At the Apex of Fordwater

Cooper-Bristol, Hawthorn, Goodwood

This is one of Louis Klemantaski’s most famous photographs. So well known in fact, that in 1952 when this image was taken at Goodwood, Klemantaski created a Christmas card with his face in place of that of Mike Hawthorn (see below).

Hawthorn is obviously really on the absolute limit with this Cooper-Bristol. And of course he is aiming right for Klemantaski who had positioned himself at the edge of the track exactly at the apex of the very fast Fordwater corner on the back of the Goodwood circuit. What a dynamic image!

This race was the Sussex International Trophy for Formula Libre racing cars, a kind of “run what you brung” race, which took place on June 2, 1952. Hawthorn won, perhaps somewhat aided by his father Leslie’s long experience with nitromethane. It was Hawthorn’s third outing with a friend’s Cooper-Bristol. On April 14th at Goodwood he had come up against Juan Manuel Fangio, driving another Cooper, and had won against the already famous Argentinean driver who was the 1951 World Champion. Hawthorn won two races with the Cooper that weekend and finished second in the final race to Froilán González in Tony Vandervell’s Thin-Wall Special Ferrari Grand Prix car. Then Hawthorn would enter the Daily Express International Trophy on May 10th with the same Cooper-Bristol to win the first Heat, but to be slowed to several laps down by gearshift problems in the Final. His excellent showing with the Cooper at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps where he came in fourth and at the subsequent British Grand Prix where he was third led to an offer from Ferrari for 1953 and an eventual World Championship for him with Ferrari in their tragic year of 1958.

Mike Hawthorn, who died in a road crash in January 1959 after retiring from racing at the end of his Championship year, is remembered by his own book Challenge Me the Race and Champion Year and in several biographies, including Mon Ami Mate and Golden Boy. Mike Hawthorn’s grave is in Farnham, Surrey where he is still well remembered and where he and his father had run the Tourist Trophy Garage for many years.

Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection




  1. Jim Sitz · · Reply

    Hawthorn at Goodwater…famous image indeed. Driving this car at Spa in 1952 with such stunning results led directly to contract with Ferrari,,,this really pushed him ahead of rival Moss
    in the continental Grand Prix arena

    Jim Sitz


  2. Jeff Allison · · Reply

    Yes, it’;s surely one of the most famous photos in motor racing.

    Years ago, I had occasion to visit with Geoff Goddard when sourcing photos for the Vintage Motorsport magazine Aston Martin special issue in 1989. Geoff’s collection of motor racing books and his immense collection of photographs remain a vivid memory still today. I mentioned to Geoff about how close they stood to the track back in those days and weren’t they a bit worried. Geoff said for sure he was worried. Fangio told him one day before the cars went out that he wanted Geoff to stand at a certain place so Fangio could judge the apex. He showed me a photo of himself taken by a fellow photographer with Fangio in the streamlined W196 in which he had difficulty judging the apex of the corner. This was also the year there were barrels along the course and there was Geoff standing alongside one of the barrels!

    Peter, congratulations on your selection for the RRDC’s Bob Akin Award. Your participation in the sport and your contributions with the Klemantaski Collection make the award more than well deserved.


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