Doncaster motor racing legend Mike Hawthorn immortalised in new sports book

A Doncaster legend of Formula One motor racing has been immortalised in a new book focusing on the lives of sports stars of the 1950s and 60s.

By Darren Burke
Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 12:45 pm
How the death of Mike Hawthorn was reported in 1959.
How the death of Mike Hawthorn was reported in 1959.

Mexborough’s Mike Hawthorn became Britain’s first F1 World Champion in 1958 – but he tragically died a year later when he was involved in a car crash in Surrey.

Now his story will be told in Last Night When I Was Young by bestselling author Geoffrey Littlefield.

The book masterfully recreates a trove of blood-pumping experiences, from jockeying a racehorse with five-time champ Doug Smith, to delivering a ferocious serve with tennis pro Mike Sangster, to surging across the finish line with Olympic sprinter Dorothy Hyman.

Littlefield masterfully intertwines history-making moments and mini biographies of some of the U.K.’s greatest athletes of the 1950s and ’60s with stories from his own youth sports experiences.

The result is an immersive read that gives audiences a front row seat for all the action, as told from the perspective of a self-described “walking, talking sports encyclopedia and BBC sports quiz champion” who, as a school-aged boy, enjoyed nothing more than emulating his athletic idols.

As well as Hawthorn, the book also includes Chelsea and England footballer Jimmy Greaves, cricketer PBH May, boxer Dick Tiger, golfer Peter Alliss, sprinter Dorothy Hyman and long jumper Mary Rand, among many others.

The book also contains contributions from the Queen’s racehorse trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, and four-time world speedway champion, Barry Briggs MBE.

Chapter by chapter, Littlefield pays homage to each athlete with a clever juxtaposition of history and fantasy, weaving a colorful tapestry that immortalizes their exceptional accomplishments.

Mike became Britain’s first Formula One world champion in September 1958 after finishing second in the Moroccan grand prix that year.

But on January 22, 1959, he was killed in a car crash on a road in Surrey.

Today, Mike’s achievement and link to Mexborough is marked by a plaque in the town centre, on Hope Street. It was unveiled in 2006 by Mike’s one-time finance, Jean Ireland. There is also a board on the wall of the Old Market Hall pub in the town telling brief details of his story.

The driver was born in Mexborough and spent the early part of his childhood there. His father ran the Robinson and Hawthorn garage, which was on Doncaster Road.

Mike died at the age of 29 after a Jaguar he was driving collided with a lorry on the Guildford by-pass, before turning a double somersault and hitting a tree.

His grandmother, Kate, who lived on Alexandra Road, Mexborough, was informed of his death by her doctor on her sickbed, it was reported at the time. She had previously said she was pleased he had given up motor racing the previous year.

Since 1959 speculation over the cause of death has covered driver error, mechanical failures and blackout with greats of the modern motor racing era all citing Hawthorn as an influence growing up.

For more information, visit, or follow Littlefield on Twitter at @GeoffreyLittl13.