Following our interview with John Surtees, here we chat through ten of the cars and motorcycles he raced. You can see them all for yourself in a special display at the Festival of Speed.
John Surtees’ place in the history books was assured when he brought his Ferrari 158 home second in the Mexican Grand Prix in 1964. It was a three-way fight to the title that year, between Surtees, Graham Hill and Jim Clark, but a second place (to Dan Gurney) was all that was needed for the motor cycle world champion to take the F1 drivers’ title as well.
In recognition of that achievement John Surtees will be blasting up the hill in the 158 every day of FoS this year. In fact there are two 158s here, both brought over specially from the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, Alabama, where they are part of a permanent Surtees exhibition.
The red car is the car from Mexico 1964. It was restored to its present glorious condition about eight years ago when the second, blue and white 158 was put together out of parts, including an original race engine and gearbox as used by Surtees in period. Its blue and white body is in the NART (North American Racing Team) colours of the Ferrari importer which the red car originally wore in 1964.
The 158’s 1.5-litre V8 had twin plug ignition and direct fuel injection – the first Ferrari to have it. As John recounts, the injection system was difficult to calibrate and performance could vary, but on a good day it put out around 220bhp.
Some of the other cars, and bikes, in the display, and John’s verdict on them…
Surtees drove the car in his third Formula 1 race, the 1960 Portuguese GP, setting pole position and a record lap of 112.31mph, He finished second in the British GP that year. ‘The first F1 car I ever raced after Colin Chapman asked me to try it. Probably the most competitive car I ever drove compared to the opposition at the time.’
Driven for Reg Parnell and the Bowmaker Racing Team in the ’62 season. John finished fourth in the drivers’ table. ‘I was deeply involved in developing this car. It was a brand new machine and in its first grand prix we put it on pole, but it broke its suspension in the race. We still beat Ferrari that year.’
Surtees won the 1966 Can-Am Challenge Cup in the Chevrolet V8-powered T70 MkII. ‘I worked closely with Eric Broadley developing this car. It was one of the most successful sports cars of the period.’
TEAM SURTEES TS7
The first car built by Surtees’ team and designed by Ken Sears, Shahab Ahmed and John. It finished fifth in the 1970 Canadian GP. Says John: ‘It’s the only F1 car that Derek Bell got a world championship point in when he drove it for me in the US GP.’
TEAM SURTEES TS11
The TS11 won the 1972 European Formula 5000 series with Gijs Van Lennep, while Sam Posey finished second in the US series in this car.
TEAM SURTEES TS14
Built for the 1972-73 season, this was the first F1 car fully to comply with the new ‘crumple zone’ safety regulations. It was also the last F1 car that Surtees drove. ‘We were held back because the Firestone tyres didn’t suit it but we still lap records with this car. I was due to drive it at Monza in 1972 but we lost the engine in practice and didn’t have a spare, so I did the testing at Monza that year but not the race.’
TEAM SURTEES TS15
Running a Brian Hart-developed Ford BDA engine, these 1973 Formula 2 cars were driven by Mike Hailwood and, occasionally, by John Surtees. ‘We finished second in the championship – not bad for a prototype. I remember Carlos Pace winning at Interlagos.’
TEAM SURTEES TS19
Designed by Surtees and Ken Sears, this was the last Formula 1 car from the Edenbridge team. It became as famous for its Durex sponsorship as for its on-track performance.
1949 VINCENT GREY FLASH (below left)
‘The first bike I won a race on. At Aberdare, in Wales.’
1953 WORKS NORTON (below middle)
The bike gave John a fifth place in 1954. ‘We have just finished restoring it here in my workshop at home.’
1960 MV AGUSTA (below right)
Bike provided John with a string of first places in both 350cc and 500cc grands prix, delivering his first world championship in 1956 and then the 350 and 500cc world titles every year between 1958-60.