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F1 flashback: Surtees claims first grand prix victory

Aug 4, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT

Goodwood Festival of Speed Getty Images

Today marks fifty years since John Surtees claimed his first victory in Formula One, sparking the beginning of a glittering career in the sport that would see him win the world championship just one year later.

Surtees is the only person to have won a world title on two and four wheels, having become grand prix motorcycle champion on a 500CC bike in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960 before turning to Formula One.

Surtees took to F1 like a duck to water, coming second in his second race and securing pole position for just his third grand prix, but it wasn’t until 1963 that he eventually stood on top of the podium for the first time.

Until 1976, the German Grand Prix was held on the mammoth 14-mile Nürburgring circuit which was eventually deemed to be unsafe following an accident that nearly claimed Niki Lauda’s life.

For Surtees though, the circuit was very fruitful indeed in 1963 as he pulled away from the rest of the field alongside compatriot Jim Clark. Their race-long battle eventually came to an unfortunate end for Clark after he suffered an engine problem which saw him lose one of his eight cylinders, allowing Surtees to pass in his Ferrari and pull away to win by over one minute.

The race also saw a strong showing from the American drivers in the field, with Richie Ginther and Jim Hall both finishing in the points whilst Dan Gurney retired in a race that saw just ten drivers finish.

Surtees won his only Formula One world title in 1964 before retiring in 1972. He is widely recognized as being a legend of motorsport thanks to his remarkable feat of winning titles on two and four wheels and there are calls for him to be given a knighthood by The Queen. Regardless of his title though, Surtees will always remain a firm favorite in the F1 paddock and a motoring legend.

  1. wallio - Aug 4, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    Phil Hill once explained how all the other drivers gave Surtees more room: “We’re all crazy to do this, but John? John is INSANE. He used to do this on a bike!”

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