JOHN SUR­TEES 1934-2017


Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Front Page -

Good­wood is con­sid­er­ing a homage to John Sur­tees CBE later this year. It has al­ready paid tribute to the 1964 For­mula One World Cham­pion on its web­site, and is now con­sid­er­ing com­mem­o­rat­ing his ca­reer at this year’s Fes­ti­val of Speed or Re­vival. Mr Sur­tees – the only man ever to win mo­tor sport world cham­pi­onships on two and four wheels – died at the age of 83 last Fri­day. He was be­ing treated at St Ge­orge’s Hospi­tal in Lon­don for a res­pi­ra­tory con­di­tion. His fam­ily said in a state­ment: ‘ We deeply mourn the loss of such an in­cred­i­ble, kind and lov­ing man as well as cel­e­brate his amaz­ing life.’

‘John was de­ter­mined to carry on work­ing with his son, Henry’ HENRY SUR­TEES FOUN­DA­TION

John Sur­tees was born into a fam­ily with a pas­sion for mo­tor­sport. Born at Tats­field, Sur­rey, on 11 Fe­bru­ary 1934, his fa­ther ran a mo­tor­cy­cle shop in Croy­don and it was on the side­car of his fa­ther’s bike that he got his first taste of vic­tory at age 14. It was short­lived, though, as once race of­fi­cials found out he was un­der­age, he was dis­qual­i­fied.

In 1950, Sur­tees went to work as an ap­pren­tice at the Vin­cent mo­tor­cy­cle fac­tory, but it was Nor­ton that gave him his first spon­sored rides in 1955. The fol­low­ing year, with the MV Agusta team, he won the 500cc world cham­pi­onship at the age of 22. He fol­lowed this by be­com­ing the dou­ble 350 and 500cc world cham­pion in 1958, 1959 and 1960.

Switch­ing from rac­ing mo­tor­cy­cles to rac­ing cars in 1960, he made his For­mula 1 de­but driv­ing for Lo­tus in the Monaco Grand Prix. At the Bri­tish GP he gained sec­ond place and gave Lo­tus its first F1 pole po­si­tion in Por­tu­gal. Af­ter spend­ing the 1961 sea­son with the Yeo­man Credit Rac­ing Team driv­ing a Cooper T53, and 1962 with the Bow­maker Rac­ing Team in a V8 Lola Mk4, ‘Big John’ joined Scud­e­ria Fer­rari in 1963, win­ning the world cham­pi­onship for the team in 1964 driv­ing a 158 and be­com­ing the first – and only – world cham­pion on two and four wheels.

A life-threat­en­ing ac­ci­dent at Mosport, Canada, dur­ing prac­tice with a Lola T70, didn’t de­ter Sur­tees for long and, in the 1966 sea­son, he drove the new Fer­rari 3.0-litre 312 to vic­tory in the Bel­gian GP.

Sur­tees left Fer­rari when it de­cided not to al­low him to drive in the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours, a de­ci­sion that could have cost them both the cham­pi­onship. He won the first CanAm sea­son that year, driv­ing his own Chevro­let-pow­ered Lola T70 Mk2.

Af­ter sea­sons driv­ing for Honda, Lola and BRM, Sur­tees ran his own team based in Eden­bridge, Kent (1970-78), com­pet­ing in var­i­ous cham­pi­onships, in­clud­ing For­mula 5000, For­mula 1 and For­mula 2. Mike Hail­wood won the Euro­pean F2 cham­pi­onship for the team in 1972, the same year that Sur­tees re­tired from com­pet­i­tive rac­ing.

Sur­tees con­tin­ued to par­tic­i­pate in his­toric rac­ing events and was a pop­u­lar driver at the Good­wood Re­vival. He also drove rac­ing cars through the streets of Eden­bridge in Kent at the town’s Fun Days.

Sur­tees was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birth­day Hon­ours List in 1959, fol­lowed by the OBE, and then the CBE in the 2016 New Year Hon­ours for ser­vices to mo­tor­sport. A long-run­ning cam­paign tried – and ul­ti­mately failed – to se­cure him a well-de­served knight­hood.

Fol­low­ing the death of his son Henry in a tragic F2 ac­ci­dent at Brands Hatch in July 2009, Sur­tees said that he was de­ter­mined to carry on work­ing in Henry’s me­mory, de­vot­ing him­self to rais­ing funds for the Henry Sur­tees Foun­da­tion.

In 2013, Sur­tees was pre­sented the Se­grave Tro­phy for his sport­ing prow­ess and, in 2015, he re­ceived an hon­orary Doc­tor­ate in En­gi­neer­ing from Ox­ford Brookes Univer­sity.

Sur­tees drove for Honda, Lola and BRM be­fore run­ning his own team based in Kent.

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