11 February 2014
‘Extraordinary champion’ John Surtees turns 80
John Surtees, the only man to win world titles on two and four wheels, reaches his ninth decade.
John Surtees, one of motorsport's more unique talents, reaches another landmark today [Tuesday], as his 80th birthday is celebrated with news that his career is to be chronicled in a new photographic memoir.
Still the only man to win world championship titles on two and four wheels, the Briton remains much in demand for his insight 50 years on from his ultimate F1 success, but his story remains so much more.
Surtees was in a class of his own in 1950s motorcycle racing, winning seven world championships for the Italian MV Agusta marque. He took his first crown, in the 500cc category, in 1956 and followed that with an incredible run of six titles – three each in 350cc and 500cc – between 1958-60.
Having dabbled in cars while still competing on two wheels, Surtees made the switch full-time in 1960, debuting in the Monaco Grand Prix with Lotus. A podium finisher from his first season, he joined Ferrari in 1963 – after a spell with Reg Parnell's Yeoman Credit Cooper – and took the Scuderia to the world title a year later, winning races in Germany and Italy and always finishing on the podium when he saw the chequered flag.
Surtees continued to win grands prix with Ferrari, Cooper and Honda machinery, before going on to found his own eponymous F1 team, driving for three of its nine seasons and twice winning the Gold Cup event at Oulton Park alongside his world championship programme.
Aside from F1, Surtees also enjoyed success with Ferrari in sportscars, winning the Nurburgring, Sebring and Monza classics, and his story is now to be illustrated in a photographic memoir entitled John Surtees: My Incredible Life on Two and Four Wheels.
Containing over 250 photographs from Surtees' own collection, as well as from the world's finest motorsport picture libraries, the EVRO Publishing creation will present a complete visual record of the star's career, showing the great moments as well as candid 'behind-the-scenes' shots and personal photographs dating back to his childhood. Accompanying the imagery will be Surtees' own commentary, written in collaboration with leading motorsport journalist Mike Nicks.
Royalties from sales of the book will go to the Henry Surtees Foundation, set up in memory of John's son Henry, who was killed in a freak accident at Brands Hatch in 2009.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo paid his own tribute to Surtees as he entered his ninth decade.
“First of all, he was an extraordinary motorcycle champion before doing the same in motor sport, taking a fantastic F1 world championship crown with us in 1964,” the Italian said, “He is a dear friend to me and he has always maintained an excellent relationship with our company. On behalf of the entire Ferrari family, I send John all the very best wishes for his birthday!”
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