The Classic Motorcycle

Making Mike’s return

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Having just received the October 2021 issue with the Mike Hailwood article in it, my 90-year-old brain has been stirred into action.

One afternoon in 1970-something, Alan Bramwell had hired the Ruapuna Raceway circuit near Christchur­ch, New Zealand, to try out his bikes, with a chosen bunch of friends to also enjoy them. Lucky me, I was there, and had a gallop on his Manx Norton and his 7R AJS. Also visiting but not riding was Mike Hailwood, who at the time was living here in New Zealand.

I found myself sitting in Alan’s camper with a can of beer and Mike. In the course of the chat, I asked him if Mike missed the racing scene. He said he hadn’t been on a bike for ages and big mouth suggested he had a go while he was here… Well, he borrowed some leathers and other gear and took a 350cc Yamaha out for five or six circuits. They were very rapid laps and when he came back in his grin was the sort that plastic surgery couldn’t remove! There was no need to ask if he had enjoyed it…

Mike Hailwood’s comeback to the racing scene is well known, as is the story of his tragic death. I have often wondered in the ‘What if?’ moments, did my casual question kindle the spark that fired the return to racing? If he hadn’t put in those laps on the Yamaha, would Mike and Michelle still be here?

Derek Upton, New Zealand, via email.

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