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25 days ago
By Nick Harris

The Nick Harris blog: Marc and Mike

Former MotoGP™ commentator Nick Harris talks about Marc Marquez surpassing his boyhood hero Mike Hailwood's Grand Prix wins record

I should be upset with Marc Marquez but how could I be after that fantastic race with Fabio Quartararo on Sunday. This time he came out on top in a last-lap head-to-head confrontation to win his 77th Grand Prix and that’s one more than my boyhood hero Mike Hailwood.

How could Hailwood not be my boyhood hero? He lived just a couple of miles over the hill from my Village just outside Oxford. His father Stan was the boss of one the biggest motorcycle dealers in the country with Kings of Oxford’s headquarters filling most of Park End Street with British built motorcycles. My Sister even danced with him once at the Oxford Jazz club but, to my disappointment, it turned out to be just that one dance. One morning on the way to school I was transfixed to see the pride of place in the showroom window was Hailwood's 250cc four-cylinder Honda on which he just won the 1961 TT in the Isle of Man en route to the World title. Any thought of school lessons went out of the window for the remainder of the day.

Who was Mike Hailwood?

I just dreamed of getting to the TT to watch my hero in action.  Four years later I made it and travelled to the Isle of Man on the overnight ferry across the choppy Irish sea to watch my first World Championship race. After the 50cc race in the morning, the moment finally arrived: Hailwood versus Giacomo Agostini in the six-lap 364.326km 500cc race and they did not let me down. Ago the new pin-up boy in the MV Agusta team taking on team-mate and World Champion Hailwood around the most famous and demanding race track in the World, the TT Mountain circuit.

Incredibly both crashed on different laps at Sarah’s Cottage. Ago was sidelined but Hailwood’s hero status reached new levels as he remounted the MV, restarted the engine by pushing down the wrong direction of the circuit, not surprisingly nobody dared complain, and continued on his way to win the race on a very second-hand motorcycle and sporting a bloody nose. Hailwood went on to win nine World titles before retiring and racing on four wheels. He won the European Formula Two Championship but is best remembered for pulling Clay Regazzoni out of a burning Formula One car at the 1973 South African Grand Prix. Two wheels were always in his blood and at 38-years-old he returned in 1978 to the Isle of Man to win on the Ducati and a year later I travelled to the Island to witness his last win at the TT, 14 years after that first trip tragically both Mike and his nine-year-old daughter Michelle were killed in a road accident in 1981.

Ago was at Misano keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings. I don’t think the Italian legend should start worrying just yet. His 122 Grand Prix victories are still 45 in front of Marc although if those first 11 years of his amazing career is an indication it could get very close. I forgive you Marc but you never forget your boyhood hero.