On June 3, 1978, after an 11 year hiatus from racing, Hailwood performed a now legendary comeback at the Isle of Man TT.
Few observers believed the 38-year-old would be competitive after such a long absence, and the biggest crowd ever registered at the TT came to watch the race.
They wanted to see Mike, just one more time.
Everybody wanted him to win the TT Formula One race aboard the Ducati 900SS, but most felt he had little chance. He’d been away a long time and the Ducati was far from the best bike in the field.
Hailwood had other plans and led at the end of the first circuit after his fastest-ever TT lap: 109.87mph.
The crowds went off as he slowly closed on his old rival Phil Read.
They cheered even louder when he passed the Honda Britain rider and Read retired with engine problems on the fifth lap at the 11th Milestone. Of course, Hailwood went on to win the race.
Those who were there talk about it with special regard. At every vantage point the crowd gave him the reception his return deserved.
As he crossed the line more than one person, including Mike, wiped away a few tears. It was one of those special moments that only witnessing a truly great sportsman in action can provide.
Hailwood’s victorious return to ‘The Isle’ has been described as one of the most emotional moments of 20th century sport.
As previously reported, Eric Bana is working on a new movie detailing the spectacular comeback story of Mike Hailwood.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.