LONDON: John Surtees, only man to have won world championships on two and four wheels, has died at 83.
A brilliant motorcyclist who dominated the top 500cc class for much of the late 1950s, Surtees moved on to cars and immediately established himself as a leading figure, winning the Formula 1 championship for Ferrari in 1964.
Through the mid-1960s he was one of the towering figures in F1 along with Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart and Dan Gurney.
The son of a south London motorbike dealer, Surtees was a teenage prodigy on racing bikes and, after making his name in national races, he took the world championship by storm when he was given a factory MV Agusta ride in 1955.
His blistering speed earned him the nickname ‘figlio del vento’ – son of the wind – and he won the world title in 1956 and again from 1958-60.
Surtees had already made a name for himself while still competing on two wheels. He finished second in only his second Formula 1 race, the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix while driving for Lotus, and at the end of the season he switched to cars full time after winning his fourth bike title.
Two years in privateer teams followed, in which he did enough to catch the eye of Enzo Ferrari, who drafted him into his team in 1963. Immediately Surtees became a major contender.
His first win came in his first season with Ferrari at the German Grand Prix, held at the daunting Nurburgring, and he won the title the following season in a close fight with fellow Britons Clark and Hill, who drove for Lotus and BRM.
Later Surtees formed his own team in 1970, initially as a driver-cum-team boss, before retiring from full-time racing at the end of 1971 to concentrate on running the outfit.
Later he he helped guide the nascent career of his son, Henry, who was killed aged 18 in an accident in a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch in 2009.
In the wake of his son’s death, John set up the Henry Surtees Foundation to help people recovering from brain and physical injuries return to society and to support motorsport-related educational programmes.