November 02, 1964

# From A Wild Race In Mexico: A Surprise Champion

## A famous British racing driver tells how his countryman John Surtees, facing defeat in a climatic race, seized the world championship—and analyzes the reasons for his new eminence

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This has more meaning when you understand the fractions of seconds these drivers deal in on any given lap. Say you are flat out at 160 mph—which means that you are covering 235 feet each second. If you are one-tenth of a second wrong setting up the next corner, you are going to arrive 24 feet too early or 24 feet too late.

Look at it another way. Imagine a corner that can be taken at, say, 130 mph. Now, from one straight to the next that corner may measure 300 feet. But the corner will be entered at least 300 feet before the road actually starts to curve, and you will not be fully out of it for another 100 feet into the following straight. The corner is thus really 700 feet long. Once you present the car, 300 feet away, you are committed. You have plotted in your mind the path your car will take—the perfect line, the fastest parabola. If, as you present the car, you are only six inches off the line, you will find that your lap time will suffer by perhaps one-fifth of a second. On one corner—just like that. And these men do not sweat just for those precious fifths, they shave hundredths here and there. They are so close that a gain of 10 yards in a lap is a triumph.

Among many other things, a champion like Surtees must have split concentration. You concentrate first and always on what boils down to self-preservation; you are on the limit, where the slightest wobble can be disastrous, and you have got to preserve your life. I think Freud was wrong in putting sex first among human instincts. I would put it second, after self-preservation.

Without losing that concentration, the really good driver can, for example, flash a look at his instruments. He doesn't really look at them. He photographs them. It may be a split second later before he thinks, "My God, one of those gauges is not quite right." He takes another photograph and realizes that his oil pressure is dropping.

Equally, he might be going along really dicing with another driver, thinking about that, yet splitting his concentration so that he brakes at precisely the right point for an approaching corner.

The question of courage obviously comes in, and I think it is enough to say that these men are as brave as they need to be. It is a romantic misconception that they are the most courageous people. Bravery is so close to stupidity that you might with some accuracy turn that around and say they are the most stupid.

John especially, Graham and Jimmy as well, have been through accidents that could have been fatal. So far as I can see, they have not been affected by them. Their driving hasn't suffered. John, in fact, has come on so well that in years to come he might be the man to beat. I would like very much to tell you a John Surtees anecdote, but there are no John Surtees anecdotes that I know of. Except perhaps that he has an O.B.E. from the Queen and never mentions it. Abstemious, serious, dedicated, John is just a great racing driver. That is enough.

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 ARTICLES GALLERIES COVERS John Surtees 15 0 0 Jimmy Clark 29 0 0 Graham Hill 36 0 0 Dan Gurney 60 0 1 Mexico 339 0 4