Racing great John Surtees turns a landmark 80 years old today, and he remains one of the biggest names in two- and four-wheeled motorsports. Surtees is the only person to have ever won the premiere world championships for both motorcycle and car racing, capturing the 500cc World Championship in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960 and the Formula One Championship in 1964.
Born Feb. 11, 1934 in Tatsfield, England, Surtees grew up around motorcycles as the son of a Vincent dealer. In 1955, Surtees earned a factory-sponsored ride with Norton, competing in the 250, 350 and 500cc World Championships. The following year, Surtees signed with MV Agusta, starting a dominant run of seven world championships in five seasons. In 1958 and 1959, Surtees went undefeated in both the 350cc and 500cc championships, with 25 wins (the only blip was the 1958 Swedish Grand Prix which Surtees did not compete in.)
After capturing two more championships in 1960, Surtees went looking for a new challenge in F1 racing, winning the 1964 championship with Ferrari.
“First of all, he was an extraordinary motorcycle champion before doing the same in motor sport, taking a fantastic Formula 1 World Championship crown with us in 1964,” says Luca di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari. “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!”
To mark Surtees 80th birthday, EVRO Publishing announced it is producing a new photographic memoir called “John Surtees: My Incredible Life on Two and Four Wheels” featuring more than 250 photographs from Surtees’ own collection and various motorsport photo libraries. The images include both racing pictures and personal photographs, and will be accompanied by comments written by Surtees and motorsport journalist Mike Nicks.
Royalties from the memoir will go to the Henry Surtees Foundation, an organization that helps people with brain and other physical injuries from accidents and provides education and training for motorsports-related programs. The foundation is named for Surtees’ son Henry who died in a Formula 2 race in 2009.