ON FOUR WHEELS
In March 1960, aged 26, John Surtees made his four-wheeled racing debut by winning the Formula Junior race at Goodwood in the first car race meeting he’d ever attended, driving a Cooper-bmc entered by his near neighbour Kentyrrell. Frustrated by Count Agusta’s refusal to allow him to race other motorcycles in nonchampionship events, he decided instead to combine both bike and car racing that year, making his Formula 1 debut for Colin Chapman’s Lotus team in the Monaco GP on May 29, retiring from the race with a broken transmission. Flying from there to the Isle of Man fortt practice, Surtees led all the way on his MV Agusta to win his final Seniortt, becoming the first person to average over 100mph in riding to victory on thett Course, with an average race speed of 102.44mph and a new lap record of 104.08mph. It was an apt swansong, leading to two final world titles before turning his back on MV Agusta and motorcycle racing – but not however before competing in both a car and a bike race on the same day. This came on July 24 that year, when Surtees rode his MV to victory in the 500cc German GP on the Solitude circuit outside Stuttgart, before driving Rob Walker’s Porsche in the Formula 2 race held later the same day, in which he spun into retirement with a dead engine four laps from the end. John Surtees made an immediate impact on four wheels withteam Lotus, scoring a second-place finish in the 1960 British GP at Silverstone, in only his second-ever Formula 1 race, and taking pole position at his third, the Portuguese GP in Lisbon. Lotus boss Colin Chapman urged him to join his team on a permanent basis as the team No.1 driver for 1961, but the straight-shooting John turned him down on the grounds that, as he later admitted, Chapman seemed “too devious by half”.instead, he joined the private F1yeoman Credit Cooper team managed by Reg Parnell for the 1961 Formula 1 season, but this proved to be a mistake as the customer Coopert53 was a long way from being as competitive as the works cars. An early-season non-championship race victory at Goodwood was thus John’s only win that year, albeit his first in a Formula 1 car. Nonetheless, Ferrari made an abortive approach for him to join them, while John was made MBE for services to motorcycle racing in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, upgraded to OBE in 2008, and CBE in 2016. Yet, astonishingly, he was never granted a knighthood, in spite of his enormous success both on bikes and in cars, and his substantial charity work later in life. For the 1962 F1 season, Surtees joined the Bowmaker Racingteam, still managed by Reg Parnell, but now driving a V8 Lola-climax. Poor reliability and a weak chassis robbed him of any results until extra bracing resolved the problem, allowing John to end up fourth in the World Championship with two second-place GP finishes. Having served his F1 apprenticeship, he then agreed to join Scuderia Ferrari in 1963, initially experiencing mixed fortunes in the V6tipo 156 with five retirements, a second place at the British GP, victory in Germany – his first GP win on four wheels – and fastest laps at Monaco, Silverstone and the Nürburgring. In 1964 John Surtees duly won the F1 World Championship for the Italian team by a single point from BRM’S Graham Hill, previously champion in 1962, and father of future champion Damon, who also began his career on two wheels, albeit not at GP level like Surtees. John’s F1 title win came after two race victories at the Nürburgring and Monza, plus three second places and one third in a closely fought season when his Ferrari initially suffered repeated mechanical failure. John’s Formula 1 world title victory was achieved despite the copious intrigue inseparable from going racing with Ferrari at the time. At the British GP at Silverstone, Surtees was obliged to put his workshop skills to good use as the only team member able to wield a welding torch, fabricating an auxiliary fuel tank that enabled his car to run the full race distance without stopping to refuel.