JOHN SURTEES: MY INCREDIBLE LIFE ON TWO AND FOUR WHEELS
By John Surtees with Mike Nicks
Published to mark the 50th anniversary of the late John Surtees becoming Formula 1 World Champion, in 1964, this is a photographic memoir by the only man to have won World Championships on motorcycles and in cars. Containing nearly 300 photographs from Surtees’ own collection as well as from the world’s finest motorsport picture libraries, this major book presents a complete visual record of Surtees’ life accompanied by fascinating commentary written in collaboration with co-author Mike Nicks. Royalties from sales of the book go to the Henry Surtees Foundation, which was set up to honour the memory of John’s son Henry, who was killed in a freak accident at Brands Hatch in 2009.
- The early years (up to 1952): a childhood around motorcycle racing, apprenticeship with Vincent, then racing a Vincent Grey Flash.
- Getting established (1953–55): Moving on to ride mainly Manx Nortons, he did 86 races in one year, and in 1955 achieved his first grand prix win, in the 250cc Ulster GP on an NSU.
- The glory years (1956–60): dominating top-level motorcycle racing for five years with Italian team MV Agusta, taking seven World Championship titles on 500cc and 350cc bikes.
- The remarkable year of bikes and cars (1960): overlapping his last year of motorcycle racing with 17 car races, including four F1 World Championship events, the second of them – the British GP – bringing a second place with Lotus.
- Ferrari driver (1963–66): established in cars, he joined Ferrari, winning his first race – the Sebring 12 Hours for sports cars – and the following year becoming F1 World Champion.
- CanAm champion (1966): after recovery from a huge crash in a Lola T70 sports car and acrimonious departure from Ferrari, he bounced back in North America to win the spectacular CanAm series.
- Turning Japanese (1967–68): Honda invited Surtees to develop and drive its F1 cars, with a two-year programme in which victory in the Italian GP at Monza – Ferrari territory – was the highlight.
- Becoming a constructor (1970–78): going into single-seater racing, including F1, with Team Surtees and cars of his own manufacture; good results in F1 were sparse but Mike Hailwood won the European F2 Championship in 1972.
- The latter years (1978 onwards): fully active on the historic scene as a restorer and driver of motorcycles and cars, then nurturing son Henry’s career until the tragic accident.
Book specification as follows:
- Publication date: 19 June 2014
- UK price: £50.00
- ISBN: 978-0-9928209-2-3
- Format: 295 x 240mm
- Jacketed hardback
- Page extent: 304pp, colour throughout
- Illustration: 275 photographs, colour and black/white
- Word count: 30,000
Mike Nicks is a prolific journalist and author who has edited the British publications Bike, Classic Bike, Classic Racer, Motor Cycle News and Classic Car Weekly. In the USA he has worked on Motor Trend, Motorcyclist and Circle Track magazines. He has also written on cars, motorcycles, languages and business for the Guardian, Observer, Independent, Times, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph newspapers in London.
He got to know John Surtees during the 1980s, when their shared passions for matters on both two and four wheels ensured a continuing friendship. The pair collaborated on a series of Racer Tests of exotic motorcycles for Classic Bike, and later Mike wrote magazine and newspaper articles about John’s extraordinary life, and his work in developing the Henry Surtees Foundation.
Mike is the co-author of The World’s Business Cultures, and How to Unlock Them, now in its third edition, with cultures expert Barry Tomalin. He is passionate about most things with a Latin touch, including the Spanish and French languages, Latin music and Spanish and Latin-American literature and history.He supports the charities Centrepoint, which helps disadvantaged young people to get a fair start in life, and the Henry Surtees Foundation.
“A beautifully illustrated 300-page tome that tells the full story as it happened. Surtees is a hero among heroes and richly deserves every plaudit.”
Steve Cropley, Autocar
“It’s hard to pick fault with a book that’s so enjoyable to dip into – especially since royalties go to the Henry Surtees Foundation. Highly recommended for fans of two- and four-wheeled motor sport.”
Octane (Book of the Month)
Motor Cycle News
“What’s unusual is the structure – concise two-page summaries of each few years, with highlights, events and trends, plus generous picture sections with explanatory captions. It works brilliantly… This is a very personal work, frank and straightforward, and unexpectedly engaging.”
“What a life – and what a marvellous book to celebrate Surtees’ 80th birthday. It’s built around archive photos of his incredibly successful years racing bikes and then cars, becoming the only man to win world championships on two and four wheels. For all that, the commentary is modest. No need to brag when your record can speak for itself, and when these photos do such a good job.”
“We have taken the brave step of making My Incredible Life on Two and Four Wheels by John Surtees, Retro-Speed magazine’s Book of 2014. It really is that special.”
“Surtees’ recollections are excellent, there’s a foreword from Valentino Rossi and Sebastian Vettel, and it’s all brilliantly illustrated.”
“Lavishly illustrated… a must for any Surtees fan, or fan of a bygone racing era… a beautiful photographic memoir of a unique career.”
Classic Motorcycle Mechanics
“A superb look back at his tremendous career.”
“This large-format book is full of excellent photographs... you'll feel like you're sitting with Surtees listening to his anecdotes and insights.”
Classic Car Weekly (Book of the Week)
“As Vettel puts it: ‘I think nobody else in the racing world has a personal story that so directly echoes the mechanics of motorsport – from building motorcycles in the 1940s to the running of a racing team in the 1970s.’ And that’s just what makes the book so great to read. John Surtees: My Incredible Life on Two and Four Wheels guides you through so many eras of motorsport through the eyes of one brilliant and very humble man."
“Fantastic. The photo reproductions – most of them in black and white – are beautiful. I was relieved to see that Surtees’ career in bike racing filled nearly half of the book… His memories are pure treasure. Valentino Rossi writes the foreword… Valentino doesn’t really write forewords to books. But he grew up as an F1 junkie so Rossi certainly knows the impact and accomplishment of Mr John Surtees.”