“BIG JOHN” SURTEES | THE LONE RACER MOTORCYCLE & F1 WORLD CHAMPION

In all of history it has happened only once. Only one man has ever won the World Championship in both motorcycle and auto racing– John Surtees. In 1956, at the wee age of 22 yrs old, he became the 500cc motorcycle World Champion. Then in 1960, he switched full-time to auto racing, and was crowned Formula One World Champion in 1964. At 26 yrs of age, he’d become the only man ever to win a World Championship on two wheels and four. There has been no one since, and perhaps nevermore.

Grand Prix motorcycle racing career
Active years 1952 - 1960
Teams Norton, MV Agusta
Grands Prix 49
Championships 350cc - 1958, 1959, 1960
500cc- 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960
Wins 38
Podium finishes 45
Pole positions N/A
Fastest laps 34
First Grand Prix 1952 500cc Ulster Grand Prix
First win 1955 250cc Ulster Grand Prix
Last win 1960 500cc Nations Grand Prix
Last Grand Prix 1960 500cc Nations Grand Prix

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May 10, 1964 — Ferrari designer Mauro Forghieri (ITA) manages a yawn as driver John Surtees (GBR) prepares for practice to begin in the pits. Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo — Image by © Phipps/Sutton Images/Corbis

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Formula One World Championship career
Active years 1960 - 1972
Teams Lotus, Cooper, Lola, Ferrari,Honda, BRM, McLaren, Surtees
Races 113 (111 starts)
Championships 1 (1964)
Wins 6
Podiums 24
Career points 180
Pole positions 8
Fastest laps 10
First race 1960 Monaco Grand Prix
First win 1963 German Grand Prix
Last win 1967 Italian Grand Prix
Last race 1972 Italian Grand Prix

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1954 — John Surtees with Norton motorcycles. Surtees rode these machines in the Isle of Man TT races in 1954 , finishing 11th in the Junior race and 15th in the Senior. Over his TT racing career he won on six occasions. In 1960, Surtees moved from motorcycles to car racing, and remains the only man to have been world champion in both. – Photograph via National Motor Museum / HIP / TopFoto

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John Surtees racing for MV Agusta. When MV approached him at the end of the 1955 season, young 21-year-old Surtees, who was born into a well-to-do family of motorcycle enthusiasts in Catford, had already won 77 races, mainly with Norton 350′s and 500′s. He was capable of bringing Cascina Costa its first 500 title during his first season with the Italian brand. Inventor of a new style that was challenged and that is at the roots of today’s riding technique with the body outstretched towards the inside of the curve, he won another six titles in the 350 and 500 classes between 1958 and 1960. Of course they were “easy” years for MV due to the fact that the leading rivals pulled out. via

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John Surtees getting air…

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john-surtees-vincent

This pic is often credited as being John Surtees scratching on his father’s Vincent in the 1950s. But it’s been proven now, by his own acknowledgement that it’s not.

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Isle of Man TT, 1957 — John Surtees

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1957 — TT Assen, (Left to Right) John Surtees – Keith Campbell – Libero Liberati – Dickie Dale.

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1958 — At the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. Germany was banned from taking part in International events following WWII– as such, the German GP only became part of the Formula One World Championship in 1951. (Left to Right)  June Hartle, John Hartle, John Surtees, John Surtees sister & mother. via

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John Surtees grew up the son of a London motorcycle dealer, and had his very first professional race in the sidecar of his father’s Vincent, which they handily won. However, they were later disqualified by race officials when discovered his age. In 1950, at just 16 yrs of age, he joined Vincent as an apprentice. John Surtees first made the motorcycling world take notice when, in 1951, he gave Norton’s reigning star Geoff Duke a run for his money in an ACU race at the Thruxton Circuit.

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England, 1960 — British motorcycle racer John Surtees fine tunes his Formula II Cooper motorcycle. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

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John Surtees drives his F1 Lotus up University Avenue heading towards the raceway for the 1960 U.S. Grand Prix.  This pic is so rad I want to cry.  via

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1962– John Surtees, driver for Lola-Climax, at the Belgium Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps. — Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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Dutch Grand Prix, Zandvoort, Netherlands, 1963 — John Surtees (GB), for Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC in the iconic 156 F1– first built by Ferrari in 1961 to comply with new F1 regulations at the time that lowered engine displacement from 2.5 to 1.5 liters. It was powered by the V6 “Dino” engine (named after Enzo’s late son) that could produce up to 200 hp. The early “sharknose” design was breath-taking, but Ferrari design scrapped it by the end of the ’63 season for the more conventional intake seen above. via

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1963– Richie Ginther, driver for BRM, leads John Surtees, driver for Ferrari, around a corner at the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. — Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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Zandvoort, Netherlands, 1964 — John Surtees and fellow Formula One racers on grid for the Dutch Grand Prix — Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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1964 — Formula One racing legend John Surtees

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John Surtees and fellow drivers run to their sportscars during the start of the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans. – Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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1965– Driver John Surtees, and Ferrari Formula One car designer at the time, Mauro Forghieri.

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May 30th, 1965 – John Surtees, driving a Ferrari 158 V8, follows his teammate Lorenzo Bandini, driving a Ferrari 1512 F12, during the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. – Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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French Grand Prix, 1965 — John Surtees (Ferrari), struck powerless to defend his F1 crown against the surging Scots– Jim Clark (Lotus/Climax) and Jackie Stewart (BRM). — Photograph © Schlegelmilch via

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June 12th, 1966 — John Surtees, racing for Ferrari, turns a corner in the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps. The 1966 season ushered in larger 3-liter engines to Formula One. Surtees’s debut with Ferrari’s new F1 car was at the 1966 BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone, where he qualified and finished a close second behind Jack Brabham’s 3-liter Brabham BT19. A few weeks later, Surtees led the Monaco Grand Prix, pulling away from Jackie Stewart’s 2-liter BRM on the straights, before his engine failed. Two weeks later Surtees survived the first lap rainstorm which eliminated half the field and won the Belgian Grand Prix. – Photograph © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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Fans, drivers, and race officials get into position shortly before the start of the 1966 German Grand Prix at Nuerburgring. The front row of drivers (Left-Right) Jim Clark in his Lotus-Climax, John Surtees in a Cooper-Maserati, Jackie Stewart in his BRM, and Ludovico Scarfiotti in his Ferrari. – Photograph © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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1966 was the year that Ford swept the 24 Hours of Le mans powered by Carroll Shelby’s GT 40 Mk. II’s. Finally getting the upper hand on Ferrari.  It was not Ferrari’s only loss at Le Mans– John Surtees arrived at the race expecting to be partnered with Mike Parkes– instead Ferrari team manager Eugenio Dragoni had put “Big John” with Ludovico Scarfiotti. Surtees quit Ferrari, and finished the season driving for the Cooper-Maserati team, winning the last race of the season and finishing second in the drivers’ championship, 14 points behind Brabham.

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1967 — The Chaparral prototype of Phil Hill and the Lola Aston Martin prototype of John Surtees have yet to move off their marks as the Porsche armada leaves the start line with Jo Siffert in the lead at the start of the 1000km Nurburgring race in the World Sportscar Championships. – Photograph © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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John Surtees, driving for the Honda racing team, adjusts his goggles before the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. — Photograph © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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in 1967, John Surtees joined the new Honda racing team– above he’s racing at the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. Surtees was forced out of the race after 32 laps due to engine trouble. At the Italian Grand Prix that year, Surtees slipstreamed Jack Brabham to take Honda’s second F1 victory by 0.2 seconds. Surtees would finish fourth in the 1967 drivers’ championship. – Photograph © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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1968 — Lotus-Ford Formula One driver Jo Siffert stops to borrow a dry visor from retired teammate Graham Hill as John Surtees speeds past in his Honda during a wet French Grand Prix. – Photograph © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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Bergamo, Italy, 1965 — Scuderia Ferrari Formula One race team in 1965 including racecar drivers Lorenzo Bandini (in car), John Surtees (far right) and race engineer Mauro Forghieri (third from right). — Image by © Manuel Litran/Corbis

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Monza, Italy — Honda driver John Surtees prepares for the 1968 Italian Grand Prix in Monza. – Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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Monza, Italy — Honda driver John Surtees waits during a pit stop in the 1968 Italian Grand Prix in Monza. — Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

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7 thoughts on ““BIG JOHN” SURTEES | THE LONE RACER MOTORCYCLE & F1 WORLD CHAMPION

  1. I think I’m going to have to go watch “Grand Prix” now.

    BTW, if you’re ever in the Birmingham, Alabama area, the Barber Museum has a few Surtees artifacts (like you need a reason to go to possibly the best motorcycle museum on the planet).

  2. Pingback: THE TSY WEEKLY ROUNDUP « The Selvedge Yard

  3. To win both F1 and motogp will never happen in todays mad world. He is a legend and was ‘slow hand’ before Clapton!

  4. The early photos here are so fucking beautiful, especially those leather jumpsuits and the MV Agusta number.
    Makes me wish I were a man, cause I can’t pull that shit off with curves.
    Same frustration with Paul Simonon’s style… You boys are lucky!

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