Mike Hailwood's Ducati Sponge Ball

Mike Hailwood's sponge ball 5 photos
Photo: Cal Crutchlow
The sponge ballMike Hailwood ReplicaMike Hailwood Rise on the Snaefell course, Miles 31-32Mike Hailwood, 1978 TT
Just like John Surtees, Mike Hailwood was one of the few daring sportsmen who have attained glory on both two and for wheels, racing in both MotoGP or Isle of Man TT series and Formula One. Ducati’s contracted rider Cal Crutchlow has recently visited the Ducati museum and snapped a photo of Mike’s “sponge ball”, a device himself created to help him during races.
As simple and funny this tennis ball thingie might look, it was an amazing help Mike needed through the motorcycle races. Back in the day, no tear-off helmet visor screen were available, and dirt and insects kept on accumulating on the helmet lens, decreasing visibility and posing a serious threat to the riders’ safety.

So Mike Hailwood’s Ducati received a nice upgrade, in the shape of an ordinary tennis ball with a cut top, attached to the bike, close to the left grip. Its shape was perfect for accommodating a small sponge and keeping it in place no matter the speed. The rubber construction also retained water, so the sponge remained wet for the entire race.

It looks like Mike used the sponge form time to time to wipe off the dirt from his visor, when he could spare and lift his left hand off the bars. His tennis ball-Ducati can be seen in the Ducati museum, and if you can’t make it to Borgo Panigale, you can still enjoy a lot of this two-wheeled racing shrine by visiting its Google Maps Street Level version.

The first rider to win 4 500GP championships in a row, between 1962 and 1965, Mike Hailwood died at the age of 40, roughly one week before his birthday. Unlike some of you expect, he was not killed on the race track. He was driving his car, together with his daughter Michelle and son David, and was hit by a truck driver doing an illegal turn. Michelle,9, died at the accident, while Mike succumbed to his injuries, in the hospital 2 days later.

Mike Hailwood is a FIM GP Legend as well as an inductee to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and a section of the Isle of Man Mountains course also bears his name (between milestones 31 and 32).
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