Champion of Champions: Jim Clark vs John Surtees

Jim Clark vs John Surtees

Champion of ChampionsPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Champion of Champions: Jim Clark vs John Surtees

John Surtees took Jim Clark’s championship off him in 1964 – only for Clark to return the favour the following year.

Clark enjoyed a close relationship with Lotus team boss Colin Chapman.

Chapman’s cars were fast – Clark notched up 33 pole positions in 73 appearances. But they were also often unreliable: at South Africa in 1962 Clark was heading for a victory that would have made him world champion, before suffering an oil leak that put him out.

The close relationship Clark enjoyed with Lotus boss Colin Chapman was unlike the often turbulent situation Surtees endured at Ferrari. Surtees won the title with them in 1964, coming out on top in a three-way battle at the last race with Clark and Graham Hill.

But he found himself increasingly at odds with team manager Eugenio Dragoni. On top of that he was badly injured in a Can-Am race in Canada late in 1965, forcing him to miss the last two races of the year.

Surtees returned back for the start of 1966 but the rows continued between him and Dragoni over Ferrari’s new car, so he left at the end of the year to drive for Honda.

While Surtees won in Monza, Clark added another four victories to his tally. But once again car trouble held him back as the team perfected the DFV-engined 49.

Clark won the only F1 race he drove in 1968 before his death during a Formula Two race in Germany. Surtees, meanwhile, stayed at the top flight until 1972, driving his final races for his own team.

Which of these drivers should go through to the next round of the Champion of Champions? Vote for which you think was best below and explain who you voted for and why in the comments.

Jim Clark John Surtees
Jim Clark, Indianapolis, 1967 John Surtees
Titles 1963, 1965 1964
Second in title year/s Graham Hill, Graham Hill Graham Hill
Teams Lotus Lotus, Yeoman Credit, Ferrari, Cooper, Honda, BRM, Surtees
Notable team mates Trevor Taylor, Mike Spence, Graham Hill Roy Salvadori, Lorenzo Bandini, Ludovico Scarfiotti
Starts 72 111
Wins 25 (34.72%) 6 (5.41%)
Poles 33 (45.83%) 8 (7.21%)
Modern points per start1 11.65 5.91
% car failures2 29.17 44.14
Modern points per finish3 16.45 10.58
Notes An oil leak in the final race of 1962 cost him his first title Badly injured at Mosport in 1965, the year after he won the F1 title
Finished on the podium in every race where his car didn’t break down over the next three seasons Won for Honda in 1967 and later ran his own team
Killed in a Formula Two race during the 1968 season having won the first race of the year The only person to have won the world championships for bikes and cars
Bio Jim Clark John Surtees

1 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of races they started
2 The percentage of races in which they were not classified due to a mechanical failure
3 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of starts in which they did not suffer a race-ending mechanical failure

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Jim Clark (94%)
  • John Surtees (6%)

Total Voters: 607

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Images ?é?® (Clark), Uncredited (Surtees)

117 comments on “Jim Clark vs John Surtees”

  1. I almost went for Surtees just because he drive for a team called Yeoman Credit… this is Jimmy Clark’s hands down.

    1. Time for a serious comment now. The greatness of Jim Clark can be summed up by this quote from another prominant F1 driver in the 60’s after hearing of Clark’s death: “If it could happen to Jim, what hope have the rest of us got.” Ultimate respect from your peers, 2 WDC’s, wins in various categories, Clark has my vote.

  2. No comparison!! For those that never saw Clark drive, he was Senna & Prost rolled into one plus he could drive anything, sports, saloons and even rally cars! I can recall one of the stories that Trevor Taylor told us of purposely reverting to wrong settings on the spare car in testing,as he new Clark was going to use it- and Clark was still faster! Even Trevor admitted that in his era no one compared with Jim Clark!

  3. Compairing a driver to Jim Clark is never fair. No doubt in my mind that Clark was the best racecar driver ever, even better than John Surtees who was a powerhouse just as well. I somehow find this poll a bit disrespecting towards Surtees, although I know that is not the intention nor the case.

  4. I would probably rank Surtees about half way up the list of champions, his stats are skewed by some of the dogs he drove. Clark on the other hand is top 5, I’ve never heard a bad word said of him and he was looked up to by his contemporaries, so he gets the vote.

  5. This is a very unfair pairing. Surtees could probably hold his own against most other one-time champions, and many two-time champions as well. But pairing him against Clark, arguably the greatest driver of their generation, means he has no chance. That’s like pairing Damon Hill against Schumacher (hope I didn’t stir a hornet’s nest there!)

    My vote goes to Clark. Finishing better than 3rd on average is mega!

    1. Well someone has to be paired with Clark. Surtees is probably unlikely to win the whole thing anyway.

  6. Since I have never looked in pre 70’s F1 with great detail, I cannot look at anything more than the stats, and the stats are awfully lopsided… Clark gets my vote.

  7. Belgium 1965.
    Enough said. Clark gets my vote

  8. Clark on stats, but on the fact that someone was champ on both 4 and 2 wheels is such an amazing feat, I voted for Surtees!

  9. I voted for Surtees just because he is the only one to get double crowns of Formula 1 and Moto Championship(s). Making such a switch so late in career and winning a title despite the bad relationship he had with his team was an amazing feat.
    Sometimes you have to watch beyond the stats…

  10. Clark by a country mile.
    Clark is the greatest F1 driver and many other series in racing history.
    I watched him live on numerous occassions in all kinds of different cars.He could race anything.

  11. This is an excellent comparison between two giants.
    John Surtees was an exquisite bike rider who left the profession alive and in good shape – no easy feat in those days of the Isle of Man and other dangerous racetracks.

  12. Jim Clark definitely among the Top 5, perhaps even in the Top 3 of all time. Back to the “easy” ones.

    1. Jim Clark for me is the number one of all time

  13. Clark all the way, best of his era, but then again Hill second in Clark’s and Surtee’s championships and a double winner himself makes me think again!

  14. No words needed
    ok, maybe two: Thank You

    Keith, thx

  15. I almost voted for Surtees.

    Based on my knowledge of both drivers I didn’t find it an easy choice picking Clark.(Despite Clark’s superior record).

  16. Clark all the way on this one but speaking of Can-Am at Mosport that was great.
    Can AM and F1 swapped track records back and forth. The UOP Shadow, the McLaren’s, Mark Donohue in the Porsche. Jackie Stewart described his car as handling like a pregnant elephant. Sitting at the hairpin at Mosport you could hear the UOP shadow wind its way down through the track naming each corner as it passed finally arriving and then disappearing up the back straight but not out of hearing, it had small tires and revved very high. Oops sorry I was off in yester year.

  17. Daniel Cross (@vodafone-mclaren-mercedes)
    5th January 2011, 3:14

    i hope the final is Alonso v Hamilton lol will be funny

  18. I’ve seen all the WDCs since 1958. Clark. No other choice.

  19. Jim Clark .

    His drive at the 1967 Italian Grand Prix is just godly . His achevements are even more extraordinary when you come to know about his simple roots and how he got into racing by pure accident .

    His grave lists him as a farmer , before racing driver as he had wished

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