Engineer, Champion Rider, Champion Driver and Team Manager
Mark Donohue talked of “the unfair advantage,” the way in which a driver with an engineering background was always one step ahead of his competitors. Having started off working with his father, Jack, on motorcycles and then becoming an apprentice at Vincent, John Surtees was another such. Indeed, the only man ever to have won world titles on two wheels and four confessed that initially his main interest was in “tinkering.” Riding then was simply a product of testing and of experiencing the satisfaction of having prepared the machine correctly, or not.
It was this background that enabled Surtees to communicate effectively to the mechanics and designers of the cars and bikes he was to drive over the years. He described this ability “as the most important thing.” In his time there was no data other than a stopwatch, the tire temperatures and what the driver could impart. He never designed himself, but could talk to both the engineers and the person involved in design, which, as he pointed out, were not always the same thing. “I made suggestions, but I always looked upon them as part of team work.”
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