John Surtees, The Only MotoGP And Formula1 Champion

Nowadays it is difficult for a famous MotoGP rider to switch to Formula 1 to renew his world success. But in the 60s of the last century someone decided to do it: the unforgettable John Surtees.
John Surtees, the only MotoGP and Formula1 champion

John Surtees is an example for many current pilots. His great fame is due to the fact that he was the only rider in history to win both the Formula 1 and MotoGP World Championships. It is an undertaking that until now no one has been able to repeat.

In the following article we offer an excursus of what was the sporting career of this extraordinary driver, the Englishman who has dedicated his entire life to the world of motors. In addition to being talented, this driver is among the most appreciated and loved, a man who has experienced the most exciting – but also the most tragic – moments of his life on the circuit.

John Surtees and motorcycling

In the beginning, John Surtees was born as a motorcycle rider, in fact he participated in the MotoGP World Championship for 8 seasons. In 1952 there was his debut and in 1960 he left MotoGP to devote himself to Formula 1.

Until 1956, when he joined the Augusta team, his presence had gone unnoticed. But it was then that he achieved his first victory by qualifying as world champion in the 500cc championship.

Surtees remained with Augusta until the end of his career. In the years 1958, ’59 and ’60 he was again world champion in the 350 and 500cc categories.

Although it lasted a few years, Surtees’ motorcycle career was brilliant. The English driver has collected 38 victories, of which 7 only in the World Championships. At that time Surtees had already left his mark on racing history, but in reality his fame was only just beginning.

John Surtees: a forever remembered Formula 1 driver

In 1960 John Surtees decided to change his career by participating in the Formula 1 World Championship. Surtees joined several teams for 13 championships. To everyone’s amazement, Surtees proved that his talent was not limited to two wheels.

John Surtees F1

His performances were spectacular from the very first moment. During the second race in which he participated he finished second with the Lotus team. Among other things, it was the Monaco Grand Prix, one of the most difficult from a technical point of view.

His golden period in Formula 1 was the one with Ferrari, which began in 1963. In that same year he took home his first victory as a driver of the highest category and the following year he was proclaimed world champion.

After four years as a Ferrari driver, John Surtees moved from team to team, accumulating a large number of retirements. His last stage in Formula 1 was also the riskiest, as he faced a new challenge.

After being both motorcycling and Formula 1 champion with several teams, there was only one thing left to do: found a team. Thus was born the  Surtees Racing Organization,  with which he raced during the last three years of his racing career. Once he retired he began to take care of the management of the stable.

At first Surtes drove a McLaren M7C, but later managed to build his own personal car. Over time he expanded his team and began building cars for Formula 500 and Formula 2 as well.

End of sports career

John Surtees retired from his Formula 1 career in the year 1972 but remained tied to the world of motorsport throughout his life. He continued to manage his team until 1978 but had to abandon the project due to financial problems.

In any case, he did not move away from the world of motors, in fact John Surtees followed his son Henry in his short career as a Formula 2 driver until 2009, the year of the accident in which a tire jumped hitting him on the head. There was nothing to be done to save him, that accident cost him his life. Without a doubt it was a very hard blow for Surtees father, who died in 2017 at the age of 83.

John Surtees at Ferrari

Acknowledgments

John Surtees has always been a beloved and respected rider in the world of two and four wheels. Following his retirement he was also named MotoGP Legend and also obtained recognition from the Order of the British Empire.

Ferrari also wanted to pay homage to him following his death and put up for sale a line of five white and blue cars. It was a very moving way to commemorate the Surtees years with the famous stable.

This British driver was more than just a champion. Surtes has managed to earn the affection, respect and admiration of the whole great family that is the world of motors. A man able to overcome his limits on two and four wheels, but also as an entrepreneur.

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