John Surtees, the two and four wheel champion



John Surtees was born in Tatsfield in England on February 11, 1934. He officially enters the world of racing passing from motorcycling, taking part in the first world championship race in the 500 Class in 1952.


The Briton is a true master of racing, and in 1960, in addition to winning the seventh title in the world championship in the 500 and 350 class, he made his debut in the world of four wheels, participating in the Monaco Grand Prix, where he suffered a retirement due to problems. mechanical in nature.


However, in his second appearance he obtained a great second place in the British Grand Prix. In 1961, John abandoned two wheels to concentrate on Formula 1, and despite frequent retirements, Enzo Ferrari liked the driving style very much, offering him a seat for the 1962 season.


The Englishman is not yet ready to race at the wheel of such an important and prestigious team, and he temporarily refuses the offer. Twelve months and John signs for Ferrari.


The debut in Ferrari aboard the 156 F1 is not the best, obtaining only a victory in the German Grand Prix, and a second and third place respectively in the Dutch and British Grand Prix, ending the season in fourth place with 22 points to his credit for the 1963 season.


In 1964 proved to be a hard-fought championship, decided at the last round of the season, the Mexican Grand Prix. Despite various retirements, John shows up in Mexico with two podiums (England and Holland) and three victories, of which only two valid for the world championship, including the German Grand Prix and the Italian Grand Prix; while the third victory is on the occasion of the Syracuse Grand Prix, an appointment not valid for the world title.


The title is a three-way fight, with John Surtees in a Ferrari 158, Jim Clark in a Lotus 25, and Graham Hill in a B.R.M. P261. The race is full of twists, John starts badly and finds himself thirteenth, while his rivals are in first (Clark) and third (Hill). Despite this inconvenience, the Englishman easily catches up on his rivals, taking fifth position during the eighteenth lap. In this situation, the Scotsman from Lotus would win the title.


At the thirty-first lap, the first twist of the race takes place, Graham Hill and Lorenzo Bandini on Ferrari, are hired for third place when the two meet. The worst is Hill, who after a spin, is forced to make a stop in the pits, while Bandini is in third position, followed by John who moves into fourth position. The title is increasingly in the hands of Clark, when the second twist of the race takes place on lap 63. Jim Clark's Lotus powered by Climax accuses mechanical problems that relegate him to fifth position.


With this scenario, Dan Gurney on Brabham takes the lead, followed by Bandini and Surtees, with Clark in fifth position, and Hill in eleventh. The classification with Clark fifth and Surtees third, would go in favor of Graham Hill, but with two laps to go Lorenzo Bandini gave up the second position to his teammate, allowing him to win the title with only one point ahead of Graham Hill.


Note that by counting all the seasonal results, Hill scored one more point than Surtees, but with the discard rule, Graham had to drop a fifth place, giving up the two points necessary to win. With this result, Ferrari managed to obtain the Constructors 'title in addition to the drivers' title, celebrated not with the classic red color, but with white and blue.


This is because the FIA ​​did not homologate the new 250 LM for covered wheel racing, and Enzo Ferrari, angry at the ACI's failure to defend against him, withdrew the race license, registering the Formula 1 cars under the NART. (North American Racing Team) for the remaining two seasonal events.


In 1965 John was unable to defend the title, winning only three podiums in the Grand Prix of South Africa, Belgium and Holland, despite the car being more reliable than the previous year, ending the season in fifth position with 17 points in the bag.


The 1966 season was the last with Ferrari for John, who left the team during the season, due to various internal disagreements, with only two victories: the first in the Belgian Grand Prix, and the second at the Syracuse Grand Prix (not valid for the world championship).


John is to date the only rider to have won a world title in both motorcycling and motor racing. With Ferrari he obtained a world title, six victories and eight podiums. John passed away in London on March 10, 2017, going to rest next to his son Henry, also a driver, who died in a tragic Formula 2 accident in 2009.


Andrea Rasponi

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