Classic Racer - - HOW IT BEGAN -

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.

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