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John Surtees 11 February 1934 – 10 March 2017

  • Mar 28, 2017
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This month saw the passing of John Surtees, a true legend of motorsport.

The only person to ever win the world championships on two wheels and four. He won seven motorcycle world championships, riding for the Milan based MV Agusta team before starting to switch to cars making his debut in 1960 at Goodwood. An accomplished start led to being approached by Lotus chief Colin Chapman to race in F1. He immediately underscored his world class by finishing second in the British grand prix at Silverstone and took pole position for the Portuguese race over the tramlines and cobbles of the challenging Oporto street circuit.

In 1963 he moved to Ferrari and started to achieve major success, winning the German grand prix at the Nürburgring in decisive style with the V6-engined 1.5-litre Ferrari 156. However, injury and illness were to slow his progress and in 1969 he retired as a driver to create his own F1 team.

The early Cosworth-engined Surtees cars were promising, and the team performed well enough for Mike Hailwood to win the 1972 European Formula Two championship. Yet the team was always underfunded and finally closed its doors at the end of 1978.

From 1980 to 2000, Surtees developed a property business and restored cars and motorbikes. As vice-president of the British Racing Driver's Club he continued to encourage British involvement in international motor sport into the new century.

In 2009 his son Henry was tragically killed after being hit by a tyre in a freak accident while driving in a relaunched F2 event at Brands Hatch. In his memory John developed and supported the Henry Surtees Foundation for accident care and training for young people. Last year he was appointed CBE.

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