Surtees, the unique champion, dies at 83

John Surtees was the only man to win world titles on two wheels and four.
John Surtees was the only man to win world titles on two wheels and four.

LONDON • John Surtees' death was described as a "hammer blow for British motorsport", as tributes poured in for the only man to win world championships on two and four wheels.

The 1964 Formula One world champion was admitted to St George's Hospital in London last month with an existing respiratory condition. His family said that he died on Friday afternoon at the age of 83 after a short period in intensive care.

His wife Jane and daughters Leonara and Edwina were with him.

"He is undoubtedly one of the greatest people who has ever lived in the history of motorsport," Murray Walker, the 93-year-old Formula One commentator, said. "His death is a hammer blow for me and for British motorsport."

Damon Hill, the 1996 Formula One world champion and son of Surtees' late rival Graham Hill, tweeted: "Such a lovely man. We have lost a true great motorsport legend. RIP John."

Surtees first raced at 15 on a motorcycle grass track, then a year later he competed at Brands Hatch.

He was a four-time 500cc motorcycle world champion, winning his first title in 1956 at the age of 22 - the youngest to do so - and then again in 1958, 1959 and 1960.

He switched to four wheels at 26. Over the next 12 years he drove for Ferrari - with whom he won the world title, beating Hill by just one point - as well as Honda and his own Surtees outfit.

Surtees, who was appointed CBE in the 2016 New Year's honours list for services to motorsport, set up the Henry Surtees Foundation, named after his son who was killed in a Formula Two accident in 2009.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 12, 2017, with the headline 'Surtees, the unique champion, dies at 83'. Print Edition | Subscribe