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John Surtees: My Incredible Life On Two And Four Wheels Hardcover – September 15, 2014
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"John Surtees is way, way, before my time. He retired from racing nearly before I was born, but his legacy as the only man to have won the 500cc Grand Prix (MotoGP) title and the F1 car world championship ever in history means he remains relevant even today. Maybe more relevant than ever.
He's written at least two previous autobiographies, but this one, published by the same people who now do Julian's MotoGP Season Review, is basically a large photo book with in-depth captions written by Surtees. It's fantastic. The photo reproductions--most of them in black and white--are beautiful.
I was relieved to see that Surtees' career in bike racing filled nearly half of the book, because my initial fear when seeing the tome was that bikes would be framed as just a series of steps that led him to "real" racing, in F1 and other forms of racing door-slammers. Instead, Surtees gives his life in motorcycle racing full due, and I found the photos and text fascinating. Surtees raced GP when the Norton Manx and those incredible old dustbin-fairing bikes, which looked like two-wheeled jets, filled the grid. When there were no rain tires or even straw bales in places. His memories are pure treasure.
Valentino Rossi writes the forward for this Surtees book. Although his short introductory text reads like it was "phoned in", just that it exists is important enough. You see, Valentino doesn't really give away his old helmets and he doesn't really write forwards to books. But he grew up as an F1 junkie so Rossi certainly knows the impact and accomplishment of Mr. John Surtees.
For me, this book had 'I didn't know that' moments every few pages. I was glad to add it to my bookshelf." - SuperbikePlanet.com
About the Author
Mike Nicks is a prolific journalist and author who has edited the British publications Bike, Classic Bike, Classic Racer, Motor Cycle News and Classic Car Weekly. In the USA he has worked on Motor Trend, Motorcyclist and Circle Track magazines. He has also written on cars, motorcycles, languages and business for the Guardian, Observer, Independent, Times, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph newspapers in London. He has known John Surtees since the 1980s, when their shared passions for matters on both two and four wheels ensured a continuing friendship.Valentino Rossi was born on February 16, 1979, in Urbino, Italy. He won his first motorcycle grand prix race at the age of 17, his first world title at 18, and his first MotoGP championship at 22. He currently rides for Yamaha, and his main residence is in central London.
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Some reviewers have implicitly criticized the book for being `only' a photo collection, as if that approach detracted from the reading and viewing experience. If, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, this could have been a 1,000-page tome. Every page of photographs here is a new and fascinating adventure. Indeed, the only thing missing (what, no CD?) is the sounds of the great machines. Oh yes, and maybe a dash of Castor Oil for nostalgia buffs.
It is difficult to overstate the thoroughness with which the book was created. Few significant elements in John Surtees' career are omitted, starting with his NSU and Vincent motorcycle racing through his Norton and MV world championships and Isle of Man achievements into his four-wheel racing with Lotus, Lola, Cooper, Honda, Ferrari F1, F2 and sports cars, and finally his own cars. Well, all right, one might have hoped for a photo of John Surtees and his father Jack in the tiny Hillman van in which they would, memorably, bring the race bikes to the track.
More than anything, the book, co-created with Mike Nicks, speaks powerfully to the character of a great man who achieved magnificently--as everyone knows, he was the first and almost certainly the only racer ever to achieve MotoGP and Formula 1 world championships on two and four wheels (Rossi comments interestingly and insightfully on the achievement).
It is much more. It enables Surtees' character to shine through: tough, persistent and brilliantly talented, true, but also humble, modest and fundamentally decent in his approach to life, to his racing and to others. In this he contrasts significantly with admittedly great champions from other eras, so driven, so consumed with the need to win that they dealt unethically, even amorally, with the competition. You know them. Surtees never did that, or needed to.
The book ends with a poignant words-and-pictures tribute to Henry Surtees, John's talented racer son, who died so tragically (and, basically, unnecessarily) while racing. The appendix covers Surtees' racing record. This is a very important historical document that anyone interested in two- and/or four-wheel motorsports should acquire