Legendary Racer John Surtees Appointed Commander of the British Empire

We always knew he was a hero. Now it’s just official.

byMax Prince|
Legendary Racer John Surtees Appointed Commander of the British Empire

Graham Hill. Jackie Stewart. Stirling Moss. You could argue that any of them are the greatest British racing driver ever, and you wouldn't be wrong. But John Surtees, the wily wheelman from Tatsfield, Surrey, has something on all the others: He's the only one with world championships on both two and four wheels. Now, the 81-year-old icon has been awarded a CBE in Britain's New Year's Honours list 2016.

He earned it. Surtees dominated the British circuits during the mid-Fifties, then took up competitive motorcycling, riding for Triumph, Vincent, REG, NSU, Norton and, later, MV Agusta. Between 1956 and 1960, Surtees collected four 500cc and three 350cc world titles, along with a half-dozen Isle of Man TT wins. After retiring from motorcycle racing at the end of 1960, he took up in Formula 1 with Colin Chapman’s Lotus team. Surtees’ first Grand Prix victory came three years later, driving for Ferrari, at the Nürburgring. The following season, Surtees won the F1 World Championship.

And the man raced sportscars, too. He claimed a podium spot at Le Mans in 1964, and won the inaugural Can-Am Sports Car Championship Series in a Lola T70. Surtees was also an engineer, the man who designed David Hobbs’ winning F5000 car and a Formula 2 machine that took a European constructor’s title.

But this latest award is about more than just racing accomplishments, it’s recognition of philanthropy: He also runs a charity, the Henry Surtees Foundation, in honor of his son, who was killed in a crash at Brands Hatch in 2009. The foundation provides vital support for those who have suffered injuries in accidents. That’s a great man doing great work.

So congratulations, John Surtees, on becoming a Commander of the British Empire. We always knew you were a hero. Now it’s just official.