August 2, 2011


2011 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance to pair John Surtees with two of his Championship Rides

Only world champion on two and four wheels will be reunited with two winning vehicles on Sunday, August 21

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (Aug. 2, 2011) — John Surtees, the only man to win world championships in both motorcycle racing and in Formula 1, will be reunited with two of his championship rides at the 61st annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, Aug. 21.

“I attribute my success to the fact that I was able to relate to machinery quite well, whether it was two wheels or four wheels,” said Surtees, who won seven motorcycle world titles from 1956 to 1960, and the Formula 1 title in 1964. “I had my heart in exactly what I was doing, and I was totally emotionally involved in my activities.”

Comparing the two genres, Surtees said, “As a motorcyclist you can probably have a greater effect on the machine than perhaps you do with a car. With a motorcycle, you have all these other factors, like the shifting of weight that can change the characteristics of how the vehicle is performing. You have a little more potential to control things with a bike than you do with a car.”

While in California, Surtees will participate in a number of Pebble Beach Concours activities, including the pre-event news conference the morning of Saturday, Aug. 20

The son of an English motorcycle dealer and British sidecar racing champion, Surtees’ first racing experience came at age 14 in his father’s sidecar. The Surtees team won that first race, but was disqualified when John was found to be underage. He began racing motorcycles a year later, moving up the ranks until in 1955, at age 21, he accepted his first factory-sponsored ride aboard a Norton motorcycle. He performed well, even defeating Geoff Duke, the reigning world champion, at Silverstone and Brands Hatch.

From 1956 to 1960, Surtees raced 350 cc and 500 cc motorcycles for famed Italian manufacturer MV Agusta, winning seven class world championships in that span. In 1958 and 1959, Surtees won every Motorcycle Grand Prix event he entered in 350 cc and 500 cc classes. He posted 12 straight Grand Prix wins in the 350 class during that time, and from 1958 to 60, he won 17 consecutive Grand Prix events in the 500 cc class.

It was during this time that Surtees began test driving automobiles and was hired by Team Lotus for the final four races of the 1960 Formula 1 season despite his relative lack of experience in auto racing.

“My biggest challenge was I had never seen a car race until I took part in my first car race,” said Surtees, now 77. “By the time I’d done four races total I was driving Formula One. I was a bit green. It all came from the heart.”

In 1962 he helped to develop the first Lola Formula 1 car.

“I was always able to work with the engineers very well on the development of the cars,” he said. “A car or a piece of machinery has to be able to talk to you, in the way it conveys what it’s all doing, and you’ve got to be able to analyze this. In those days of course, we didn’t have all this electronic gadgetry, telemetry and everything else to be able to look at everything happening out there. It depended on the stopwatch, temperatures of tires and that one important thing – the driver’s feedback.”

By 1963, Enzo Ferrari hired Surtees for the Scuderia Ferrari team when he notched his first F1 race win at the German Grand Prix at the famous Nürburgring circuit. He finished fourth in the F1 points standings that season. Then, in 1964, behind the wheel of a V8-powered Ferrari 158 that will be at Pebble Beach along with one of his winning MV Agustas, Surtees scored wins at the German and Italian Grand Prix events, and captured the F1 driving championship, edging Graham Hill by a point (40-39) for the title.

Surtees later formed his own racing team, which competed for nine seasons. The team’s best results came with Mike Hailwood behind the wheel. He, like Surtees, was a former motorcycle racing champion. Surtees retired from competitive driving in 1973.

Dan Smith, PCGCampbell
(310) 224-4954

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