JOHN SURTEES

1934-2017

Classic Racer - - NEWS -

John Surtees died on March 10, 2017. Res­pi­ra­tory fail­ure took the sev­en­times mo­tor­cy­cling world cham­pion at the age of 83. He is, so far, the only man to have won the big­gest crown on both two wheels and four and the racing world glob­ally recog­nised the pass­ing of one of its greats on a cold morn­ing in Lon­don. Mr Surtees was born in Tats­field, Sur­rey and grew up un­der the watch­ful eye of his fa­ther Jack. Surtees Se­nior had spent years as a bus driver but a pas­sion for pow­ered com­pe­ti­tion had filled his spare time with side­car racing and own­er­ship of a mo­tor­cy­cle shop in Croy­don, two el­e­ments that were to heav­ily in­flu­ence Surtees Ju­nior. Whilst John’s fa­ther took to the grass on a 500cc Ex­cel­sior B14 mo­tor­cy­cle and side­car out­fit, the young John trav­elled to events with his mother Dorothy (who was a fine mo­tor­cy­cle rider her­self, of­ten pas­sen­ger­ing for Jack in off-road tri­als side­car events). Whilst the Ex­cel­sior stayed in the fam­ily fold for the tri­als events, Jack ac­quired a 596cc Nor­ton for the grasstracks. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War Jack joined the Royal Corps of Sig­nals but was in­valided out of the Army in 1943 af­ter fall­ing asleep on a mo­tor­cy­cle, crash­ing and break­ing his fe­mur. That led to an 18-month-long re­cov­ery – and a plan to get back to racing. Which is where the young John Surtees comes into the story, tak­ing those first, fal­ter­ing steps, get­ting his first proper taste of racing that would lead to one of the most suc­cess­ful racing lives of all time.

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