My son Mike by Stan Hailwood – part four

Picture: Hailwood Archive

This serialisation is taken from a 1966 magazine by Stan Hailwood about his son Mike…

One of the most worrying times ever was when Mike was riding in the East German Grand Prix on an MZ as well as the MVs and held the lap record. I was laying on the beach at Cannes and had just come in from a swim when an Englishman, obviously a motorcycle enthusiast, came up to me and said: “Stan, have you seen the news about Mike.”

I froze with a peculiar premonition and said: ”No.” He produced an English newspaper and there was a picture of Mike on a stretcher with the description ‘unconscious, cracked skull, possible broken arm’ etc. I froze.

After trying, without success, to telephone the hospital named in the report I hired a private plane to Berlin but couldn’t obtain a visa and was forced to sit and wait. Days later a cable arrived: ”Fell on my nut. Propose coming to Cannes for a few days.”

I relieved in spite of the shock of seeing him with a bald patch down the centre of his head and looking very shaken. It is the only time I have asked him to pack it up to which the answer was an immediate, “No” accompanied by: ”Did you pack it in when you had a few cracks?” I have never asked him again.

The East German GP is the only one I have not been to and yet Mike and the boys tell me it is one of the best with crowds of 300,000. The East Germans printed a series of postage stamps, one of Mike on the MZ and Jim Redman on his Honda during their wheel to wheel dice in 250 race in 1963. They’re among my most prized souvenirs.

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Away from thoughts of crashes and bloodwagons it is the lighter side and the after-racing antics which make the sport so much fun. The boyish high spirits, the let’s-have-a-good-time-while-we-can attitude make racing and riders what they really are.

Motorcycle racing today is a serious business but the fun remains. I remember my father taking me to the Isle of Man and it was the joke of Douglas how the one and only Freddie Dixon had ridden his Douglas up the steps of the Sefton Hotel, turned on the oil drip feed and filled the hotel with the delightful odour of Castrol R.

Many after race parties are stag dos - Continental girls seem to have much less interest than British girls! One of the exceptions to the normal type of party takes place at Monza which is only ten miles from Milan.

One of the best was after Phil Read won his first 250 Championship for Yamaha in 1965. After a bit of larking about Phil found himself in the goldfish pond trying hard not to swallow the fish. Mike, who had been laughing his head off, was the next candidate.

One of the funniest was at Daytona three years ago. The boys had discovered a German beer garden. I arrived some time later with a couple of big shots and, on walking in, glimpsed a bevy of six dancers doing the Hully Gully, or something, on raised platforms.

They were high-kicking like Tiller Girls and, in the dim light, it wasn’t for a few seconds that I realised they were not girls at all! The boys had bought hats from which hung blonde curls and turned up their trousers above the knee. Led by arch-joker Tony Godfrey they successfully killed the illusion among Americans that the British are reserved with little sense of humour.

Fortunately, or perhaps otherwise, I have often been the butt of some of those jokes. They seem to get a lot of fun taking the mickey out of the old man and I always have to be on the alert, not always successfully.

After the 1965 Grand Prix and the fish pond incident, I took a lot of the riders to a nightclub near my hotel. Everything was swinging when I decided to pay my whack and retire to bed. Hours later I was woken by a loud banging on my bedroom door. Thinking someone must be in trouble I slung on my dressing gown and opened the door.

There stood a luscious blonde who, when I enquired what she wanted, explained that she had been escorted to the hotel by the boys because I was looking for someone to star in a movie I was making. I had to tell her she had got the wrong Hailwood.

On another occasion, again at Monza, I was introduced to a smashing red-head. Suddenly, the boys disappeared and I was left alone with this young lady as photographers milled around. The penny did not drop until next day when the picture said: ”Pop Hailwood with Christine Keeler” I don’t think she would have been very flattered but might have appreciated the joke.

Fans can be forgiven for assuming that Grand Prix riders lead a glamorous life. Believe me it is not all cream and cakes. It is one long, mad rush with little home life. In 1965 we reckoned Mike had travelled over 100,000 miles by road and air.

I was sitting on the beach at Nassau in the Bahamas one New Year’s Eve when I thought I saw a figure I recognised. It turned out to be Mike. He had just spent 30 hours flying from Japan via New York and looked haggard. However, a swim wakened him up enough to ask if I could fix him up with a girl for the New Year party.

But it is a great life and I would not have missed a single moment of it. In the last 35 years I have met every well-known rider and I get just as big a thrill seeing those Douglas cliffs in the Isle of Man as I did when I went to my first TT week. The wonderful people I have met from the very youngest rider to the oldest TT winner Rem Fowler who, by a strange coincidence, has his birthday on the same day as Mike, April 2. And the terrific enthusiasts like Reg Dearden, Tom Arter, Tom Kirby and Arthur Wheeler. Not forgetting the daddy of all scrutineers, Snetterton secretary Bob Havers.

Future plans? I honestly don’t know what Mike’s are but my life’s ambition is to see him stay in the game long enough to equal the great Stanley Woods record of ten TT wins and Carlo Ubbiali’s record of nine world championships.

If fate is kind Mike has the chance. What’s in a name? Maybe there is something - Stanley Woods - Stanley Michael Bailey Hailwood. Let’s hope so.

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