Dunlop test rider and driver John Peters is dead. Thus it is now slightly more difficult to get him to talk about his unfortunate link to the late Mike Hailwood than when he was alive.
Peters was a Dunlop UK employee for years. And like most locals he frequented several local chip shops.
The story told by his friends and co-workers–including Dave Watkins–was that John came to work one March morning in 1981 telling all of seeing and talking to the great Mike Hailwood and his kids at a local (fish and chips) eatery the night before. Told in a ‘Wow! Guess what happened to me’ spirit John said he spoke with Hailwood for a few moments, and then Hailwood begged off, saying he had to get the food and kids home while the food was still warm.
Of course, Hailwood never made it home again. He was killed just a few minutes after Peters spoke to him.
Peters’ joy at seeing and talking to a legend like Hailwood was muted when his co-workers told him that Hailwood had been mortally injured in a car crash the night before, ironically while bringing home an order of fish and chips.
I spoke to Peters several times between 1997 and 2001, and always tried to get him to tell the story on the record of his chatting to Hailwood on that fateful night. I wanted to ask him if it’s something he thought of, that if he had kept Hailwood chatting for ten more seconds that fate might have played out a different way?
Peters struck me as a gregarious person; his outgoing answering machine message was always a classic. Yet it wasn’t for years that a mutual friend clued me in that John actually never had an answering machine. That he just did an impromptu “leave a message for John after the tone” and tried to not laugh as people replied.
But he he stopped being funny and always refused the request when I asked him for his Hailwood story.