SURTEES’ GOLDEN YEAR
Britain's most highly decorated rider is awarded CBE 60 years after his first world title and TT win
John Surtees is now the most celebrated motorcycle racer of all time having just been awarded a CBE to go with his MBE and OBE.
The 82-year- old was bestowed the rank of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List in recognition not only of his achievements in motorsport (Surtees remains the only man to have won both the Motogp and F1 world titles), but also for his work with the Henry Surtees Foundation – the charity he set up after the death of his son in a car racing accident in 2009.
Speaking exclusively to MCN, Surtees said: “I am honoured to receive this award. This year marks the anniversary of me winning my first TT and motorcycle world championship in 1956 and of my winning the Canam American Sports Car Championship, and winning the Belgian and Mexican Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1966. I look upon this award as being shared with those that I have worked with and have helped me through my career.”
Surtees won his first 500cc world title for MV Agusta back in 1956 and would go on to win a further six world crowns in the 350cc and 500cc classes as well as winning six Isle of Man TT races between 1956 and 1960. Surtees’ record in motorcycling was truly astonishing: he took 38 Grand Prix wins from 49 starts! His TT record was equally impressive, with six wins and two further podiums from just 14 race starts.
After switching to cars in 1961, Surtees went on to achieve the seemingly impossible by winning the F1 world title for Ferarri in 1964. Taking world titles on both two and four wheels is an achievement never likely to be repeated as both disciplines have become more intensely focused in recent decades.
For some, the news that Surtees has been awarded the CBE will come as a bit of a disappointment as many of his most ardent admirers believe that he has done more than enough to merit a Knighthood. In 2013 an online petition was set up in an attempt to persuade the Queen to dub him ‘Sir John’ but that particular honour has remained elusive. Surtees, modest as ever, played down the issue when asked about it in 2013. “It might happen but you never know,” he said. “The Government does tend to have rather a lot of things on its mind at the moment.”
Surtees’ first gong came way back in 1959 when he was awarded the MBE for his services to motorcycle racing. Almost half a century passed before he was given the higher rank of OBE in 2008. The CBE is the highest honour anyone can achieve before being granted a Knighthood. Surely it’s only a matter of time? After all, Sir John Surtees does sound right – and it couldn’t be more deserving.
Despite swapping his leathers for car racing overalls in 1960, Surtees still can’t resist the pull of two wheels Surtees rode his own Manx Nortons in 1955 In May 2014, Surtees invited MCN to view his home collection
Taking his first TT win
at the Island in 1956; 60 years later Surtees is still being honoured Totally unrivalled Rossi dipped his toe into the car racing world but came nowhere near to matching Surtees’ form