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Surtees made CBE for services to motorsport

Four-time 500cc motorcycle world champion and Formula One championship winner John Surtees, 81, is made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s New Year Honours. The citation reads for services to motorsport. Surtees, of Lingfield, Surrey, is already an OBE, an honour bestowed in 2008 (see picture).

Surtees motorcycle GP titles came in 1956, 58, 59 and 1960. He won the Formula One championship in 1964 and remains the only person to have won world championships on both two and four wheels.

He is an ambassador for the Racing Steps Foundation, which helps a small number of talented but underfunded racing drivers to achieve their potential.

Surtees is the son of a south London motorcycle dealer. He had his first professional outing in the sidecar of his father’s Vincent, which they won. However, when race officials discovered Surtees’s age, they were disqualified. He entered his first race at 15 in a grasstrack competition.

In 1950, at the age of 16, he went to work for the Vincent factory as an apprentice. He made his first headlines in 1951 when he gave Norton star Geoff Duke a strong challenge in an ACU race at Thruxton.

In 1955, Norton race chief Joe Craig gave Surtees his first factory-sponsored ride aboard the Nortons. He finished the year by beating reigning world champion Duke at Silverstone and then at Brands Hatch. However, with Norton in financial trouble and uncertain about its racing plans, Surtees accepted an offer to race for the MV Agusta factory racing team, where he soon earned the nickname figlio del vento (son of the wind).

In 1956 Surtees won the 500cc world championship, MV Agusta’s first in the senior class. This was the season that the FIM banned the defending champion, Geoff Duke, for six months because of his support for a riders’ strike for more starting money.

In the 1957 season, the MV Agustas were no match for the Gileras and Surtees battled to a third-place finish aboard a 1957 MV Agusta 500 Quattro.

When Gilera and Moto Guzzi pulled out of Grand Prix racing at the end of 1957, Surtees and MV Agusta went on to dominate the competition in the two larger displacement classes. In 1958, 1959 and 1960, he won 32 out of 39 races and became the first man to win the Senior TT at the Isle of Man TT three years in succession.


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