John Surtees dead: Former F1 and motorbike world champion dies, aged 83

Surtees remains the only man to win world championships on two and four wheels

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British motor racing legend John Surtees has died at the age of 83, the Henry Surtees Foundation has confirmed.

Surtees won the 1964 Formula One world championship at the age of 30 while driving for Ferrari, and finished runner-up in the championship two years later to the late Australian Jack Brabham. However, it was on two wheels where he first made his name, winning the 500cc world championship four times as well as the 350cc title a further three times.

Surtees also competed at the famous Isle of Man TT, a race that he won six times, and became the first rider to triumph three years in a row when he took victories in 1958, 1959 and 1960 on an MV Augusta.

He would also compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours from 1963 until 1965, and again in 1967, though an elusive victory never came in the prestigious endurance race with his best finish a 3rd place in 1964.

A statement from the Surtees family, issued on the Henry Surtees Foundation Facebook page on Friday, read: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our husband and father, John Surtees CBE.

“John, ‪83, was admitted to St Georges Hospital, London in 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.”

Surtees retired from racing professionally in 1972, having already created his own team by the name of the Surtees Racing Organisation, with the outfit competing in Formula 1, Formula 2 and Formula 5000. His crowning moments as a team owner came in the same year as his retirement, when Mike Hailwood won the European Formula 2 Championship, with the team soon disbanded in 1978.

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Surtees was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire last year (Getty)

However, Surtees wold continue to have a major influence on British motorsport, and was a regular at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival events, where he would normally be seen on his world championship-winning MV Augusta.

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Surtees remains the only world champion on two and four wheels (Getty)
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Surtees won the 1964 Formula One world championship with Ferrari (Getty)
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After driving for Ferrari, Surtees went on to form his own team (Getty)
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Surtees ended his professional career with one F1 title and seven motorbike world championships (Getty)

In July 2009, his son, Henry Surtees, was tragically killed in a Formula 2 accident at Brands Hatch when he was struck on the head by a wheel following a collision. His death led to the formation of the Henry Surtees Foundation as well as the Henry Surtees Award, which is given out annually to the most outstanding performance by an up-and-coming driver.

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Surtees frequently rode his old racing bikes at exhibitions (Getty)

Surtees was a well-known and well-liked character in motorsport across the globe, and his family paid tribute to his determination, with the statement adding he “continued fighting until the very end”.

“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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Surtees continued to drive at the Goodwood Festival of Speed up until 2016 (Getty)

“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.

“Funeral details will be announced in due course.”

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