John Surtees, hailed as “one of the greatest people who’s ever lived in the history of motorsport”, has died aged 83.
Murray Walker, motorsport’s most famous broadcaster, lead the tributes to Surtees having covered his career which saw the racer become the only man to win the Formula One and motorcycle grand prix titles.
The Surrey-born racer got his first taste of motorsport when his dad set up a motorcycle shop in Forest Hill.
He would go on to an illustrious career in which he won the F1 title with Ferrari in 1964 to add to his 500cc motorcycle world titles from 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960.
He “passed away peacefully this afternoon” his family announced on Friday. His wife Jane and daughters Leonora and Edwina were by his side.
Their statement added: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our husband and father, John Surtees CBE.
“John, 83, was admitted to St George’s 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.
“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.
“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.”
John Surtees has died aged 83
During a motorcycle career which saw him race for Norton and MV Augusta, he also became the first man to win the Senior TT on the Isle of Man three years in succession.
Walker told the BBC: “It’s an absolute hammer blow for me and British motorsport in general.
“I have been privileged to commentate on him and to know him as a friend and he’s undoubtedly one of the greatest people who’s ever lived in the history of motorsport.”
Surtees started over 100 F1 grands prix, winning six, in a career which took him to Ferrari, Cooper and Honda, as well as starting a team which bore his name.
In 2009 his son Henry was killed while competing in a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch, aged 18, when he was struck on the head by a wheel which had become detached from another car.
The Henry Surtees Award was launched in his memory by the family in 2010 to be awarded annually for the most outstanding performance by a rising motor racer.
John Surtees was awarded the CBE in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to motorsport.
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