Another angle on John Surtees Life

March 13, 2017

John Surtees, who has died aged 83, is the only man to have won a Grand Prix world championship on two and four wheels.

He was a four-time 500cc motorcycle World Champion – winning that title in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960 – the Formula One World Champion in 1964, and remains the only person to have won World Championships on both two and four wheels.

An impressive area often overlooked in Surtees life was his time in sports cars – he scored four wins and four second places driving the Ferrari 330P2 and 365P2 in European events, and his own Lola T70-Chevrolet in North American races.

John’s run of success following his switch to four wheels was brought to an abrupt halt by a catastrophic accident in practice for the Canadian GP for sports cars at Mosport Park.

A suspension upright on the Lola failed at high speed, pitching the car into a barrier. On impact it somersaulted and landed on top of John, fracturing his pelvis, seriously damaging his left leg and spine, and rupturing his kidneys.

But within six months of the near-death experience, he was back, testing Ferrari’s contender for championship honours in the new 3-litre formula introduced for 1966 F1 campaign.
He kick-started the season with wins in the 1000km race for sports cars at Monza, the opening non-championship round of the F1 calendar at Syracuse, and in the Belgian GP at Spa in June.

But despite his promising return to the cockpit, he quit Ferrari within a matter of days, following a bitter row with team boss Eugenio Dragoni. The disagreement, on the eve of the Le Mans 24-hours race, was sparked by the intense internal politics that he believed were the root cause of Ferrari’s under-performance both on and off the track.

In 1966 john Surtees became the Can-Am champion in his  - Lola T70 MKII - earning himself 29 points, in the 6 rounds.

In 1970, Surtees formed his own race team, the Surtees Racing Organisation and spent nine seasons competing in Formula 5000, Formula 2 and Formula 1 as a constructor. He retired from competitive driving in 1972, the same year, the team had their greatest success when Mike Hailwood who won the European Formula Two Championship. The team was finally dissolved at the end of 1987.

In Surtees personal life he set up The Henry Surtees Foundation was founded by motor sport legend John Surtees CBE, following the tragic death of his son Henry, killed aged just 18 years old whilst competing in Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch in 2009. www.henrysurteesfoundation.com

John Surtees was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1959 and an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 2008, the 81-year-old was recently honoured with Commander of the British Empire at New Year.

The award is in recognition of his services to motorsport and the charitable work of the Henry Surtees Foundation, named in honour of his son, who lost his life in a Formula 2 crash at Brands Hatch in 2009. The foundation provides vital support for those who have suffered injuries in accidents.

Surtees died of respiratory failure on 10 March 2017 at St Georges Hospital in London, at the age of 83
John Surtees - 1934 - 2017

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