On This Day: British motorcyclist Mike 'Mike the Bike' Hailwood, 40, dies after car crash

Rebecca Lewis
On This Day: British motorcyclist Mike 'Mike the Bike' Hailwood, 40, dies after car crash

March 23: Famed British motorcycle racer Mike "Mike the Bike" Hailwood was killed after a collision with a truck on this day in 1981.

The Grand Prix racer, 40, had left his house with his two children Michelle and David to buy fish and chips. On their way home a truck collided with the car, killing nine-year-old Michelle instantly. David survived but two days later Mike died in hospital due to internal injuries. The truck driver was fined £100.

His ex-girlfriend Elizabeth McCarthy later revealed in a memoir that he had a premonition he would die and had shared it with her. He told her a fortune teller in South Africa had told him he would not live past 40 and would be killed by a truck.

Hailwood, born in Great Milton in Oxfordshire, first raced at the age of 17 in 1957. He was Grand Prix motorcycle champion nine times in the 250cc, 350cc and 500cc categories and won the Isle of Man TT competition 12 times on the island mountain course.

His talent as a racer found him fame and medals, but it was his daring act of bravery which won him the highest honour of all.

During his time as a car racer - which was not as successful as his career on bikes - he pulled fellow driver Clay Regazzoni from his burning car after the pair crashed into each other on the second lap of the 1973 South African Grand Prix.

On approaching the fiery wreckage his driving suit caught fire but after it was extinguished Hailwood went back to pull Regazzoni from the burning car. He was awarded the George Medal, the second highest civil decoration in the UK.

Hailwood's prowess on the bike is demonstrated in this Pathé clip in footage captured at the 1965 Hutchinson 100 Production race at the Silverstone racecourse in Northamptonshire.

Poor conditions cut the number of laps from 25 to 15 but the race carried on regardless.

Noting the expertise required to navigate a slippery track, the narrator says: "Keeping the lead without apparent effort, Mike Hailwood is lapping some of his rivals well before the end."

He manages to clinch the cup and is presented the trophy surrounded by fans, fellow drivers and press.

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