Mike Hawthorn and the Lotus Eleven: Knight of the Road to nights on the Track


Figure 1.Getty image from the internet


This piece is neither Hawthorn biography nor list of race results.

We believe that subscribers will be familiar with both.

In fact this feature was prompted by the editor reading “Challenge me the Race “, Mike Hawthorn autobiography.

This work provides an invaluable first-hand account of motor sports in the post war era.

The editors extracted these facts about Mike Hawthorn from his autobiography:

  • Prior to racing cars he had ridden motorcycle in trials (cf Chapman and motor car trials )
  • Hawthorn had some mechanical emphatically through education and apprenticeship
  • He became a pilot
  • He suffered severe injuries during his racing career
  • He witnessed death of friends in course of motor racing
  • Chapman and Lotus are accused of mechanical failure but Hawthorn recalls other major brands having problems
  • Hawthorn drove successfully at Le Mans when Chapman and Lotus were participating
  • Chapman and Hawthorn both drove the Vanwall that Chapman contributed to
  • Many famous GP drivers also drove Lotus in various events

Mike Hawthorn drove the Eleven through 1956 and this is the main source of information and photographic record.

Subscribers might like to see the directly relevant and integrated A&R pieces that complement and help structure this article:-

  • Lotus Eleven
  • Lotus at Le Mans
  • Ferrari
  • Graham Hill and Lotus Eleven

Abbreviated List of cars Mike Hawthorn drove

Extracted from the internet.

Daily Express International Trophy[75]


Jaguar Cars Ltd.

Jaguar Mark VII

Gran Premio Supercortemaggiore[76]


Scuderia Ferrari

Ferrari 500 TR Touring

Whit Monday Trophy[77]



Lotus-Climax Eleven

12 heures internationales Reims[78]


Jaguar Cars Ltd.

Jaguar D-Type

Gran Premio de la Republic Argentina[79]


Owen Racing Organisation

Maserati 250F

Sveriges Grand Prix[80]


Scuderia Ferrari

Ferrari 860 Monza

FIA Formula One World Championship[81]


Owen Racing Organisation
Vandervell Products

Maserati 250F
Vanwall VW2

Figure 2…Image from the internet.John Ross archive

Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  • List some of the most famous drivers and races that the Lotus Eleven participated in?
  • Critically examine British motor racing evolution 1945-1959
  • Benchmark Mike Hawthorn as FI champion
  • Compare the top speed of FI cars and the sports racing equivalent of the fifties
  • In detail outline the British contributions to Le Mans to date
  • Technically evaluate the Lotus Eleven and the Jaguar D Type giving illustrations

Figure 3.Image from the internet Science Museum

Exhibitions, Education, Economics and Entertainment

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

In this instance we suggest the following exhibition titles might be appropriate:-

Mike Hawthorn: Cars and Competition

Colin Chapman and Mike Hawthorn at Le Mans

Challenging Times

Mike Hawthorn: Single seat to sports racing cars

Mike Hawthorn: Knight of the Road to nights on the Track

Figure 4: From “Colin Chapman Lotus “by Read

Colin Chapman’s Lotus. Read:

“The introduction of the Mk. 8 launched Lotus on to the International sports racing scene and by the time the Eleven appeared in 1956 top drivers were clamouring to drive Chapman’s remarkable cars.

At the Whit Monday Goodwood meeting in 1956 a monumental duel took place between Michael Hawthorn and Chapman (Hawthorn driving a FWB 1460 cc Eleven against Chapman’s 1100cc car)…..

And here they are the race in mighty good humour being interviewed by a youthful Raymond Baxter.

Hawthorn drove the Eleven several times during the season as a respite from his normally much “hairier” mounts….

For a driver of such truly international standing such as Hawthorn to show admiration for the Lotus gave Chapman the greatest pleasure …..”


Post war motor sports remained brutal and loss of life was often due to lack of safety at circuits, mechanical failure of components and driver error.

We highly commended Hawthorn‘s autobiography for its insights into Britain’s growing prestige in International motor racing.

The era was quite different from today and top drivers often drove with fluency in diverse cars, classes and capacities.

Hawthorn is an excellent example, but also Sterling Moss and Fangio.

As Read points out when drivers of international standing competed in a brand they were:

  • Making a vote of confidence
  • A combination of their ability and the cars performance were likely to generate greater prospects of winning and hence publicity
  • This would encourage other drivers and the public to purchase the product
  • As witnessed in this piece competition was fierce and wins not gifted, Chapman was a formidable competitor
  • Hawthorn’s selection of the Eleven was perhaps both a huge complement to Lotus and a commercial benefit because of Hawthorn’s winning ability on the international stage
  • The era was perhaps also more nationalist but Hawthorn possibly with some idealism prompted British products were he could and this was likely to engender exports and assist the nation at large

Mike Hawthorn made a significant contributions to British motor sports and is worthy of study.

He was in many respects ultra traditional almost pre-war in aspects of his career but he also embraced the rapid transition of technology in the immediate post war era.

He drove very diverse machinery and seemed to display a mechanical empathy and as such the Lotus would seem an ideal proposition for him.


Challenge me the Race.Hawthorn.Kimble.1959

Colin Chapman’s Lotus.Read.Foulis.1989


  • Martin Shepherd. Too Fast A Life. Silverwood Books. 2015 ISBN 978-1781323199.
  • Tony Bailey & Paul Skilleter. Mike Hawthorn: Golden Boy. PJ Publishing Ltd. 2014 ISBN 978-1908658067.

Please note the editors of the A&R attempt to give the broadest spectrum of references but not all are available for consultation in an article. However by noting their existence it may assist students in their research.

*Items in italics non A&R library books.