Surtees anniversary draws hope from loss

Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:51am EST
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By Alan Baldwin

BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - John Surtees has an infectious laugh and the broadest of grins but there is also sadness in his eyes as he prepares for a year of events marking the 50th anniversary of his Formula One championship win.

The former Ferrari driver's past triumphs are entwined with personal tragedy as motorsport fetes Britain's oldest surviving F1 champion and the only man to have won world titles on two wheels and four.

Surtees, who turns 80 next month after competing through some of the most dangerous years of grand prix racing, is using the attention to help promote a foundation set up after the death of his 18-year-old son Henry in a freak racing accident at Brands Hatch in 2009.

The foundation, whose motto is 'finding hope in loss', raises funds for accident care and community support and to help youngsters develop life skills through motorsport-related program.

"In a way I suppose I'm only involved in celebrating 50 years because of the fact that I'm using it also as a vehicle to assist in developing the foundation," Surtees told Reuters in an interview at the Autosport International show, where several of the cars and bikes he raced with are displayed.

"Normally, I think I'd rather just drift around in the background."

The Briton, always known for forthright opinions on motorsport and an equally direct glare, is hardly the shrinking violet or one to put his feet up but he has no need to shout about his achievements: They speak for themselves.

Between 1956 and 1960, he won seven motorcycling championships (three in 350cc and the others in the top 500cc category). In the 1960 season, he raced in grands prix on both two wheels and four and was also Isle of Man TT winner.   Continued...