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Tributes pour in for John Surtees as motorsport mourns passing of a legend

PUBLISHED: 10:59 13 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:47 13 March 2017

John Surtees, CBE

John Surtees, CBE

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Family confirm funeral details following his death on Friday will be announced in due course

Tributes flooded in over the weekend for John Surtees - the motorsport legend who died on Friday.

The star was best known for winning world titles on both two and four wheels - winning the Formula One title in 1964 with Ferrari after securing a string of 500cc motorcycling world crowns.

But his influence on the sport he loved stretched much further from his days as a racer. An active figure, he was a regular at Brands Hatch and in 2015 snapped up Buckmore Park karting circuit in Chatham in order to allow it to continue to develop the new generation of drivers.

Although he lived in Surrey, he was synonymous with Edenbridge, where he had worked for decades with his research and development and manufacturing base.

He died on Friday afternoon surrounded by his wife Jane and daughters Leonora and Edwina.

He had been admitted to St George’s Hospital in London in February with an existing respiratory condition. After a short period spent in intensive care he passed away peacefully.

In a statement, his family said: “John was a loving husband, father, brother and friend. He was also one of the true greats of motorsport and continued to work tirelessly up until recently with The Henry Surtees Foundation and Buckmore Park Kart Circuit.

“We deeply mourn the loss of such an incredible, kind and loving man as well as celebrate his amazing life. He has set a very real example of someone who kept pushing himself at his peak and one who continued fighting until the very end.

“We would like to thank all the staff at St George’s Hospital and The East Surrey Hospital for their professionalism and support during this difficult time for us.”

Funeral details are to be announced in due course.

Murray Walker, the BBC’s longtime commentator said: “It’s an absolute hammer blow for me and British motorsport in general.

“I have been privileged to commentate on him and to know him as a friend and he’s undoubtedly one of the greatest people who’s ever lived in the history of motorsport.”

Surtees started over 100 F1 grands prix, winning six, in a career which took him to Ferrari, Cooper and Honda, as well as starting a team which bore his name.

In 2009 his son Henry was killed while competing in a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch, aged 18, when he was struck on the head by a wheel which had become detached from another car.

Chatham MP and sports minister Tracey Crouch said: “John Surtees was a motorsport legend whose remarkable success on both the motorbike and in F1 may never be matched.

“He was a brilliant example of what you can achieve if you put your mind to something and step out of your comfort zone. His achievements both on the racing track and off it, with his tireless work for charity, were incredible and I pass on my condolences to his family and friends. He will be sorely missed.”

Surtees won the F1 title with Ferrari in 1964 to add to his 500cc motorcycle world titles from 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960.

During a motorcycle career which saw him race for Norton and MV Augusta, he also became the first man to win the Senior TT on the Isle of Man three years in succession.

He was devastated following the death of his son, Henry, and spent much of his final years working on the Henry Surtees Foundation which aimed to raise funds to assist those with brain or physical injury by providing equipment and facilities and supported accident care with a focus on head injuries.

Ferrari posted a black and white picture of Surtees posing next to team founder Enzo Ferrari on Twitter, with the message: “John Surtees, Motorsport legend and 1964 World Champion with Ferrari, passed away. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Damon Hill, the 1996 F1 champion, tweeted “Such a lovely man. We have lost a true great motorsport legend. RIP John” and there was also a message on the official MotoGP account which read: “Very sorry to hear that John Surtees, the only person to win both MotoGP and F1 world championships, has passed away at the age of 83.”

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