• Moroccan Grand Prix 1958

Hawthorn's title on another day of tragedy

Martin Williamson October 19, 1958
Mike Hawthorn on his way to second place and the drivers' championship © Getty Images
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Mike Hawthorn secured the drivers' championship by taking second place at the first (and as it turned out last) Moroccan Grand Prix, despite only winning one race to three each by Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks. In the end, his steady accumulation of points and the reliability of his Ferrari proved decisive. But a season which had seen Luigi Musso and Peter Collins die had a final tragic twist when Stuart Lewis-Evans, who had done so much to help Vanwall win the inaugural constructors' championship, was burned to death in appalling circumstances.

The race, which had been far from certain to go ahead as little as two months earlier, was a title decider. The equation was simple - Moss had to win and also set the fastest lap and then hope Hawthorn finished third or worse.

The pair qualified one and two, and when battle on the 4.73 mile track commenced, Moss did all he could, including setting the fastest lap, but the championship was being settled behind him. Brooks, as he was at Monza, was proving an ideal team-mate, keeping Hawthorn at bay in second, but on the 30th lap his engine blew and he could do no more.

Phil Hill even held second place for a while but when he became clear he was not making any impression on Moss he was told to slow down and Hawthorn passed, finishing exactly where he needed to end one point ahead of Moss based on the best six results. As the two drivers were mobbed at the finish, Moss grinned and shook Hawthorn's hand. "So you got it you old so-and-so," he said.

But again celebrations were mooted. Lewis-Evans had skidded on oil and crashed into trees, his Vanwall bursting into flames as a fuel pipe ruptured. He crawled out and ran along the track on fire, but as he was shielding his face and could not see he moved away from marshals who might have been able to help. He suffered 75% burns. Tony Vandervell, the team owner, was inconsolable. He flew Lewis-Evans to London but six days later he died of his injuries. Vanderwell never overcame the loss and in ill health, ended his involvement with the team.

There was one last twist. A week after the race Hawthorn wrote to Enzo Ferrari telling him he was retiring, although the announcement was not made until December. In January 1959 Hawthorn died when he crashed his Jaguar on the A3 near Guildford. He was 29.

Stirling Moss on his way to victory © Getty Images
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Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA

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Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA Martin Williamson, who grew up in the era of James Hunt, Niki Lauda and sideburns, became managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group in 2007 after spells with Sky Sports, Sportal and Cricinfo