50 years on: Mike Hawthorn

50 years on: Mike Hawthorn

50 years ago this week, Britain's first Formula One world champion set off from his Tourist Trophy garage in Farnham for a lunch appointment in London with holiday camp impresario Billy Butlin. He never arrived

Dashing, debonair, gregarious – an everyman hero in a spotted bow tie. After only eight years of competitive racing, Mike Hawthorn clinched the sport's biggest prize and then quit to concentrate on running the family business. Three months later he was dead.

The exact circumstances surrounding Hawthorn's accident remain open to debate. Was the 'Farnham Flyer' racing a chum when he lost control? Was he shot at? Had he been suffering blackouts? Had the car been fitted with a hand throttle which stuck open? His home town has a peculiarly lukewarm relationship with Hawthorn's legacy, but today it marked the 50th anniversary of his passing with a church service followed by a parade of historic vehicles – including his first race car.

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