By John Surtees with Mike Nicks
Forewards by Valentino Rossi & Sebastian Vettel
UK publication date: 19 June 2014 (Evro Publishing)
UK RRP: £50.00, Hardback, ISBN 978-0-9928209-2-3
304pp, 275 photographs colour and black/white
‘This book is a record of John’s extraordinary life in motorsport. It’s unlikely that anyone will ever again repeat his achievement’. Valentino Rossi
‘Nobody else in the racing world has a personal story that so directly echoes the mechanics of motorsport – from building motorcycles in the 1940s to the running of a racing team in the 1970s’. Sebastian Vettel.
Published to mark the 50th anniversary of John Surtees becoming Formula 1 World Champion, in 1964, this long-awaited book is a photographic memoir by the only man to have won World Championships on motorcycles and in cars. Containing nearly 300 photographs from Surtees’ own collection as well as from the world’s finest motorsport picture libraries, this major book presents a complete visual record of Surtees’ life accompanied by insightful commentary in his own words and is written in collaboration with co-author Mike Nicks.
In motorcycle racing through the second half of the 1950s John Surtees was in a class of his own, winning seven World Championships on Italian MV Agusta motorcycles. Aged only 22, he became 500cc World Champion in 1956 and followed that with an incredible run of six titles – three each in the 350cc and 500cc categories – in the three years from 1958 to 1960.
In his extraordinary 1960 season he accepted an impossible challenge – to anyone but John Surtees – of competing in both motorcycle grands prix and Formula 1 cars. With MV Agusta he won seven of 12 races entered and took his last two world titles. In Formula 1 he did six races and finished second with a Lotus 18 in the British Grand Prix, only his second World Championship start.
As with bikes, by 1963 he was racing for an elite Italian team, Ferrari, in both sports cars and Formula 1. He won his very first race with Ferrari, the 1963 Sebring 12 Hours for sports cars, and in 1964 he became Formula 1 World Champion with a fine run of results as the season reached its climax – including forever winning the hearts of Italian fans with victory at Monza.
Ever versatile as a racer, in 1966 he bounced back after injury in a huge sports car crash to win the inaugural Can-Am series in North America, driving a Lola T70. Then Honda recruited him to its new Formula 1 team for two seasons that saw him win the Italian Grand Prix again.
His talents were not confined to being a rider and a driver. From 1969 his Team Surtees became a constructor, building 100 cars in a nine-year period and winning titles in Formula 2 and Formula 5000.
Book Highlights Include:
- The early years (up to 1952): a childhood around motorcycle racing, apprenticeship with Vincent, then racing a Vincent Grey Flash.
- Getting established (1953–55): Moving on to ride mainly Manx Nortons, he did 86 races in one year, and in 1955 achieved his first grand prix win, in the 250cc Ulster GP on an NSU.
- The glory years (1956–60): dominating top-level motorcycle racing for five years with Italian team MV Agusta, taking seven World Championship titles on 500cc and 350cc bikes.
- The remarkable year of bikes and cars (1960): overlapping his last year of motorcycle racing with 17 car races, including four F1 World Championship events, the second of them – the British GP – bringing a second place with Lotus.
- Ferrari driver (1963–66): established in cars, he joined Ferrari, winning his first race – the Sebring 12 Hours for sports cars – and the following year becoming F1 World Champion.
- CanAm champion (1966): after recovery from a huge crash in a Lola T70 sports car and acrimonious departure from Ferrari, he bounced back in North America to win the spectacular CanAm series.
- Turning Japanese (1967–68): Honda invited Surtees to develop and drive its F1 cars, with a two-year programme in which victory in the Italian GP at Monza – Ferrari territory – was the highlight.
- Becoming a constructor (1970–78): going into single-seater racing, including F1, with Team Surtees and cars of his own manufacture; good results in F1 were sparse but Mike Hailwood won the European F2 Championship in 1972.
- The latter years (1978 onwards): fully active on the historic scene as a restorer and driver of motorcycles and cars, then nurturing son Henry’s career until the tragic accident.
Royalties from sales of John Surtees: My Incredible Life on Two and Four Wheels go to the Henry Surtees Foundation, which was set up to honour the memory of John’s son Henry, who was killed in a freak accident at Brands Hatch in 2009.