Racing legend John Surtees dead at 83

John Surtees and Claudio Barbato with Barbato's 'E-Motion' sculpture, designed with metal from the award-winning restoration of Jaguar’s ultimate Lightweight E-Type, the Lindner Nocker

John Surtees and Claudio Barbato with Barbato’s ‘E-Motion’ sculpture, designed with metal from the award-winning restoration of Jaguar’s ultimate Lightweight E-Type, the Lindner Nocker

Few men in the history of racing are as accomplished as John Surtees. The son of a London motorcycle dealer began his racing career by racing motorcycles in the early 1950s, and he went on to win four 500cc motorcycle grand prix world championships in 1956, ’58, ’59 and ’60. After the 1960 win, he switched over to four wheels, and proceeded to take the 1964 Formula One title. To this day, he remains the only man to claim world championships on both two and four wheels. 

Surtees turned 83 in February, the same month he was admitted to St. Georges Hospital, London with a respiratory condition. After a period in intensive care, he died peacefully on Friday afternoon, his family said.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our husband and father, John Surtees CBE,” his family said in a statement. Surtees was awarded a CBE, a knighthood, in 2016 for his services to motorsports. 

“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,” the statement continued.

“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.

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“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.”

Surtees’ son, Henry, was tragically killed in 2009 at the age of 18. The younger Surtees was competing in a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch  when he was struck on the head by a wheel that had flown off from another car. The elder Surtees started the Henry Surtees Foundation in his son’s honor.

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