John Surtees has died aged 83 at St George’s Hospital in London following respiratory illness.
One of most successful bike racers in the sport’s history, he’s also the only man to have won both the 500cc motorcycle title and the F1 crown.
His achievements on two wheels were astounding. As well as four 500cc titles in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960, he achieved double championships on three occasions, winning the 350cc title in 58, 59 and 60.
Such was his dominance that during the three-year streak from 1958-1960 he won all but seven of the 39 World Championship races across both the 500cc and 350cc classes. As if that wasn’t enough, he also competed in the FIA F1 World Championship in 1960 alongside his two-wheeled efforts.
After switching to cars full time, he won the F1 driver’s title in 1964 for Ferrari. Later he’d go on to lead Honda’s entry into F1 racing before becoming a constructor in his own right, building and racing his own Surtees cars before hanging up his helmet and dedicating himself to running his eponymous team.
He headed the British entry in the A1 Grand Prix series from 2005-2007 and later set up the Henry Surtees Foundation to assist people with brain injuries. This came after his son, Henry, was killed while competing in a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch in 2009.
Awarded with an MBE in 1959 at the height of his success, he was later awarded an OBE in 2008 and a CBE in 2016.
His family released a statement following his death, reading:
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our husband and father, John Surtees CBE.
John, 83, was admitted to StGeorges Hospital, Londonin February with an existing respiratory condition and after a short period in intensive care he passed away peacefully this afternoon. His wife, Jane and daughters, Leonora and Edwina were by his side.
John was a loving husband, father, brother and friend. He was also one of the true greats of motorsport and continued to work tirelessly up until recently with The Henry Surtees Foundation and Buckmore Park Kart Circuit.
We deeply mourn the loss of such an incredible, kind and loving man as well as celebrate his amazing life. He has set a very real example of someone who kept pushing himself at his peak and one who continued fighting until the very end.
We would like to thank all the staff at St George’s Hospital and The East Surrey Hospital for their professionalism and support during this difficult time for us. Thank you also to all of those who have sent their kind messages in recent weeks.