MOTOGP » John Surtees
Career 500cc/MotoGP world championships:
4 – 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960.500cc/MotoGP race wins:
John Surtees occupies a unique place in motorsport history as the only person to have won world championships on both two and four-wheels: The Englishman having claimed the 500cc GP title no less than four-times before winning the 1964 Formula One World Championship.
Surtees began racing at 16 and after a rapid rise up the motor racing ladder was given his premier-class break when he was hired by reigning 500cc champions MV Agusta for the 1956 season, at the age of 22. Surtees promptly won the first three rounds of the six race season, but broke his arm at round four. Nevertheless, with the best four results counting Surtees was crowned 500cc world champion at his very first attempt.
But 1957 would prove a much tougher year as MV Agusta struggled to keep pace with the technologically superior Gileras, whose riders would claim the top two positions in the championship. Surtees was third, with one win to his credit.
The following season saw Gilera withdraw from the class, leaving the Surtees/MV Agusta steamroller unchallenged. John won seven of the eight rounds in both the 500cc and 350cc World Championships to be crowned king in each.
1959 saw the domination reach an even higher level as Surtees won all seven 500cc rounds and all six 350cc World Championship events, to defend both crowns in literally perfect fashion.
Surtees claimed his fourth and final 500cc title in 1960 - winning five of the seven rounds to finish 6-points clear of team-mate Remo Venturi, but his third and last 350cc crown was a closer fought affair, with both Surtees and team-mate Gary Hocking finishing the season equal on points.
In his five-years with MV Augusta, Surtees won an amazing 22 out of a possible 30 500cc GPs - but then sensationally quit the sport, at the age of just 26, to seek a new challenge on four-wheels.
Surtees had actually begun his Formula One career during 1960, having been signed by Lotus to compete in GPs which didn’t clash with his motorcycle commitments, and would finish second in only his second F1 race! However, Surtees left the Lotus team at the end of the year and wouldn’t win his first F1 GP until signing for Ferrari in 1963.
John then claimed his place in motorsport history by winning the 1964 F1 World Championship for the Italian team, at the very final round.