The revered British racing legend John Surtees has died at age 83, his family announced in a statement through the Henry Surtees Foundation. Renowned as the only racer ever to win major world championships on motorcycles and in cars, Surtees carved out a name for himself during racing’s daring and dangerous years of the 1960s.
In the whole of racing history, nobody has ever come close to accomplishing what John Surtees did in his career. After utterly dominating grand-prix motorcycle racing from 1958 to 1960 with five championships aboard 350cc and 500cc bikes, the English racer jumped full time into Formula 1, where he won the 1964 World Championship. That makes him the only person in history with major championships on two and four wheels, a feat that will almost never be matched in today’s specialized racing world. He followed that up with the first Can-Am championship in 1966 with a Lola T70, won an F1 race for Honda in 1967, and formed his own team as a constructor in 1970.
Surtees remained visible in motorsports throughout his life. He frequently raced vintage motorcycles after his 1972 official retirement. He was a staple at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where he appeared annually through 2015 to take priceless cars and bikes he’d raced up Lord March’s hill climb. His son, Henry, raced open-wheel cars until his tragic 2009 death at Brands Hatch in a Formula Two. Soon after, John started the Henry Surtees Foundation to “assist people recovering from accidental injuries and help young people to develop their capabilities.” [Today’s news has crashed the foundation’s website; go here for more information.]
Here’s a video from Goodwood in 2014, when Surtees drove his championship-winning Ferrari up the hill climb along with Kimi Raikkonen along with a good profile piece from Trans Wold Sport where you can hear John talking about his life and career.