On This Day: Surtess Champion on 2 and 4 Wheels


On this day in 1964 the championship battle came down to a thrilling finale in Mexico City with three drivers in with a chance of lifting the drivers’ title. Graham Hill led on 39 points from John Surtess on 34 and Jim Clark the outsider on 30 points and needing victory with the others failing to score. Clark duly claimed pole almost a second faster than Dan Gurney. Clark set off into the lead and Hill’s chances were dented when he dropped to 10th after the elastic on his goggles broke. Surtees too started badly, and he slipped to 13th with a misfiring engine before beginning a charge back through the field. Hill, meanwhile, had moved into the third place he needed to stay ahead of Clark but his chances ended when he spun after contact with Lorenzo Bandini. Surtees moved up to third but Clark looked set for his second title until his engine agonisingly seized up on the final lap. “It was just bad luck – the worst possible,” said a deflated Clark afterwards. With Bandini having passed Surtees, the Englishman’s chances now relied on charity from his Ferrari team-mate to allow him to finish in the second place he needed behind Dan Gurney. He duly obliged and Surtees became the first motorcycling world champion to win a world title on four wheels as well. “It was fantastic, I never thought I had a chance,” said Surtees.