Hun­dreds gather for the fu­neral of John Sur­tees – the world’s great­est racer

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Mat Ox­ley MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

The fu­neral of the great­est racer of all time took place last Tues­day at Worth Abbey in Sus­sex. John Sur­tees – the only man to have won both mo­tor­cy­cling and car world ti­tles – was laid to rest fol­low­ing a packed ser­vice at­tended by over 300 mourn­ers in­clud­ing mo­tor­sport greats Sammy Miller, who raced bikes with Sur­tees in the 1950s, F1 world cham­pion Nigel Mansell, for­mer Nor­ton team-man­ager Colin See­ley, and New York-based MV Agusta col­lec­tor Rob Ian­nucci.

The eu­logy was given by long-time friend Ter­ence Re­gan, who re­counted tales of his friend­ship with Sur­tees. “I was with John one evening, dis­cussing what we had been do­ing that day,” said Re­gan. “John even­tu­ally men- tioned very qui­etly that he had been to Buck­ing­ham Palace. I said, what were you do­ing there? He said, ‘I had lunch with the Queen’. Why on Earth didn’t you tell me ear­lier?, I replied. Next thing you’ll be telling me you’ve met the Pope! ‘Well,’ replied John, very qui­etly. ‘I did meet him once’. He was a hum­ble man who achieved great things.”

Eighty-three-year- old Sur­tees passed away on March 10 fol­low­ing a short ill­ness. He was known both for his ex­cel­lence as a rider and as an en­gi­neer. Be­tween 1956 and 1960 he won seven 500cc and 350cc world cham­pi­onships for MV Agusta. He then switched to four wheels and won the 1964 F1 ti­tle with Fer­rari.

Born on Fe­bru­ary 11, 1934, Sur­tees was the son of a south Lon­don mo­tor­cy­cle dealer and was sur­rounded by bikes from an early age – even his mother rode. He en­tered, and won, his first com­pet­i­tive event at Trent Park, North Lon­don, in 1949 at the age of 14 as pas­sen­ger to his fa­ther, Jack, in a grasstrack side­car event – but the pair were later dis­qual­i­fied when or­gan­is­ers dis­cov­ered Sur­tees was un­der­age.

By the end of the 1960 sea­son, Sur­tees had seven world ti­tles (four in 500cc and three in the 350cc class), had five TT wins to his name, and had lit­tle left to prove on two wheels. Still just 26, he took up the chal­lenge of rac­ing on four wheels and proved his tal­ent could read­ily be trans­ferred to cars – win­ning the For­mula 1 cham­pi­onship in 1964.

Fa­ther Kevin, who took the ser­vice at Worth Abbey, said: “John al­ways said it was all about chas­ing time, today he fin­ished the race with no pits stops.”

Do­na­tions to the char­ity set up by Sur­tees af­ter the death of his son Henry in a car race in 2009 can be made via www.hen­ry­surteesfoun­da­tion.com

‘He qui­etly men­tioned he’d been hav­ing lunch with the Queen’

World ti­tles, TTS, Sur­tees won it all

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