People called him “Big John”. John Surtees could claim many titles for himself. He was the only World Champion to win victories on both, two and four wheels, and he was the oldest living Formula One World Champion. Anyone who was regularly in Goodwood could get to know “Big John” as a friendly, approaching older gentleman. Last week the racing legend died at the age of 83 years.
John Surtees was born in 1938 in Tatsfield, Surrey, UK. He came into contact with motorcycle racing early through his father and already drove his first race at the age of 15. Five years later, he won the official Motorcycle World Championship. In 1955 Surtees was admitted to the Norton racing team and began his successfull story. Later he changed to MV Augusta. Here he was able to score seven world title titles. In the years 1952 to 1960, John Surtees won 38 victories and 49 podium places. Only in four races he missed a place on the podium. In 1960, MV Augusta only wanted to compete in the 500 cubic class, but forbade Surtees to go for another brand of motorcycle racing. So John Surtees chose the Formula 1 as a new field of action and could immediately start for Lotus in 1960. In the first season he gained already a pole position and a second place on his Lotus 18 in four races.
In 1963 Surtees switched to Ferrari. After an argument with Ferrari, he joined Cooper Maserati in the middle of the season. Maybe his biggest mistake. Although he won the World Cup for both teams, he would have won his second world title if he´d stayed with Ferrari if he had. Up to his last race in Monza in 1972, Surtees competed in a total of 111 races and drove for eight teams. He celebrated a total of six World Championship titles.
After retiring from the racing sport, John Surtees organized historical racing events, meetings and exhibitions. In 1996 he was admitted to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.