Like John Surtees, I too was born in 1934, so as a contemporary I did see him race. What Mike Nicks missed in his article (CB April) was just how much JS changed motorcycle racing. Prior to him, Geoff Duke was the man to copy – his style was all about minimising frontal area; he stuck to the bike like a second skin, the emphasis on smoothness with gearchanging and braking all
done perfectly. Back then you did not brake or change gear on a corner – at least not twice, or you fell off. Surtees got off the seat and down the inside of the bike, thereby moving the centre of gravity of the rider/bike combination lower and nearer the inside of the corner. This was totally unheard of at the time – and he could corner faster than anyone else, undoubtedly based on his experience as a passenger on his dad’s outfit. Mike Hailwood copied Surtees’ style and added getting his knee down. Now, of course, everyone rides like that – all due to John Surtees – but at the time it was revolutionary and was even shocking to some.
As everyone knows, Surtees has been the only man to win world Championships on two and four wheels – Duke tried, but failed miserably. There was one other man who made it on both two and four wheels – I knew him, as we had friends in common – that was Bob Anderson. He was a colourful character from Bedford who rode Nortons and drove for Lola, then switched from bikes to cars because of back problems and lost his life competing in a private Lola against advice, as he had recently broken his wrist. But he had shown his ability to compete with the best in both racing disciplines.
Documentary proof that you should be careful what kind of signs you park your bike in front of...