By Kevin Duke
The motorsports community is saddened today by the loss of one of the true legends of motorcycle racing. John Surtees, winner of four world championships in Grand Prix racing’s premier class, passed away at the age of 83.
The fact that Surtees won 500cc Grand Prix titles in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960 is more than enough to earn the Englishman legendary status and reverence across the globe. Out of 39 grand prix races from 1958 to 1960, Surtees won an incredible 32 of them aboard MV Agustas. He also captured three 350cc world championships for MV.
John Surtees was the first rider to win the Senior TT at the Isle of Man three years in a row.
But being a four-time motorcycle world champ was just a prelude for the English phenom. Surtees jumped from MV to Formula 1 car racing in 1960, finishing his second F1 race at the British Grand Prix in an incredible runner-up spot, then qualifying on pole position in just his third race! The next two years were spent in uncompetitive cars, but Surtees moved to the Ferrari team in 1963 where he flourished, culminating in the 1964 F1 world championship.
This gave Surtees a racing résumé unlike anyone else’s, being the only rider/driver to have won the uppermost titles in both motorcycle and automobile racing. He also won the 1966 Can-Am title while racing a Lola T70 by taking five wins in eight races.
After a squabble with the Ferrari team in 1966, finishing second in the driver’s world championship, Surtees moved to Honda‘s burgeoning F1 team for the ’67 season. He scored Honda’s second-ever F1 race win at the Italian Grand Prix and went on to finish fourth in the championship chase.
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