LEGEND LAID TO REST
Hundreds gather for the funeral of John Surtees – the world’s greatest racer
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