The former Moto GP and Formula One world champion John Surtees has died following a short illness. The 83-year old is the only man to have won titles at the top of motorcycling and car racing.
Born in 1935, Surtees made his motorsports debut at the 1952 Ulster Grand Prix in Moto GP before switching to Formula One debut in the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix. In his career, he won four world championships across both series.
Son of a motorcycle dealer he made his debut aged fifteen alongside his father in a sidecar but was disqualified after winning because of his age before going on to work for Norton.
He raced for the manufacturer until 1959, his first taste of success in world Motorsport came in the 250cc race at the 1955 Ulster Grand Prix. Before winning three world championships the first in 1957 than three back-to-bat in both then 350cc and 500cc classes in the same seasons. Before his F1 debut for Colin Chatman’s Lotus 1960 in Monaco.
A family statement read “John, 83, was admitted to St Georges Hospital, London in February with an existing respiratory condition and after a short period in intensive care he passed away peacefully this afternoon. His wife, Jane and daughters, Leonora and Edwina were by his side.
“John was a loving husband, father, brother and friend. He was also one of the true greats of motorsport and continued to work tirelessly up until recently with The Henry Surtees Foundation and Buckmore Park Kart Circuit.”
“We deeply mourn the loss of such an incredible, kind and loving man as well as celebrate his amazing life. He has set a very real example of someone who kept pushing himself at his peak and one who continued fighting until the very end.”
His achievements earned him an MBE in 1959 and winning BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. But in era when motorsport was safe tragedy struck him, his son was killed in Formula Two in 2009 after being hit by a tyre in July 2009.
His son’s death prompted coupled with Felipe Massa’s accident a week later at the Hungarian Grand Prix, put very difficult questions on the table for motorsport about safety.
However, he responded by setting up the Henry Surtees Foundation, which will undoubtedly be his legacy.
Ferrari tweeted “John Surtees, Motorsport legend and 1964 World Champion with Ferrari, passed away. Our thoughts are with his family.”
Mercedes Valtteri Bottas “Sad news today. It was great to meet you legend. RIP John Surtees”
Silverstone home of the British Grand Prix “We are so incredibly sad to hear of the passing of John Surtees. Thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”