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Surtees, an ace on two and four wheels

09 ottobre 2019

1964 was a historic year in terms of competitions, and saw the "Son of the Wind" crowned Formula 1 world champion. The achievement of Surtees was particularly notable due to the fact that he was - and indeed, remains - the first and only driver in history to win the world title on both two and four wheels. His wins included three world titles in the 350 class and four in the 500 class between 1956 and 1960 for the famous motorcycle manufacturer MV Agusta, as well as the Formula 1 title in 1964 for Scuderia Ferrari.

During the same year, Surtees also helped to bring the Constructors' title home for Scuderia Ferrari, after the previous year in which he had played a decisive role in winning the World Endurance Championship.

In 1964, Surtees raced behind the wheel of the new 158 with V8 engine, a type which would go on to be used for a series of GT road cars designed to be driven by customers, and which still constitute an integral part of the Ferrari DNA today. The British driver didn't do things by halves: he either won or came second, or failed to score any points.

After a difficult early season which saw him drop out of several races, the turning point came with his victories at the Nürburgring and Monza, which allowed him to claw back ground against high-calibre drivers such as Graham Hill and Jim Clark. The title was ultimately decided at the Mexican Grand Prix: Hill immediately found himself two laps behind after a collision with the second Ferrari, driven by Lorenzo Bandini.

Clark was forced to stop on the last lap due to an oil leak, and Ferrari signalled to Bandini to let his teammate Surtees pass, taking second place and thus winning the championship a point ahead of Hill.

In the last two races in the USA and Mexico, the Ferrari cars took to the track decked out in the white and blue colours of the NART (North American Racing Team), importer Luigi Chinetti's team. This display was a protest of sorts against the Italian sporting authorities, who refused to help Ferrari homologate the 250 LM as a GT car ahead of the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Precise, meticulous and technically very knowledgeable, John Surtees was the embodiment of an extraordinary passion and talent. No other motorcyclist has yet managed to claim a victory in the highest category of car racing, or vice versa.