John Surtees CBE
1934 - 2017
John Surtees, Ferrari. Monaco 1966*
Opening the Swift Gallery in 2012
The genuine feelings of sadness expressed across the world of motor sport are testament to the place held by John in the affections of enthusiasts everywhere. Beyond the remarkable achievements on both two and four wheels there was a man who touched so many people in different ways.
If the measure of a man is to be found in how he deals with adversity, then few could have scored more highly. The serious injuries he sustained at Mosport in 1965, the strong comeback and then the parting of the ways with Ferrari the following year, the struggles with Honda and later his own racing team, above all the loss of his son Henry in later years, from each of these John seemed to emerge unbowed and always determined to carry on and to create something positive.
In recent years his presence at a number of classic racing events enabled an ever growing number of fans to recall his days as a competitor, but also to be touched by his deep and passionate knowledge of the technical details of racing machinery. His great friend and rival Dan Gurney has often commented on the pleasure they both took from discussing the finer points of car and bike engines when they met at classic meetings. No one better personified that very direct link between driver or rider and machine, and it was strangely touching to hear him talking about this side of the sport. It was at such moments that you realised just how far he was from the modern concept of celebrity.
The work that John and his small team at the Henry Surtees Foundation undertook and their achievements have been truly heart-warming. As well as the feelings of sadness at his passing, I felt very glad indeed that we had been able to contribute in a small way to this. When John kindly opened our Gallery in 2012 I felt strongly that he had put a level of trust in us to develop it in a certain way. I know that he appreciated what we did, so we should pause for a second to remember a kind, thoughtful and inspirational man who gave us so much encouragement. And having done that we should commit to honouring his memory by continuing to work to raise funds for the Foundation the Surtees family set up in memory of Henry, but which also now serves as a fitting tribute to a very remarkable man.
(*1966 Ferrari photo - with kind permission of JARROTTS.com)
The Gallery is now closed and will reopen in Spring 2017.
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