
“He was just such a lovely guy. We became friends because in those days there was a wonderful camaraderie between riders – we watched out for each other. No one had a bad word to say about Mike.”
Among the other awards to be presented on the night was one for Industry Champion, MotorSport Vision boss Jonathan Palmer receiving it from last year’s winner David Richards. As well as running famous venues such as Brands Hatch, Donington Park and Oulton Park, MSV has run the British Superbike Championship since 2008.
As has become tradition at the event, a range of machinery was demonstrated on the Captain’s Drive at Woodcote Park. Motorcycle collector Dick Shepherd provided the two-wheeled highlight by riding the ex-Hailwood Triumph 650 that won the inaugural Thruxton 500-mile race in 1958.
As well as honouring the great names from two wheels and four, the awards supported charity partner Mission Motorsport, which provides opportunities for servicemen and women who have been affected by military operations to take part in motor racing as part of their recovery and rehabilitation.