Page last updated at 13:43 GMT, Sunday, 25 January 2009

Memorial service to racing legend

Mike Hawthorn's grave
Mike Hawthorn is buried in grounds Farnham's West Street cemetery

A memorial service has been held in Surrey to commemorate the death of Britain's first Formula One world champion 50 years ago.

Mike Hawthorn died at the age of 29, in a road crash on the A3 near Farnham, Surrey, on 22 January 1959.

A service was held for the Yorkshire-born racing driver at St Andrew's church in Farnham on Sunday.

Hawthorn, who raced for Ferrari, became the first British formula one world champion driver in 1958.

Following the ceremony classic cars valued at between 30m and 40m, including Ferraris, and Jaguars, drove through the streets of Farnham.

'Raced for fun'

Tom Bailey, from Sussex, who runs a website dedicated to Mike Hawthorn, said: "[He was] our first motor racing champion back in late 1958, and it was a very different world to what it is today.

"A lot of them raced for the fun of it [and] more than anything to have a good time."

Hawthorn, who was born in Mexborough, South Yorkshire, won his first motorcycle race at the age of 18 and switched to sports cars when he was 21 years old.

He won the French Grand Prix in 1953 in a Ferrari and won the Le Mans race in 1955, during which 83 spectators were killed.

Hawthorn announced his retirement after winning the World Championship by beating Stirling Moss by a point in 1958, amid reports that he was suffering from ill health and blackouts.

He died when his Jaguar Mk1 saloon left the road and hit a tree on the A3.

Stirling Moss said recently that he got on very well with Hawthorn despite their great rivalry on the track.

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