Friday, March 9, 2007

Four British Heroes - mimitig

In November 1975 Graham Hill died when fog took over the skies of North London and his aeroplane crashed. The nation reeled at the loss of a hero.

Hill was not the first, nor tragically the last of the heroes of British Motor Sport to die off the track. In 1959, a few months after becoming Formula One World Champion, former Le Mans winner, Mike Hawthorn took the spirit of competition too far. On the A3 Guildford By-pass, in filthy weather, he put pedal to the metal in his Jag and raced to catch and overtake his one-time racing colleague Rob Walker's Merc. No-one really knows what happened, but the result was in no doubt. Mike Hawthorn had driven his last race.

An audaciously talented youngster, Mike Hailwood made his debut on the motor cycling stage in 1957 at Oulton Park. Great things were predicted and fulfilled. From the age of 17, he enjoyed huge success and won 4 World Championships in the premier class. Perhaps more astonishing is the fact that he also took 14 wins in the gruelling Isle of Man TT Road races, and then, incredibly moved to 4 wheels. Although he never won a Formula One race, he more than earned the right to fame when he saved the life of fellow driver Clay Regazzoni, dragging him from a burning wreck in the South African Grand Prix of 1973. Soon after, he retired from racing but came back to win a final TT race in 1978. It was hard to read of his fatal accident on a Warwickshire road in 1981.

A more recent lost hero was Steve Hislop. A bike rider for whom the words man-of-steel could have been coined. I followed his career with awe and fascination. He did what no current track rider can even dream of. He ruled the TT races and he ruled British Superbikes. After suffering a poor season start in 2003, defending his '02 title (he'd won it before in 1995), he was turning it around. We all knew that he had the talent and the hunger to triumph again. But fate had another card to play. At just 41 years old, 5 years younger than Graham Hill, an eerily similar accident claimed his life. In the skies above Hawick, not far from his home, in conditions of poor visibility, something caused his helicopter to crash. Hizzie died and everyone who had ever sat on a bike or watched a bike race mourned.

Motor-sport is dangerous and we watch, or compete, at all levels knowing the risks. There are horrendous crashes. Men are carried off on stretchers with broken, twisted limbs. Yet, across all levels, these competitors come back a week later, and ride to win.

The tragedy of my four heroes is that they did not die in pursuit of their sporting ambition. They fell foul of the grim reaper because they loved thrills, excitement and chasing the adrenaline rush. They were the victims of chance, the weather or even the hand of God.

16 comments:

MotM said...

Shoulda won.

Zephirine said...

"Those whom the gods love, die young." I liked this, Mimi. Seems to me that a lot of the contributions on this site are personal views about what sport and sporting heroes mean to the writer, while Seani & co are favouring the more impersonal, pundit-like pieces. Different strokes..

MotM said...

Well Zeph, Sean's just posted praising Octave's Kirkland Laing piece which I recall as very personal.

It's all a bit baffling, it really is.

andrewm said...

Very good as always mimi.

I too am baffled by the selection process. None of the articles chosen have been poor as such, but a few have basically been like Big Paper articles rather than blog pieces, which seems pointless to me.

Zeph said...

I see Sean has refuted my pundit/personal theory - fair enough. Well.... in the end it's down to the editors' personal taste, and we may or may not agree. Even if they'd put all the entries up and had a bloggers' vote on them, we still wouldn't like some of the results!

mimi said...

andrewm: I am baffled also by the process, and also confused by some of sean's comments.
Zeph: there's a bit of a fear that having put something personally based up that hasn't even rated a mention, that the boys all sit there in GU Towers and have a laugh at us with our pathetic attempts. I can see them in my minds eye just falling around about our work and throwing everything into the wpb. Having had great confidence in a piece I've done for next week, I am now feeling very negative.

MotM said...

mimi - I see the selection process differently. Jobs are going everywhere in journalism - the Telegraph is shedding workers as fast as it can; the Express is barely a newspaper at all and no paper's circulation is rising.

I think they sit there fearful that the traditional role of the journalist is being circumvented. Who really needs Vic Marks giving us a rehashed lunch with his mates if the game is on live TV and all the info you need is on an extraordinary range of worldwide sites. Rob or Mike do better work from GU Towers. And I could say that about plenty more than cricket.

Is this just Boll**ks? Who reading this has started clicking here before the GU SportsBlog? I know I have. Advertisers are very keen on info like that.

andrewm said...

Mouth, I certainly look here first. That's not a slight on GU, just that I enjoy this site and the range and passion of the writing more.

mimi, easy for me to say this when I haven't sent anything to GU - although I've had an unbelievable number of emails to OBO and MBM shot down - but I hope you don't lose heart. Your writing is always extremely good, and if you don't send any more to GU then please do keep sending them here, because we all enjoy them.

Zeph said...

Mimi, I think it's extremely unlikely that they'd laugh at anything you've written - though I imagine there are a few really incoherent pieces of the 'Chelsea rools' variety each week, which might raise a smirk.

You write clearly and vividly, and either they'll 'get' what you're trying to say or they won't, and that's as much to do with their own attitudes and mood as your ability.

mimi said...

andrewm: it's kind of you to say this. My strike rate on MBM is mailed about 100 got 1 on. I fare a bit better on the OBO but still must sent 10 for every one published and it depends on who's running the OBO. I get my best hits when Carrie's on. A girl thing, maybe. As far as the whole BB thing is concerned, I'm at a loss to know how they chose. I've read stuff here far more interesting and well-written than some of the winners, but hey, I'm just a fan not a professional. I do think it must be a nightmare for the GU bods to make selections and they should be appreciated for getting us all going and enjoying this space. I'd hate to be a professional writer in today's climate. Having once earned my living from writing, I don't think I could do it now.

jonnyboy71 said...

mimi, great eulogy and I'd loved to have seen it over 2,000 words - I would bet you've got a lot more behind this. I wanted to hear career highlights and that sort of thing. Certainly caught me anyway.

Afridi? Mushtaq Ahmed tried to grab my sister's bouncers at Edgbaston once. Filthy little man.

MotM said...

Jonnyboy's post is timed at 12.43am. Does that mean that he is back safe from his night of bling purchasing and celebration in that new motor, to prepare his Oscar (Seani?) acceptance speech for next week, or does that mean that he hasn't gone out yet?

mimi said...

Jonny: thank you so much. High praise coming from you and yes, I could have gone on and on about any one of my heroes, let alone the 4, but due credit to Mouth. He looked at my first draft and pushed me in this direction.

MotM said...

mimi - An extended piece on Hizzie (as JB suggests) would work well. I really ought to do an extended piece on Mike the Bike as there is so little published on him. I need a rained off World Cup match to draft that I feel!

The 4 Hs would make a great TV series for August don't you think?

mimi said...

AS I recall, Steve Parrish is a great fan of Hizzie - they may have raced together in their early years. There will be a bit of downtime in mid-summer for the GP boys so if anyone has an in with the Beeb, tell us now and let's lobby for a piece.

MotM said...

Knowing the Beeb, a request now might produce something in 2010.

But MotoGP will be attracting new fans so ten minute heroes of the past fillers should go down well.

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