John Surtees: in his own words

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“Coming down into Bumenville I kept a wide line, went back onto a more traditional line and took the lead. And that was it. Afterwards the mechanics were all very enthusiastic, and there was a very glum Dragoni over in the corner, all upset. His main criticism was that I’d allowed a Maserati-powered car to stay in front of a Ferrari for a few laps!”

On the 1966 Belgian GP, his ‘greatest drive’, June 1998

“We went out and tried an unproven car against machines that were perfected, and I think it was pretty impressive. It perhaps wasn’t the best car that’s ever been built, but there’s a lot of emotion tied up in it: Vandervell and I put everything into that car. And when you look at that little department at Vanwall, producing something this good, it makes you wonder…”

Talking to Tim Scott about the Vanwall VW14, May 2003

“I’m my own worst critic. I look back and see things I didn’t get right. Yes, we weren’t far off and at times we competed with the best, but when compared with my career as a driver, my team was a disappointment. That was not entirely our fault, but I set high standards and we didn’t achieve them.”

Talking to Paul Fearnley about Team Surtees, November 2003

“I’d first visited Mallory with my father when it was still a pony track. He had a sidecar and I think set the highest speed for a motorcycle on a grass track – he did more than 100mph down the back straight.”

Talking to Andrew van de Burgt about winning for Lola at Mallory Park, May 2006

 “In some ways running the British A1 GP team is a better job than running my own team was, because I don’t have to worry where the money is coming from.”

Surtees as guest columnist, June 2006

“In the hotel at Spa-Francorchamps there was loud music coming from downstairs and I couldn’t sleep, so I went to sort it out. I found Jimmy dancing with this girl and I told them to turn it off. A year later Jimmy was the best man at my wedding to Pat, the girl he’d been dancing with that night…”

Talking to Rob Widdows about his close friendship with Jim Clark, July 2007

“Then they said, ‘One moment – there’s a formality. Please stay…’ And in came this lady, dressed in black, veiled and everything. She studied me, walked round me, then started jabbering away. The interpreter said to me, ‘John, you are accepted into the family…’ This was the Countess and that was my introduction to Italy!”

Talking to Nigel Roebuck about signing for MV Agusta, August 2009

“In 1960, there wasn’t all this finance in motor sport. The teams were working on very low margins, and were largely supported by the component manufacturers. If someone showed speed they’d get a chance. The only reason I got sat in cars was because I went as quick, if not quicker, than anybody who’d been in them before. Today that probably wouldn’t happen.”

Talking to Damien Smith about finance in contemporary racing, November 2012

 “I’d travel every day to the Vincent factory at Stevenage, then work on my bikes all night. We’d travel to the races in our old van, me in the back with the bikes, wrapped up in a blanket to catch up on sleep.”

Lunch with Simon Taylor, August 2015

“Jimmy Clark was moving up from Formula Junior and had already done his first few Grands Prix, so I said I’d like him. Then all hell broke loose, because Innes Ireland was the contracted Lotus number one, and felt he was being pushed out. I didn’t want anything to do with all the politics, so I walked away from it.
I was probably too sensitive.”

Lunch with Simon Taylor, August 2015

“If you can get someone enthused about a subject, it can be a driving factor in their life. Racing activities and the racing environment can be something that makes that imprint, and can drive someone forward into a career. I saw in Henry when he started at eight how it actually helped him develop, to communicate with people. He had to communicate with stewards for one thing! But also with the press, and with us about what was happening out there on the track.”

Talking to Damien Smith about the Henry Surtees Foundation and Buckmore Park, July 2016

“Initially I contacted Traco to build us some 5.9-litre V8s and set up with Malcolm Malone, who worked at Lola. He was happy to drive between events and act as my mechanic, so I bought a Chevy van, which we were to pick up in New York, and shipped the T70 across on a trailer.

“That was it, the Team Surtees Can-Am challenge.”

Talking to Simon Arron about winning the  1966 Can-Am title, September 2016