Teams1952 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
It is human nature that we do things because we like to do whatever it is that we are doing. Rarely do we think about how our decisions will impact others. Often we think what we like must be for ourselves. Rarely do we realize that what we are doing may actually be better suited for another, but they need our support to live up to their potential. Sometimes the hardest part of doing something we love is ceasing, in order to support another; perhaps more gifted, do the same thing, only better.
When Leslie Hawthorn bought a garage near Brooklands in Surrey, England he may have had a sense, he may not have, how the decision would affect the course of his son's life. Undoubtedly, Leslie purchased the garage to prepare motorcycles for racing at Brooklands because that was what he enjoyed doing. However, the decision would forever take the Hawthorn name and make it synonymous with World Championship grand prix racing. One thing Leslie did know, or came to realize, was his need to get out of the way and come behind his talented young son and support the talent that was endowed within him.
Born in April of 1929, John Michael 'Mike' Hawthorn grew up around his father's garage and the sights and sounds of Brooklands. Before he was ten years old, Mike had come to realize his calling to be a racer. His father would continue to race on his own, but, would come to support his son's desires. In fact, his father would help him give his whole life to the thing he loved.
After studying at Chelsea technical college, and an apprenticeship with a commercial car manufacturer, it was believed Hawthorn would come back and help prepare race cars and motorcycles for other teams and drivers. Leslie realized his son's calling and encouraged him to do more. To help, Leslie provided motorcycles and cars in which Hawthorn could take to compete in local club races around the area.
In the early 1950s, Hawthorn had begun to score true success driving a Riley Sport in some sports car races. After another successful year in 1951, Leslie and Mike believed it was time to compete in the major grand prix classes. A decision by the World Championship governing-body would help solve the Hawthorns' question of timing.
Alfa Romeo withdrew from the Formula One World Championship after its second championship-winning season in 1951. This left the new series with only one truly competitive team, Scuderi Ferrari. Throughout the later-half of '51 Ferrari absolutely dominated. It was only a matter of providence that Alfa Romeo retained its championship crown. In addition to lacking competition, the costs of Formula One were spiraling out of control. Therefore, changes needed to be made, but what those changes were to be the governing-body didn't quite know at the time. They needed a stop-gap measure in order to provide them with the time to figure out what the Formula One regulations would be. The stop-gap couldn't just be thrown out there. The need was for a competitive series that was lower in cost. At the time, Formula 2 featured a number of smaller teams and privateer entries and the competition was strong. And, if there were small teams, and privateers, taking part, then the costs had to be much less than what the teams were shelling-out in Formula One. Therefore, the decision was made the 1952 and 1953 Formula One World Championship seasons would be run according to Formula 2 specifications.
Another important piece of the puzzle had already been developed to race in 1951 in Formula 2. John Cooper had built his Bristol-powered T20 chassis for Formula 2 regulations. Hawthorn would gain experience driving the T20 during the 1951 season. These two elements made the timing clear to the Hawthorns.
1952 would be the first time Mike Hawthorn would truly appear on the world stage. Supported by the team his father has established for him, called LD Hawthorn, Mike would first appear at the 4th Richmond Trophy race at Goodwood on the 14th of April.
Hawthorn appeared with his Cooper-Bristol T20 and prepared to do battle with names like Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Duncan Hamilton and George Abecassis. The race wasn't all that long as it was merely one of a number of races throughout the weekend. The Richmond Trophy race, named after the Duke of Richmond, who owned the land on which Goodwood was located, would only be 12 laps around the 2.39 mile road course that circulated around the auxiliary Westhampnett Royal Air Force base.
There were still a number of non-championship events that allowed cars that fell under the Formula One regulations to come and take part. One of those cars that would get a second chance to compete was Ferrari's dominant chassis of the later-part of 1951, the Ferrari 375. This chassis had done more than its share to establish Ferrari as the team to beat in the World Championship. At Goodwood, the 4.5-liter V12 375 would be allowed to roar back to life.
In practice, Hawthorn garnered some attention being so young and having so little experience, and yet, performing well concerning the fact there were a number of Formula One cars entered in the race. Hawthorn's best time around the circuit would end up enabling the young, blonde-haired Brit to start the race 7th. Gonzalez would actually set the fastest time in practice in the venerable Ferrari 375. Gonzalez would be joined on the four-wide front row by Abecassis, Tony Rolt and Graham Whitehead.
Those who didn't know who Mike Hawthorn was before the race would remember the name afterward. Gonzalez would prove the 375 hadn't lost a step as he would lead away at the start of the 12 lap race. Hawthorn; however, was on an absolute charge. He had managed to make a good start and was only pushing further forward.
George Abecassis and Graham Whitehead had made a poor start and would be one of the first to fall victim to Hawthorn's ruthless charge. Tony Rolt would stumble and quickly fall down the order. The only battle Hawthorn had on his hands came from Duncan Hamilton driving an older 4.5-liter Talbot-Lago T26C.
Gonzalez would cruise to victory. He would end up winning by a margin of twenty-six seconds. Hawthorn would hold off Hamilton and would come all the way from 7th place to finish the race 2nd! Hamilton would follow seven seconds later in 3rd. This result at the Easter events would birth Hawthorn's legend. He would only firmly root that legend during the next race of the day.
Later that day, the 14th of April, LD Hawthorn prepared Hawthorn's car for his next race, which was the 4th Lavant Cup race at the 2.39 mile Goodwood circuit. This race would be half the distance of the race Hawthorn had competed earlier on and had earned 2nd. Being short in duration, starting position on the grid was of utmost importance. A poor starting position on the grid would all but deny any chance of victory, even a podium finish. In Hawthorn's case, it would appear it didn't matter where he started.
Mike was able to make a really good start and was up near the front very early. Facing only Formula 2 class cars, Hawthorn would display his truly elite skills behind the wheel. He would end up leading home a Cooper-Bristol one-two-three. Hawthorn finished 1st having beaten Alan Brown by twenty-one seconds and Eric Brandon by twenty-two seconds. In only his second race of 1952, Hawthorn had earned a victory!
Five days later, at the 1st Ibsley Formula 2 Race, Hawthorn would try to make it two victories in a row. The Ibsley Formula 2 race would take place also at an abandoned air base that had been used during World War II and was located just outside Ringwood in Hampshire. Its length was 2.11 miles and would be 15 laps in entirety.
Facing Formula 2 cars throughout the field, Hawthorn would again show his tremendous talent behind the wheel of his Cooper-Bristol. George Abecassis would end up turning the fastest lap during practice and would start the race from the pole. However, Hawthorn was not outshone in any way. He would be right there with Abecassis and would start the race from the front row in 2nd. The rest of the front row would include Bill Dobson, Rex Woodgate and John Barber.
From the drop of the green flag, George Abecassis was strong. But he would have Hawthorn right there with him. Though they were not alone, the race came down to the fight between Abecassis and Hawthorn. Abecassis, driving his HWM-Alta (the team in which he would help found) would set the fastest lap of the race with a time of one minute and thirty-eight seconds. The battle was fierce and would push both drivers to the edge. Hawthorn would; however, have youth and fearlessness on his side.
Undaunted by the pressure Abecassis put on him throughout, Hawthorn rested on the knowledge (cockiness perhaps) he could beat George. He would drive steady and reliable. He would not put a foot wrong and would end up beating Abecassis for the victory by five seconds. This made it two races in a row in which Hawthorn scored the victory! Bill Dobson, almost forgotten about out on the track, would finish the race over a minute behind Hawthorn and Abecassis.
After the successes at Goodwood and Ibsley, Britain seemed to have a champion in the making. However, Hawthorn needed to take part in a race that had a larger stage in order to get an idea of just how good he really was. Therefore, in the early part of May, the family-owned LD Hawthorn team would pack and head to Silverstone to enter the 4th BRDC International Trophy race.
While Scuderia Ferrari wasn't present at the race, just about every other factory team, and top driver was. This would provide a good test for the young gentleman and the LD Hawthorn team.
The International Trophy race consisted of two, 15 lap, heat races around the circuit's 2.88 mile layout. Once the heat races were completed the grid would be set for a 35 lap final. LD Hawthorn was placed in the first heat race. Hawthorn would have little opportunity to observe before taking part. He would have to just throw himself in. It would be just fine.
During practice, Hawthorn would prove to have a confident calmness about him as he completed lap-after-lap. Wearing his usual bow-tie, Hawthorn would go on to set the fastest time in practice and would start the first heat race from the pole! Hawthorn's best lap around the 2.88 mile circuit would be two minutes even. He would be joined on the front row by his future friend (and Ferrari teammate) Peter Collins driving his HWM-Alta, Jean Behra in his Equipe Gordini T15 and Lance Macklin in another HWM-Alta. Each of those on the front row with Hawthorn had set a lap time in practice of two minutes and two seconds, which was two seconds slower than Hawthorn! In all, seventeen would prepare for the drop of the green flag in the first heat.
Hawthorn would get away at the start without issue. Behra would get a better jump and would be fighting with Collins for position behind Hawthorn. Lance Macklin was following along from right where he started.
Behra would get by Collins and would begin pressuring the young Hawthorn for the remainder of the 15 lap heat race. The question was whether Hawthorn would crack under the pressure on someone like Behra pressing down on him. He wouldn't.
Hawthorn would more than hold his own. He would match Behra's fastest lap time and would hold on to take the win in the first heat by about a second and a half over Behra. Peter Collins would finish the heat in 3rd. He would end up over thirty seconds behind.
The second heat race featured some other prominent racers including Robert Manzon, Reg Parnell and Rudolf Fischer. Manzon had managed to take his Equipe Gordini T16 and turn in the fastest lap of the practice session before the start of the second heat. Therefore, Manzon started on the pole. He would be joined on the front row by Kenneth McAlpine, Rudolf Fischer and Duncan Hamilton. Interestingly, Hawthorn would have the faster lap in practice than Manzon.
The pace in the second heat race was even more-fierce than what the first heat had been. Throughout, Manzon was pressured by Fischer in his Ferrari 500. McAlpine couldn't keep up with the pace and began slipping down the order. He would end up being lapped before the end of the heat race. Tony Rolt was putting together an impressive performance. He had managed to come up from 7th to sit behind Fischer in 3rd.
The pace being what it was, it only took Manzon thirty minutes and thirty-seven seconds to finish the heat and score the victory. This would be important going into the final. Fischer was chasing Manzon down and would finish two seconds behind in 2nd. Rolt was another twelve seconds behind in 3rd.
Finishing time of each competitor in their respective heat was very important as that was what the starting grid for the 35 lap final race was based upon. It could be argued the second heat had an advantage having seen the finishing times of the competitors in the first heat. Arguments aside, Manzon finished his 15 lap heat race twelve seconds faster than Hawthorn and would; therefore, start the final from the pole. Rudolf Fischer also had a faster time and would start the final from the front row in 2nd. Hawthorn would start from the front row, as well, but in 3rd. The final car on the front row was Jean Behra.
Hawthorn now had the full strength of the very competitive field to deal with. He would prove up to the task, however. The cars roared away at the start of the race. Tire smoke filled the air. The competition would take its toll on the competitors, and right away. Heading into the 2nd lap of the race, Manzon would run into transmission troubles and would end up being the first out of the race. He would be joined by his Equipe Gordini teammate, Jean Behra, two laps later with the same transmission issues. This opened the door to Hawthorn to really concentrate on Fischer. Feeling it was his time to break free and claim the victory Hawthorn would set the fastest lap of the race completing a lap in one minute and fifty-nine seconds. This was faster than his qualifying effort!
Perhaps he should not have pushed as hard as he had? Yes or no, it didn't matter. What mattered was the fact his Cooper-Bristol began to fade. He would have to ease up just to make it to the finish. The car was on the verge of totally failing.
This would end up being the door Lance Macklin needed. Macklin put together an amazing drive. He had started the final from 10th, but would now be pushing forward toward the lead.
Macklin would go on to win the race by ten seconds over Tony Rolt, who had come up from 5th. Another fifteen seconds would pass and then Emmanuel de Graffenried would come into sight to take the final spot on the podium with an ancient Maserati-Plate 4CLT/48. Hawthorn would end up not classified and well down in the field as he would end up five laps down by the end of the race. This was a truly disappointing result given the pace Hawthorn had shown throughout practice, his heat and the early part of the final race.
LD Hawthorn needed time to repair the Cooper-Bristol. The first round of the Formula One world Championship would take place the following weekend at Bremgarten in Switzerland. The timing wasn't right for LD Hawthorn to make its World Championship debut. It needed some more time to prepare. The team would take an entire month off preparing the car, and Hawthorn. Then, at the beginning of June, the team departed for Ireland.
LD Hawthorn arrived at Dundrod in early June to enter the 6th Ulster Trophy race. The race would provide the team, and Hawthorn, a good test to see whether it was ready to enter the longer grand prix events, like that of the World Championship. The Ulster Trophy race consisted of 34 laps around the 7.39 public road course and would total 251 miles in distance travelled.
The race would provide an even greater test for Hawthorn as it was one of those races that would allow Formula One cars to enter. Therefore, if Hawthorn could travel the distance, and fend-off some of the Formula One entries, the team would have the confidence it was ready to perhaps head-off to take part in the World Championship.
Hawthorn would have tough competition. Current World Champion, Juan Manuel Fangio, was present driving a BRM P15. Stirling Moss was behind the wheel of another P15. Then there was Piero Taruffi and Louis Rosier. They were both behind the wheel of the dominant Ferrari 375, which had defeated Mike back at Goodwood in early April.
One advantage Hawthorn had going for him with his Cooper-Bristol was the fact it was light compared to the Formula One cars with their bigger engines, and therefore, were better in initial acceleration and handling. The advantages the Formula One cars had were in top-end speed and acceleration.
Hawthorn wowed the crowd during practice as he showed what he could do behind the wheel of a car. He would make it appear as though the smaller Formula 2 Cooper-Bristol had no disadvantages to the bigger Formula One cars. Piero Taruffi would prove incredibly strong in the powerful 375. Taruffi would set the fastest lap of practice with a lap time of five minutes and six seconds. As a result, Taruffi would start the race from the pole. Rosier; however, would not be sitting next to him on the front row.
Hawthorn absolutely stunned the crowd in the little Cooper-Bristol. He would make the T20 it was bigger than it actually was. Hawthorn's best time in practice was just three seconds slower than Taruffi's. This may have seemed to be a large margin, but when considering Rosier's time, Hawthorn's becomes even more impressive. Rosier's best time, in another Ferrari 375, was five minutes and sixteen seconds. This time was ten seconds slower than Taruffi's pole time and seven seconds slower than Hawthorn! Of course, Hawthorn was helped by the fact neither Fangio nor Moss would set a time in practice with the BRM P15.
Even though the BRMs were starting from the back of the grid, their large sixteen-cylinder engine would cause them to have to be considered in the fight, especially considering they were being piloted by men like Fangio and Moss. What BRM had to consider; however, was whether their cars could make it to the finish in order to battle for something. The troubled P15 had a terrible history of retirements.
The race began with Taruffi screaming away in the lead. Hawthorn would slot into his 2nd place position and would begin his pursuit. Hawthorn could begin to stop thinking about what was happening behind him some when, on the 3rd lap, Moss would drop out with a failed engine. Meanwhile, Taruffi was in the lead and pulling away. Taruffi would record the fastest lap of the race with a lap time thirteen seconds faster than what he had set during practice. He was leaving Hawthorn behind. But that would have been expected considering Taruffi had an advantage of two and a half liters in excess of Hawthorn.
Hawthorn need not think about a challenge coming from behind anymore when, on the 34th lap, the other BRM, of Fangio, would retire also with a blown engine. Hawthorn had such an advantage over 3rd place all he needed to do was hold on.
Taruffi dominated. He would go on to take the victory by three and a half minutes over Hawthorn. Hawthorn would also dominate the rest of the field. Joe Kelly would finish the race in 3rd, but over three and a half minutes behind Taruffi. Louis Rosier, in the other Ferrari 375, would finish the race in 4th, exactly five minutes behind Hawthorn. This was a tremendous result for Hawthorn considering going up against the might of the Ferrari 375. This would provide LD Hawthorn, and Mike Hawthorn, the confidence for which they were looking. The team's next race would be its first foray into the World Championship.
Toward the end of June, LD Hawthorn travelled across to the European continent in order to enter what was the third round of the Formula One World Championship. This would be the first World Championship event for LD Hawthorn and Mike Hawthorn. This was exciting and nerve-racking enough, but the third round of the championship in 1952 was not one to be trifled with.
The third round of the World Championship was the Belgian Grand Prix and it was held at the 8.77 mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Spa was an ominous and imposing circuit located in the heart of the Ardennes forest. The circuit demanded respect and bravery. It was ultra-fast, and not the least bit scary. To be fast required courage, and a little bit of insanity, but it rewarded those who were with an incredible thrill.
What made Spa so alluring, and dangerous, was its speed and unpredictable weather. Lapping Spa fast took something special. Doing so in the rain required something more. Though extremely dangerous, it was a favorite with the fans, as well as, the drivers.
Back at Ulster, Hawthorn had faced drivers like Fangio, Moss and Taruffi, as well as, Ferrari with its mighty 375. However, this was the World Championship. This would be the first time Hawthorn would face the world's best drivers in the world's best cars, and all at the same time. However, from the time the car was unloaded, it was apparent this was where Hawthorn belonged. He was one of the world's best. Practice would prove this point.
Alberto Ascari had missed the first round of the World Championship at Bremgarten due to the fact he was on his way to the United States to take part in the second round, which was the Indianapolis 500. Upon his return, Ascari had proven to be faster than any other driver. He would continue to prove that point during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix. Ascari would set a time of four minutes and thirty-seven seconds around the 8.77 mile public road course. This time would end up being untouchable. Former World Champion, and Ferrari teammate, Giuseppe Farina would come the closest to the time. However, his best was still three seconds slower. Ferrari's third driver, Piero Taruffi (whom Hawthorn had faced at Ulster), would be nine seconds slower than Ascari. Even though it was his first World Championship event, ever; he looked as if a seasoned veteran out on the fast track. The layout of the track fit Hawthorn's hell-raising personality almost perfectly. Hawthorn would end up starting the race from 6th on the grid after he set a time of four minutes and fifty-eight seconds around the track.
Though Ulster would prove to be truly challenging, Spa would act like an initiation. Spa threw everything it could at the young Hawthorn. The one thing missing from the equation would arrive before the start of the race—the rain.
Hawthorn would soon find out just how good he really could be. Driving Spa fast, especially in the rain, required bravery and intelligence. Eau Rouge and the Masta Kink, in the wet, were not to be taken lightly. Those who could balance the bravery with the intelligence would appear as if the conditions had not changed.
Ascari would make it look easy as he raced off in the lead at the start of the race. He would power his way up the hill through Eau Rouge, while others took it a little easier. One of those who followed Ascari's example was Hawthorn. Mike looked good. Having grown up in soggy Britain was no doubt helping him.
Although he made it look easy, the rain had slowed Ascari's pace. Of course, other drivers would disagree. Others were finding the going difficult. Ken Wharton would spin in the rain and would retire from the race. Close battles in the wet became more dangerous. Jean Behra would collide with Taruffi on the 13th lap of the race and would knock both out of the running.
Ascari would go on to record the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of four minutes and fifty-four seconds. Times like this were enabling the Italian to lap the field. Something he would do to a number of competitors a number of times before the end of the 36 lap race.
Despite being in his first-ever World Championship race, Hawthorn was beating a number of older, more experienced competitors. In fact, Hawthorn's pace was such that he had a lap advantage over his closest competition. He remained close to Manzon, who was running in 3rd.
Ascari would lead all but one lap of the race and would go on to victory by almost two minutes over Farina. Just prior to crossing the finish line to take the victory, Ascari had lapped Hawthorn and was coming into view as Manzon headed off on his 36th, and final, lap. Manzon would finish the race 3rd, down four and a half minutes to Ascari. Despite being lapped at the very end, Hawthorn would cause many to raise their eyebrows in wonder as the young Brit would finish his first World Championship race in 4th. In his first effort, Hawthorn would earn 3 points toward the World Championship! What was even more impressive was the fact he had earned the result at such an imposing circuit. Thus began Mike Hawthorn's career in the Formula One World Championship.
After the stunning result at Spa, LD Hawthorn would take time preparing the Cooper-Bristol for the events to come throughout the rest of the season. Since it was a small operation it would take time. As a result, Mike Hawthorn would head off to France, and the Grand Prix de la Marne with the AHM Bryde team. Besides the fourth round of the French F2 Championship, Hawthorn would also compete in the French Grand Prix with the team. The French Grand Prix was the fifth round of the French F2 Championship and the fourth round of the World Championship in 1952.
After the couple of races with AHM Bryde, the next race for LD Hawthorn and Mike Hawthorn would come on the 19th of July. Hawthorn had travelled back across the English Channel and rejoined his father's team, LD Hawthorn, in order to head off to the British Grand Prix.
The British Grand Prix was, once again, held on the 2.88 mile Silverstone road course. After two difficult races with AHM Bryde, Hawthorn arrived with his father's team, confident of a better result than what he had received over his previous couple of races. Extra confidence and excitement came merely from the fact it was the World Championship and it was in front of the home fans.
Despite the extra adrenaline from being in front of the home crowd, it was all Scuderia Ferrari during practice. However, Farina would get the better of Ascari this time. Ascari and Farina would record the fastest lap time during practice with a time of one minute and fifty seconds. Despite setting the same time, Farina was awarded the pole. Ascari was relegated to 2nd. It was a Ferrari one-two-three when Taruffi qualified 3rd with a time three seconds slower. Hawthorn was right there. His best lap during practice would prove to only be six seconds slower than Farina and Ascari's best time. This placed Hawthorn in 7th place on the starting grid.
Despite the overcast conditions, the track was dry for the start of the race. At the start, Farina appeared stuck in mud as Ascari bolted into the lead. Farina's slow getaway from the line caused the former World Champion to fall back into the clutches of others. Hawthorn made a good getaway and was up near the front throughout the early stages of the race.
Hawthorn continued to run inside the top-five. However, Ascari's pace was such that Hawthorn appeared to be standing still. The race was 85 laps in entirety. This was plenty of time for Ascari to absolutely blow away the field.
Ascari would go on to lead every one of the 85 laps and would lap the entire field before the end of the race. It would only take Ascari two hours and forty-four minutes to complete the 85 laps and take the victory. Taruffi would finish the race in 2nd, albeit one lap down. Despite being utterly bored by Ascari's dominant performance, the British crowd still cheered with excitement as the young Hawthorn would finish the race. He was two laps down at the end, but he would finish the race a truly splendid 3rd! This gave the Brit another 4 points toward the World Championship. Combined with the 3 he had earned at Spa, Hawthorn was tied for 5th in the standings with 7 points!
Two weeks after the rather triumphant 3rd at the British Grand Prix, LD Hawthorn headed to Boreham, England for the 2nd Daily Mail Trophy race. It would take place on the 2.99 mile Boreham circuit, which utilized an old airbase for a circuit. The Daily Mail Trophy race would be one of those events that allowed Formula One cars to race alongside the current Formula 2 cars. This race would also end up being the race that would set Hawthorn on a path of Grand Prix glory, and, it would be the race that basically spelled the end for LD Hawthorn.
The field would be filled with tough competition despite the fact the fifth round of the Formula One World Championship would take place the next day in Germany. LD Hawthorn was present with their Cooper-Bristol T20. But so too was Scuderia Ferrari with their Ferrari 375, driven by Luigi Villoresi and Chico Landi. In addition to the Ferrari 375, two BRM P15s, driven by Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Ken Wharton, were also entered in the race.
Conditions were dry for practice. And it showed. Villoresi would break the track record during practice and would start on the pole as a result. Joining Villoresi on the front row were Formula One cars, with one exception. Gonzalez would start 2nd in the P15. Landi and Wharton would start 3rd and 4th. Fifth place went to Louis Rosier driving a Formula 2 Ferrari 500. Despite the presence of the Formula One machines, Hawthorn just missed out on starting on the front row of the grid. His best time was good enough to start from the second row in 6th.
One important element could level the playing field between the Formula One and Formula 2 cars—the weather. If it rained, the bigger-horsepower engines in the Formula One cars would be neutralized by handling difficulties. Sure enough, the predictable English weather provided rain before the start of the race. Therefore, the track was already wet before the race began.
Even though the rain helped, it was still tricky for those driving Formula 2 machines. Therefore, the true masters in the rain would shine. None would shine brighter than Hawthorn on this day.
Almost immediately, the Brit made his way through to the lead of the race as Villoresi struggled for grip. Hawthorn continued to lead the race when Gonzalez lost control and crashed out of the race on the 3rd lap of the race.
Lap-after-lap, Hawthorn continued in the lead, in the wet conditions. Mike was putting together a tremendous display behind the wheel of his Cooper-Bristol. The race was nearing the end, but so too was the wet track conditions. The rain stopped falling just before the start of the race and the track was drying out. This was playing back into the hands of Villoresi and the mighty Ferrari 375.
Only laps remained, but Hawthorn could do nothing to hold Villoresi back. Finally, Villoresi would get by Hawthorn and would begin to pull away. Chico Landi would also manage to get by the struggling Hawthorn, who could not match the pace of the bigger Formula One machines. For over two-thirds of a race, Hawthorn wowed the crowd, and, caught the attention of some important people.
Villoresi would go on to win the race by ten seconds over Landi in the second Ferrari 375. Though behind, Hawthorn was not beaten. He would finish the race down over a minute, but in 3rd place! This was an amazing performance by the young British driver. It was so impressive it caught the attention of Lofty England, who was Jaguar's service manager. The performance also caught the eye of Enzo Ferrari.
Seeing as Boreham took place the day before the sixth round of the Formula One World Championship, the German Grand Prix, the team would miss the race and would concentrate on testing and preparing for its next race. During that time, Leslie would get a call from Lofty England inviting the young Hawthorn to Silverstone for a test of what was a new C-type Jaguar. As England would tell it, 'We put him in an upgraded, specially prepared C-type and within five laps he was under the lap record.'
After the highly-successful test with Jaguar, LD Hawthorn headed off for its second trip to the continent. The team would arrive for the seventh round of the World Championship, which was the Dutch Grand Prix.
The Dutch Grand Prix took place on the 17th of August at the 2.60 mile Zandvoort road course in the Netherlands. This would be the first time the Dutch Grand Prix counted toward the World Championship and it would take place at a course located right on the Netherlands coast and that overlooked the North Sea.
Despite being only 2.60 miles in length, the nature of the track made it a rather slow track. Even the best of the grand prix runners would take close to two minutes to complete a single lap of the circuit. Of course, the fastest of those would be Ascari in his Ferrari 500.
Ascari would complete a lap of the circuit in practice of one minute and forty-six seconds. Though slow, Ascari's pace, compared to the rest of the field, was not. Giuseppe Farina would end up the 2nd place qualifier, but his time was a full two seconds slower than Ascari's time. The nature of the circuit played into the hands of the small Cooper-Bristol T20, and, Hawthorn would take advantage of it. He would continue to show he was a star on the rise when he would record a time five seconds slower than Ascari, but, good enough to start the race 3rd! Hawthorn would even out-qualify the third Ferrari driver, Luigi Villoresi. Hawthorn would get the better of the man that had beaten him in his last race at Boreham. He would at least better him to start the race.
The race would not be a short one. It was 90 laps for a total of 234 miles. Right from the start, Ascari led the way. Hawthorn resumed his battle with Villoresi and the rest of the Ferraris throughout the first few laps of the race. However, just like Boreham, Villoresi would end up getting by the Brit and Ferrari pulled away one-two-three.
Attrition would be rather high. Out of the eighteen that would start the race, only half would still be classified as running at the end. Having given up the fight with the Ferraris, Hawthorn looked to those running behind him. His focus was on making sure they would not get by and take away valuable points. The best way to do that was to be quick himself.
While Ascari, and the other Ferrari teammates, would come and pass Hawthorn, he too would do his best to distance himself from the rest of the field. His pace in the Cooper-Bristol would be more than enough to do just that.
Ascari would go on to lead every single lap of the race and would earn the victory by forty seconds over Farina. Ascari had already won the World Championship, but he had proven he wasn't about to slow down. He was chasing the record books. After Farina, Villoresi would finish in 3rd, fifty seconds further behind Farina. Mike Hawthorn had managed to put a lap between himself and Robert Manzon's Equipe Gordini T16. Hawthorn would, himself, finish two laps down, but in 4th place. This earned him yet more points toward the World Championship. Leaving Zandvoort, Hawthorn had 10 points and was sitting 5th in the World Championship standings. All this while in his first year in the World Championship!
Brimming with confidence, LD Hawthorn returned to England. Mike Hawthorn would travel north to Turnberry in Girvan, Scotland for 1st National Trophy race, which was held on the 23rd of August. Hawthorn would drive a Connaught A-Type A5. Following up his 4th place result at Zandvoort, Hawthorn would take the win at Turnberry.
After his victory driving the Connaught at Turnberry, Mike Hawthorn turned his focus back toward the World Championship. Only one race remained on the season. This would be Hawthorn's final chance at points and possibly taking away 4th place in the standings away from Rudolf Fischer.
In early September, LD Hawthorn headed, yet again, across to the European continent for the Italian Grand Prix. The Italian Grand Prix took place at Monza and its 3.91 mile road course. This would be the first time the British team appeared at the Monza circuit. As with the majority of the season, this would be a brand-new experience for the entire team. However, the team had taken on new experiences and had proven to do very well.
Merely making it into the race was going to be one hurdle the team would have to overcome. Thirty-five entries would end up vying for twenty-four starting positions. Though with an imaginary target painted on its cars, Scuderia Ferrari would manage to be faster than all the other teams and would set the pace during practice. At the head of the Ferrari freight train was the new World Champion, Alberto Ascari.
In practice the previous year, the best times were down under two minutes. In 1952, with normally aspirated 2.0-liter engines, the times were quite a bit slower. Ascari would circulate the 3.91 mile track in two minutes and five seconds. Nine tenths of a second separated him and 2nd place starter Luigi Villoresi. Only four tenths of a second would separate 3rd place starter Giuseppe Farina from Villoresi.
Some rather talented drivers would not make it into the field for the 80 lap race. Included among them would be future Ferrari teammate, with Hawthorn, Peter Collins. Hawthorn; however, would be one of the fortunate ones to make it into the race. He would actually qualify better than Fischer, who was the driver Hawthorn was aiming for in the championship standings. Hawthorn's best lap was two minutes and eleven seconds. He would end up over five and a half seconds slower than Ascari and would start the race from 12th on the grid. Fischer was six tenths slower and would start 14th.
Despite starting 5th on the grid, Jose Froilan Gonzalez would sprint into the lead at the very start of the race. He was determined to break up Ascari's World Championship winning streak. His tactic was to start the race on less fuel, try to sprint out ahead and have enough of a lead that he would rejoin in the lead after making his pits stops. Being light on fuel, the pace of the race was faster right from the start that it would normally be. This would end up being disastrous for a number of competitors.
On the 3rd lap of the race, Hawthorn's championship hopes received a boost when Rudolf Fischer's engine expired in his Ferrari 500. Fischer would be one of four that would be out of the race within the first 5 laps of the race.
Gonzalez's pace was furious, but was it enough? By the time he had to pit for fuel he had opened up a margin of over twenty seconds. Despite his best efforts, the tactic wouldn't work. Gonzalez would end up dropping down to 5th. Ascari assumed the lead of the race, and was gone from that point onward.
Hawthorn's chances at 4th place in the World Championship standings would also fall apart. The early pace was too much for his Cooper-Bristol. He fought to carry on, but was forced to do so at a much slower pace than the others. Ascari would go by him lap-after-lap.
Ascari would go on to make it six-straight victories in the Ferrari 500. He would beat a charging Gonzalez by over a minute. Luigi Villoresi would make it another Ferrari on the podium when he finished almost two minutes down in 3rd. Fourth place in the World Championship would remain Fischer's as Hawthorn faded. Though technically still running at the end, Hawthorn would end up not classified as he was 38 laps down to Ascari.
Although he missed out on a better position in the final World Championship standings, Hawthorn still managed to put together an impressive freshman year in the World Championship. There were older, more experienced drivers whose whole careers had earned fewer points than what Hawthorn had his first year.
The season was not over for LD Hawthorn. Well…it would end up being over for Mike Hawthorn. Hawthorn would continue testing his Cooper-Bristol in preparation for the 3rd Grand Prix of Modena on the 14th of September. During a testing session, he would crash the car heavily. Hawthorn was injured in the accident and unable to compete in the race. Providentially, the accident happened when Enzo Ferrari was present. In spite of nursing his wounds, Ferrari would visit the young Brit and would offer him a contract to drive for his team in 1953.
While Mike Hawthorn was looking to the future, his father's LD Hawthorn team was still committed to taking part in the 100 lap race. To replace his son behind the wheel, Hawthorn contacted Roy Salvadori to come and drive the T20.
The car was still off the pace during practice. In addition, Salvadori had to get used to the car before he could really push it. As a result, the team's time in practice was nowhere near that of the pace-setters. Of course, the pace-setter was Alberto Ascari. He lapped the short 1.42 mile Aerautodromo Circuit in one minute and four seconds. The only other car on the front row belonged to Ascari's friend, Luigi Villoresi. Salvadori's best time in the Cooper-Bristol was almost eight seconds slower. This meant Roy would start the race from the last row in 15th place. Sixteen cars would start the race.
Being 100 laps, the race would be tough on the competitors and the cars because of the constant acceleration, braking and shifting. At the start, Ascari looked as he had throughout most all of the season. Gonzalez and Villoresi were locked in a battle right from the word 'go'. Salvadori was still trying to get used to the car; pushing it when he felt he could.
The tough race would even be too tough for Ascari. His car would retire from the race after an oil system problem occurred on the 18th lap of the race. Villoresi and Gonzalez traded tactical blows throughout the race. Both would set the same fastest lap time of the race; the competition between the two was that tight.
The problem with not having the fastest car is that there can be the tendency to push when it would be better just to let go. Salvadori would provide the perfect object lesson to this point when he would crash out of the race with 34 laps remaining. LD Hawthorn was done. Villoresi and Gonzalez; however, would battle it out throughout the remaining laps.
Villoresi would end up edging Gonzalez for the win. Villoresi literally beat the Argentinean by the skin of his teeth as the two men recorded the exact same finishing time. Although Ascari's car retired from the race, he didn't. He took over Sergio Sighinolfi's Ferrari for the remainder of the race and would be charging up behind Villoresi and Gonzalez at the end. Ascari would finish the race 3rd. He was only down twenty-eight seconds at the end.
Salvadori merely stepped in at LD Hawthorn. The team was still, obviously, centered around Leslie's son. However, Mike needed time to heal. Therefore, LD Hawthorn would not take part in some of the remaining races. However, the team was entered for the final race of the season, the 1st Newcastle Journal Trophy race at Charterhall in October of '52. Though entered, the team would not appear. Hawthorn was not quite up to health. Therefore, LD Hawthorn's season ended with its star needing to recuperate from an accident. It was; however, a truly remarkable season for the incredibly small team.
What was impressive concerning LD Hawthorn was the fact there were many other larger teams, factory-efforts even, that would not achieve the level of success throughout their entire history as what LD Hawthorn had in their first year of competition. This serves as a testament to the talents of Mike Hawthorn as a driver, and his dad Leslie to recognize and support those talents.