John Surtees was born on 11th February 1934 in Tatsfield, Surrey. Surtees would become champion for Ferrari in 1964. Surtees has began his racing career on motorbikes were he won the 500cc world championship. In 1960, at the age of 26, Surtees switched from motorcycles to cars full time, making his Formula 1 debut racing for Lotus in the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. He made an immediate impact with a second place finish in only his second Formula One race, at the 1960 British Grand Prix, and a pole position at his third race, the 1960 Portuguese Grand Prix. After spending the 1961 season with the Cooper racing team and the 1962 season with Reg Parnell Racing, he moved to Scuderia Ferrari in 1963 and won the World Championship for the Italian team in 1964.
On September 25, 1965, Surtees had a life-threatening accident at the Mosport Circuit whilst practicing a Lola T70 sports racing car. A front upright casting had broken. Surtees made a full recovery and competed with a T70 in the inaugural Can Am series in 1966, winning three races of six to become champion over other winners Dan Gurney, Mark Donohue and Phil Hill as well as the likes of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon.
The 1966 season saw the introduction of new, larger 3-litre engines to Formula One. Surtees' debut with Ferrari's new F1 car was at the 1966 BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone, where he qualified and finished a close second behind Jack Brabham's 3-litre Brabham BT19. A few weeks later, Surtees led the Monaco Grand Prix, pulling away from Jackie Stewart's 2-litre BRM on the straights, before the engine failed. A fortnight later Surtees survived the first lap rainstorm which eliminated half the field and won the Belgian Grand Prix.
Surtees arrived at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans expecting to be partnered with Mike Parkes, instead Ferrari team manager Eugenio Dragoni had put "big John" with Ludovico Scarfiotti. Surtees was not happy and quit Ferrari. Surtees finished the season driving for the Cooper-Maserati team, winning the last race of the season and finishing second in the drivers' championship, 14 points behind Brabham.
Surtees moved to the new Japanese Honda team for the 1967 season. He took pole position for the non-championship Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, but the car's V12 engine suffered from reliability problems in the race. At the Italian Grand Prix Surtees slipstreamed Denny Hulme to take Honda's second F1 victory by 0.2 seconds. Surtees finished fourth in the 1967 drivers' championship.
In 1970, Surtees formed his own race team, the Surtees Racing Organisation, and spent nine seasons competing in Formula 5000, Formula 2 and Formula 1 as a constructor. He retired from competitive driving in 1972, the same year the team had their greatest success when Mike Hailwood won the European Formula 2 Championship. The team was finally disbanded at the end of 1978.
For a while in the 1970s Surtees ran a motorcycle shop in West Wickham, Kent. He continues his involvement in motorcycling, participating in classic events with bikes from his stable of vintage racing machines. He also remains involved in single-seater racing cars and held the position of chairman of A1 Team Great Britain, in the A1 Grand Prix racing series from 2005-7. His son, Henry competed in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, Formula Renault UK Championship and the Formula BMW UK championship for Carlin Motorsport, before he died whilst racing in the Formula 2 championship at Brands Hatch on 19 July 2009.
In 1996, John Surtees was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. The FIM honoured him as a Grand Prix "Legend" in 2003. Already a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.