The Duality of Man
For those in the sportscar racing world who might also hold AARP memberships, Stanley Michael Hailwood is often remembered as the Formula One driver who, in an accident's aftermath during the 1973 South African Grand Prix F1 race, jumped from his car and waded through swirling, head-high flames -- which at one point ignited his racing suit - to pull a stunned Gianclaudio "Clay" Regazzoni from his blazing BRM.
Like many drivers of his day, "Mike" Hailwood eagerly participated in a broad spectrum of professional car racing and in 1972 captured the Formula 2 championship crown with his Team Surtees teammates between F1 races. Hailwood also competed in sportscar races, including the vaunted 24-Hours of Daytona.
In 1968, at Daytona he drove a Ford GT 40 to a 25th-place finish with co-driver/car-owner Edward Nelson, as well as John Weyer "Gulf" cars in 1969 and 1973, respectively in a Ford GT40 (31st w/ David Hobbs) and a Mirage Ford-Cosworth M6 (22nd w/ John Watson), in which he set that race's fastest lap (1:49.604, 125.141. mph).
Continuing to squeeze in sportscar races when not in an F1 seat, Hailwood in 1973 co-drove the Weyer Gulf Mirage in about a half-dozen races with Derek Bell, in the process winning the Spa 1000 km with him.
The motorcycle world in 2000 would honor Hailwood, naming him an FIM (Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme) "Grand Prix Legend" as well as being inducted into the AMA's Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum.
Yep, before he plunged into fulltime automobile racing, Hailwood had already won the 1964 500cc American Grand Prix at Daytona International Speedway -- which was nestled among his 76 Grands Prix, 14 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) wins and nine world motorcycling championships.
For the most part, Hailwood's many bike wins and championships came before he ever jumped into a Formula car or closed the door from inside a GT 40.
Simply known as "Mike the Bike" to his legions of motorcycle-racing fans, Hailwood is considered by many to be the best motorcyclist to ever saddle up -- bar none.
Indeed, so formidable was Hailwood - who had retired from all racing after a horrendous 1974 F1 German Grand Prix crash mangled his right leg - he came back from an 11-year motorcycle-racing absence, reemerging for one final race and won the 1978 Isle of Man TT on a Ducati 900SS. On the strength of that victory - unexpected by everyone except Hailwood - he came back for one more shot at the following year's Isle of Man TT "Senior" title and took it home, too.
(Note: Though it has varied in length since beginning in 1907, the currently used Isle of Man TT Snaefell Mountain Course has been in use since 1925. Similar to the United States' annual Pikes Peak competition, each lap climbs through roughly 200-bends on a natural-terrain course that runs from sea level to over 1,300 ft/396 m above and measures 37.75 miles/60.7 km in length.)
Why is Williams getting all worked up over a darn-fine motorcycle racer who once turned to sportscars?
Because, first of all, there has been a long history of motorcycle racers making their way into decent, if not downright admirable car racing careers. Secondly, he'll be in a 2009 front-row seat to possibly see a similar feat accomplished yet again.
From Jimmie Johnson (motocross to NASCAR) to Sir John Surtees (Grand Prix Motorcycles to Formula 1 - the only person to have won World Championships on both two and four wheels) a lot of championship motorcyclists have a way of at some point finding car racing. Even a stock car driver by the name of Paul Goldsmith would twice win at Daytona - only the first victory came on two wheels.
Three such championship riders, Ricky Carmichael, Jason Pridmore and Scott Russell, took turns during last week's Rolex 24 test in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Cayenne-Coyote's driver's seat, swapping time and learning lessons from the team's lead driver, Guy Cosmo.
Carmichael, currently learning the ropes in NASCAR and set to run a Kevin Harvick-owned truck in the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - has held 21 major motocross championship titles. Among Carmichael's 101 AMA Supercross victories are five Daytona Supercross wins - more than anyone else.
"This is one of the biggest challenges I've faced," Carmichael said. "At times I feel a little frustrated but I know in the end it'll help me understand racing on four wheels a little better."
Russell, named "Mr. Daytona" for his knack of finding Daytona International Speedway's Victory Lane, has won the world-renowned Daytona 200 five times -- once after totally laying his bike down.
Also a World Superbike and AMA Superbike champ, Russell also is the all-time leader in 750cc AMA Supersport wins - winning every 1991-season race in the process.
Russell's been hanging with the Spirit of Daytona team since last spring, asking questions in the paddock, wearing headsets during races and first jumping in the car at a June Watkins Glen test.
"Man, that was some serious intimidation, there," Russell said after sharing the track with seasoned Rolex Series professionals.
"The biggest thing going through my mind was the turns; I didn't know what to expect with them and all I could think of was, 'Don't wreck the car; don't wreck the car,'" the Georgia native said, laughing.
"But when I got back on familiar ground at Mid-Ohio, I was real comfortable, real quick."
Already cutting sub-1:43 laps at DIS, the 2005 AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee has now gone faster than any of his previous fastest motorcycle laps there.
"What can you say about Daytona? Me and this track have had something special going for as long as I can remember," Russell said quietly, almost reverently.
"Getting back on this track was like putting on my best-fitting leathers. I love this place."
A long-time rider who's chalked up AMA Pro Racing championships in 1000cc Formula Xtreme and 750cc SuperSport, Pridmore was coming to Daytona when but a gleam in the eyes of father Reg Pridmore, who scored the first three AMA Superbike championships in the late 1970's.
Crisscrossing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans between SPEEDtv pit-reporting assignments, sessions at his Star Motorcycle School - which provides instruction to motorcycle riders at top tracks throughout the U.S. -- and riding with European-based Maco Racing in the 2008 FIM World Endurance Championship, Pridmore this past season raced in two 24-hour, as well as three 8- and one 6-hour endurance contests.
"I've wanted to race in the Rolex 24 for years - it's the supreme test of mind and body," Pridmore said.
"After watching the white stripes in Daytona's banks go by on a bike, taking them on in a Daytona Prototype has been such a rush."
As familiar with the DIS 3.56-mile track layout as he is with the lines on his hands, Pridmore sees his biggest challenge to be re-learning how to slow and turn from close-to-200-mph top speeds.
"With the bike you can sit upright, lean left or right and with your body do various other things to slow down and set up for a turn," Pridmore said.
"In a Daytona Prototype - first of all, you're strapped into your seat so you can't move like you can on a bike - you're supposed to jam on the brakes and trust the car's aerodynamic downforce. It was tough to get the mind around that at first."
The team's fulltime professional driver, known to many in the Rolex Series paddock as "The Professor," is having a "great time" working with the three bike riders.
"I think the thing I've most enjoyed is learning from them," Cosmo said.
"I've had to relate to them in a completely different manner than with someone who's either raced cars for awhile or might be just starting that process. These guys have raced motorcycles, and successfully so.
"I've come to learn that it's a completely different way of racing."
"The good news is that these guys also are champions and in that way we're no different because champions have to dig deep to win championships - you have to push harder, dig deeper. And these guys are doing just that.
"They'll be just fine come the (Rolex) 24."
Perhaps better than many might expect - at least those who ignore history.
DC Williams, written Exclusively for Motorsport.com