Some nicknames are so simple that they stick. Take ‘Mike the Bike’, who delivered big time on two wheels as he landed no fewer than nine world motorbike racing titles. Sure, he confused things by turning his hand to four-wheeled sport, with an early attempt in the 1960s followed by a more serious one in the ’70s, but the nickname was too good to change.
His father was a self-made individual with a burning desire for his lad to succeed in motorbike racing, but Mike was always charming. A British champion in four classes by the age of 18, he’d go on to add three world 250cc titles, two at 350cc level and the 500cc crown each year from 1962 to 1965, always with a wry sense of humour. After all, what he called his ‘bank indicators’ were the worn down little toes of his boots, showing just how far over he tipped his bikes.
Having shown form in Formula Junior on 1963, Mike extended his foray into cars to contest two grands prix for Reg Parnell that year and added a further 10, with a best finish of sixth, between then and 1965. Yet, it was Mike’s second stint in cars that impressed, as he made his F1 return at the 1971 Italian GP and finished fourth for Surtees. Then, in 1972, he became F2 champion for Surtees and rounded out the year with second in the Italian GP.
Joining McLaren in 1974, to drive the team’s third car, was seen as a step up, but leg injuries suffered at the Nurburgring ended his career. Or it should have done, but he was ‘Mike the Bike’, so his comeback followed, on two wheels, winning on the Isle of Man in both 1978 and 1979. Tragically, a freak road accident claimed his life in 1981.
The Hailwood Trophy is the first bike race at the modern Members’ Meetings, it will be contested by two-stroke 250cc and 350cc grand prix motorcycles of a type that raced from 1970-82
Images courtesy of Tom Margie licensed under Creative Commons 2.0