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John Surtees Passes Away at 83 – Only Winner of Both F1 Automobile and Motorcycle GP Titles

John Surtees, the only man ever to win both a motorcycle GP championship (he won a total of four 500 cc titles) and an F1 automobile world championship (with Ferrari in 1964) passed away on March 10 at the age of 83. Surtees’ first motorcycle crown was earned aboard an MV Agusta in 1956.

After taking his fourth 500cc motorcycle world championship in 1960 (again aboard an MV Agusta), giving Surtees a total of seven two-wheel championships, Surtees eventually moved on to racing automobiles and won the F1 championship for Ferrari in 1964 after being lured to the team by Enzo Ferrari, himself.

Surtees only son Henry followed his father’s footsteps into automobile racing, but was tragically killed in an F2 race in 2009. The family started the Henry Surtees Foundation thereafter to assist people with brain injuries. John Surtees was the oldest F1 champion at the time of his passing. RIP.

By Supermac1961 from CHAFFORD HUNDRED, England (Sir John Surtees Uploaded by Sporti) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


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29 Comments

  1. Ducman says:

    what’s wrong with you people. this isn’t about Spencer, Agostini, Hailwood,et al. This is about Sir John. The others have their records and fame, but this is his funeral and let’s show him the respect he earned. God speed Sir John and “Raise to me the parting glass…….” You’re the one and only.

    • Gary says:

      Huh? I’ve not read a single disrespectful work about Surtees. Quite the contrary. Perhaps you should throttle back on the caffeine?

  2. Artem says:

    MV Agusta? They stole engine from Gilera.
    Neverthless, rest in peace, Mr.Surtees.

  3. Scott the Aussie says:

    Part 1 of a documentary some time ago….

    https://youtu.be/Jo4hqTx-Mx4

  4. Gary says:

    Many champions have dabbled in top-flight racing in multiple categories. Michael Schumacher rode a Ducati. Jorge and Valentino have tried their hands at Formula 1 machines and rally cars. But only one person has risen to the top ranks in both. Mr. Surtees’ accomplishments were monumental.

    Rest in peace. A true champion and by all accounts a true gentleman.

    • Scott says:

      Eddie Lawson was a pretty good Indycar driver, but he drove a mediocre car and got bored with it…

      Jeff Ward excelled in several different forms of motorsport, including Indycars and offroad trucks…

      I think there are probably quite a few motorcycle world champions who could win in F1 if they really pursued it, but kudos to Surtees for being the one who did it.

      • Gary says:

        I think Ricky Johnson and Jeremy McGrath also had some success in off-road four-wheeling. But none of them can match Surtees, IMHO. Of course, F1 cars these days are a far cry from what they were in Surtees’ day.

      • Randy D. says:

        Jeff Ward finished 3rd 1 year in the Indy 500. But that race takes more than just the driver to win.

  5. Vrooom says:

    That’s fricking impressive. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve not heard of him, and am pretty passionate about GP racing, though only for the last 20 years or so. God speed good man.

  6. Provologna says:

    God speed, Mr. Surtees.

    For legendary status, how do you guys rate Surtees’ winning multiple GP and one F1 vs. Freddie Spencer winning 250 and 500 GP the same year (both bikes without a rear brake)? It’s purely subjective, but I vote the latter by a smidgen or more.

    • mickey says:

      or Agostini winning the 500 and 350 in the same year, 5 years in a row? (plus 10 TT wins and multiple Ulster wins and the Daytona 200 as well)

      I think Surtees showed skills on multiple levels whereas Freddie just rode motorcycles very fast.

    • Curly says:

      I don’t think it’s possible to meaningfully compare them by statistics or championships won because they were of such different eras. Frankly there are few if any of us here who would have seen Surtees in a bike race except on grainy old films and so we really don’t know. I did see Spencer a few times on the track and he was amazing in his prime but I wouldn’t put him above or below Surtees based just on that. They were certainly two of the best of their times.

      • mickey says:

        then how do you come up with a GOAT? (greatest of all time?)

        should it be GPE (greatest per era?)

        • randy says:

          Maybe if Freddie’d won an F1 title, end of discussion. Michael Schumacher was a driving hoss and rode the crap out of a bike for a little while but I’d guess you have to win the bike title first. With all racers starting in diapers now we’ll never have a GOAT of this kind again.

        • Curly says:

          There is no possible GOAT because of the All Time part. So maybe GOTT, Greatest of That Time. Personally I think that “if” possible it would be Mike the Bike because he could ride the crap out of anything.

  7. mickey says:

    How about adding a pic of him racing a motorcycle?

  8. Randy D. says:

    I saw John Surtees racing in a red Ferrari roadster @ Riverside Raceway in soCal back in the 60’s in a sports car race. That may have been the year he won the title, though I doubt that race mattered as he didn’t win it. I believe he was racing against Dan
    Gurney in a Ford Cobra coupe, a Maserati birdcage, Corvette Stingrays, Jaguar XKE, and other current sports cars of the era.

  9. RD350 says:

    Winning world championships on the Ferrari of motorcycles (MV) and later in an F1 Ferrari is about as cool as it gets. That he was also a well spoken, well dressed and charitable gentleman, who stayed involved in motorsports till the end, is just the icing on a well lived life. Could not ask for a better ambassador for motorcycling.

  10. Jabe says:

    Godspeed, John.

  11. dt 175 says:

    Joe Leonard was 3-time AMA flattrack champ and two-time USAC/Indycar champ…

    • spokes says:

      that’s true and certainly a major accomplishment but really can’t be compared to Surtees world championships.

      • Lewis says:

        Not to mention the wins at the Isle of Man. Back in those days, the TT paid points towards the WC. So to equal that, we would need an F1 championship, a Moto GP championship and a win at the Senior TT.

      • dt 175 says:

        sure it can. 1956 motogp season was 6 races. ’58 ama was seven. 1964 f1 season was ten races. ’71 usac season was 12. yeah, the senior tt is tough. so is 200 miles on the sand at Daytona…

        • Scott the Aussie says:

          As someone who ras ridden round the track 4 times, the TT is a special kind of tough. 37.75 miles of walls, houses, hedges and an undulating public road – ridden at at an AVERAGE speed of greater than 100mph in Big Johns day. This doesn’t seem so bad, but when you look at the parts approaching Ramsey up to the Goosneck, and again some of the course around Douglas and a bit past Quarter Bridge, thats some mighty effort to do that on the bikes in the 1950s.

          And of course Big John was just a really nice, down to earth fella.

          GOAT?? Not sure its a valid concept at all. There are more races now in a season -but they are shorter and on far safer circuits (if way less romantic circuits – IOM, Spa, Solitude, Nurburgring – what places!!!).

  12. Curly says:

    A lot is made of John Surtees’ championships in both pursuits and should because it won’t likely ever happen again. It should also be known however that he was an extremely nice person too. That’s something that can’t always be said of most of our motorsports heroes. I had the pleasure of meeting him in 2010 and I count it as one of my very fortunate experiences.