John Surtees tribute: En route to world titles

The world in his hand – world champion at just 22 – and then came the immovable Count.

To temporarily leap forward to the end of the 1955 season is to glimpse at just how hot a property John Surtees had rapidly become.

Surtees in full flight at Aberdare Park on the 350cc Norton.

With Norton’s end-of-season retirement from racing about to happen, a trio of motorcycle manufacturers were courting Surtees to ride for them; Gilera, Moto Guzzi and BMW.

That 1955 season was so impactful in how the world saw John, that things would never be the same again.

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It started when Norton’s race boss Joe Craig gave in to Surtees’ demands for a proper racebike and gave him a 500cc Manx Norton.

The decision was to be proved almost instantly prudent with John taking his factory Norton to 69 wins in the 75 British races that he took part in.

Whilst the Nortons under Surtees were decimating the competition on short circuits – and even beating reigning 500cc World Champion Geoff Duke on the Gilera twice, once at Silverstone and then at Brands Hatch, the archetype British bikes weren’t the only make of motorcycle that the quickening star was competing on that year. In the Ulster GP at Dundrod he won the 250cc race on an NSU Sportmax, his first GP victory.

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It was an amazing year of racing and competition. After finally getting his hands on factory Nortons, having competed in 1954 on customer bikes that he’d bought himself, Surtees had upped his value on the racing scene. He was hot property and if he made the next move a right move, he’d be set to contest for the crown.

Read more in Issue 285 of CR – on sale now!


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