John Surtees Dies at 83 Years Old

John Surtees Dies: Only Person to Win Motorcycle GP & Formula One Titles
John Surtees aboard MV Agusta at Isle of Man TT

One of motorsports’ most iconic figures, John Surtees, died Friday, March 10, at St Georges Hospital in London. Surtees, 83, was admitted to the hospital in February due to an existing respiratory condition, and passed away while in intensive care.

Surtees, of Britain, was the only person to claim both Formula One and motorcycle Grand Prix titles. He claimed 500cc motorcycle Grand Prix titles in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960, and the 1964 F1 championship.

Surtees, who at the age of 16 worked at the Vincent factory as an apprentice, made a name for himself during an Auto-Cycle Union (ACU) race at the Thruxton Circuit in 1951. That year, he challenged for Norton’s Geoff Duke.

In 1955, Surtees got his first factory ride with Norton, claiming two podiums in the 350cc GP Championship. His legend truly began in 1956 when he signed with MV Agusta. That year, he claimed the 500cc title, and followed it with back-to-back 350cc and 500cc GP titles from 1958-1960, wining 32 out of 39 races. Those years he also became the first rider to win three-consecutive Isle of Man TT Senior TTs.

John Surtees Death
John Surtees

During his last year of GP racing in 1960, Surtees also began racing for Lotus in Formula One. He switched to Ferrari in 1963, and the following year claimed the Formula One title, becoming the only competitor in history to win both motorcycle GP and F1 championships.

Throughout the 1970s Surtees operated a motorcycle shop and a Honda car dealership, both in Kent. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996, and awarded the Segrave Trophy in 2013. He was also awarded an honoree Doctor of Engineering by Oxford Brookes University in 2015. He continued racing into his 80s.

His son, Henry, also raced, but was killed in an accident at Brands Hatch during a 2009 Formula Two race; Henry was 18.

Surtees’ family has set up the Henry Surtees Foundation in aid of people recovering from brain and physical injuries and to support motorsport-related educational programs.