JOHN SURTEES 1934-2017
GOODWOOD PLANS TRIBUTE FOR BRITISH RACING HERO
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.