The Royal Automobile Club this week awarded the historic Segrave Trophy to John Surtees OBE.
The 2012 Segrave Trophy citation reads: For his outstanding career in two and four wheeled motorsport, including seven motorcycle world championship titles, culminating in the unique achievement of being the only man to win a motorcycle World Championship and the Formula One World Championship.
Speaking at the awards Tom Purves, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, said, "John is one of the most accomplished and versatile sportsmen of all time, winning seven motorcycle world championships and then victory in the 1964 Formula One World Championship. He is the only person in history to have won world championships on both two wheels and four yet, until today, John’s name was not on the distinguished list of Segrave Trophy winners.
“This award is made to John not as recognition of a lifetime of achievement,” he added, “but as a somewhat overdue recognition of a unique sporting triumph that would, doubtlessly, have been recognized at the time had it not been for Donald Campbell, who broke the land and water speed records simultaneously the same year. It is therefore our great honor to salute John’s successes, albeit perhaps a little later than we should have done.”
Upon receiving the trophy, Surtees said, “Donald Campbell achieved his success on land and water in the same year, which perhaps overshadowed my having taken 4 years to put two and four wheel titles together. I am honored, as I approach the fiftieth anniversary of my Formula One World Championship title, to receive this prestigious Trophy on behalf of not only myself but also the world of two and four wheel motorsport.”
Surtees started out his racing career as a passenger for his father—a top sidecar racer—and although they finished first, the Surtees duo was disqualified when it was discovered that John was too young to compete within the rules.
Undeterred, he began competing on motorbikes in road races, and at just 19 years old, he joined the celebrated Norton works team. Two years later he was given his break with the MV Agusta team and duly won the 500cc World Championship—the first of seven world titles he secured in just five years and which resulted in the award of an MBE.
In 1960, Surtees mixed two wheels with four by driving in Formula Junior, F1 as well as for MV Agusta. Despite an offer in 1961 to drive for Lotus in F1, Surtees opted for a Cooper run by Reg Parnell. He moved to Ferrari in 1963 and took his first Grand Prix victory, and went on to win the F1 World Championship the next season. Surtees became the only 'Grand Master' of both two and four wheels.
Surtees' career continued beyond his Formula One Championship year, and in 1966 he was second in the World Championship. He has raced motorcycles and just about every type of car with remarkable success in almost every discipline: Formula One, Can-Am Championship, F2, F5000 to Le Mans. As an engineer it is widely recognized that his input was a key part of bringing success to Ferrari in 1964.
As Vice President of the British Racing Drivers' Club and a consultant to Buckmore Park Kart Circuit, Surtees has worked tirelessly to encourage British racing talent, and was team principal for A1 Team Great Britain.