Time for tribute to Mike Hawthorn, Britain’s Doncaster-born first Formula One world champion, says cousin, 60 years after victory

Today Formula One car racing fans are probably used to seeing British Drivers win the sport’s top honour.

Current star Lewis Hamilton has four drivers’ world champion’s titles under his belt, and is in a great position to win a fifth.

Neil Hawthorn and Giles Brearley with a picture of Mike Hawthorn, originally from Mexborough, and Britain's first Formula One World Champion in 1958. Neil is Mike's cousin.

Neil Hawthorn and Giles Brearley with a picture of Mike Hawthorn, originally from Mexborough, and Britain's first Formula One World Champion in 1958. Neil is Mike's cousin.

But 60 years ago, there had been no champions from Britain – until a Doncaster born star changed all that.

Yet, six decades later, there are now those in that history maker’s former home town who do not know of its link to motor racing history.

Mike Hawthorne was born in Mexborough April 10, 1929. And 60 years ago this week, on October 19, 1958, he was crowned Britain’s first Formula One World Champion after the Moroccan Grand Prix. Stirling Moss won the race, but Mike’s second place was enough to win the title.

Mike’s family left Mexborough when he was a young child – but relatives of the star, who died in a car crash in 1959, still live in the town.

The petrol station on Doncaster Road, Mexborough, on the site where Leslie Hawthorn, dad of Britain's first Formula One world champion Mike Hawthorne, had his garage.

The petrol station on Doncaster Road, Mexborough, on the site where Leslie Hawthorn, dad of Britain's first Formula One world champion Mike Hawthorne, had his garage.

Mike was born and spent his early years at Alexandra Road, which was the home of his grandmother, Kate.

Until a few years ago, the house was till home to Mike’s cousin, Neil, aged 69, who now lives a few streets away.

Mike’s dad, Leslie, ran the Robinson and Hawthorn garage on the corner of Doncaster Road and Church Street. The site is now occupied by a Jet petrol station.

Neil was still only a child when Mike died, but still remembers his famous older cousin.

Neil Hawthorn and Giles Brearley at Alexandra Road, Mexborough, which was home to Mike Hawthorn, who became Britain's first Formula One World Champion in 1958. Neil is Mike's cousin.

Neil Hawthorn and Giles Brearley at Alexandra Road, Mexborough, which was home to Mike Hawthorn, who became Britain's first Formula One World Champion in 1958. Neil is Mike's cousin.

Neil, now aged 69, said: “Mike used to come up and visit our grandmother.  His dad, Leslie, was the borough of my dad, Jack, and we always used to see him at Christmas.

“When Mike came up to visit me and my brother used to go and fetch the Christmas presents to be given out, from where they were stored.

“I think when he become world champion, we will have watched it on the television. Mike had bought our grandmother a television in in 1953 for the coronation.

“He used to drive up to see us in a Jaguar.

Jordan Hayes, who lives on Alexandra Road, the Mexborough street where Mike Hawthorn, who became Britain's first Formula One World Champion in 1958, once lived.

Jordan Hayes, who lives on Alexandra Road, the Mexborough street where Mike Hawthorn, who became Britain's first Formula One World Champion in 1958, once lived.

“We were excited when he came up, and he could be rally entertaining. But he was just normal to us.

“He would bring us a Christmas present, and the one I always remember was a metal toy fire engine he gave me. It was one of my favourite toys, but I’m afraid its long gone now.

“I remember him winning the world championship on the television  – of course it was exciting. I think me reaction would have been punching the air in excitement.

“I think there should be more about him in Mexborough, perhaps an exhibition or something.

“I’m very proud that I was his cousin. People don’t really talk to me about him that much now – they did more in the past.”

Neil, of Queen’s Terrace, worked for Swinton Garages, before going on to work on the railways and as an industrial painter. But he was never tempted to follow in his cousin’s footsteps driving racing cars. The family sold its memorabilia relating to Mike years ago.

The sign at the former Sportsman pub in Mexborough, depicting Mike Hawthorn in his Ferrari.

The sign at the former Sportsman pub in Mexborough, depicting Mike Hawthorn in his Ferrari.

Mexbough’s tribute to driver

Today, Mike;’s achievement and link to Mexborough is marked by a plaque in the town centre, on Hope Street. It was unveiled in 2006 by Mike’s one-time finance, Jean Ireland. There is also a board on the wall of the Old Market Hall pub in the town telling brief details of his story.

A Ferrari owners club attended the unveiling of the plaque, bringing their cars in honour of him having driven for Ferrari. A D-type Jaguar which Mike had driven in races was also brought up by its owner.

Local historian Giles Brearley helped organise the plaque and the unveiling. 

He said: “Being the first British World Champion is quite an accolade. Although the family moved away from Mexborough, they never lost that link.

“I would like to see more to mark his connection. I’d love there to be a statue.  Being the first British world champion was a great achievement at the end of the day.”

Neighbour: I didn’t know about racing hero

Jordan Hayes lives next door to Mike’s old home on Alexandra Road – but he admitted he was not aware of Mike Hawthorn and his achievements.

Jordan, aged 30, enjoys watching motor sports, but prefers touring cars to Formula One.

He said: “I think it is a shame that it is not better known locally, and now I’ve heard about this, I think it is exciting.

“I’ve lived in Mexborough for 30 years but had not heard of him.

“I think what he did was really impressive, especially in those days when cars were not so safe.

“I do think more should be made what he did. Mexborough doesn’t get mentioned much.”

Victory in a deadly sport

Mike Hawthorn clinched the 1958 Formula One World Championship on October 19, 1958, in Casablanca, Morocco.

Although he finished second, beaten in the race by Stirling Moss, he had enough points to win the title. Hawthorn had started the race on pole position.

He had won only one race during the season, compared to three by rivals Moss and Tony Brooks, but had been more consistent in winning points.

He won in an era when the sport was notoriously dangerous.

Luigi Musso and Peter Collins had died in previous races during the season, and that final race in Morocco saw another driver lose his life, when Stuart Lewis-Evans, died several days after race after suffering horrific burns when his car caught fire.