Motor racing legend John Surtees drives sports car through Channel Tunnel

The Channel Tunnel - also know as the "Chunnel" - opened in 1994 and links Britain to the Continent of European for the first time since the last ice age.

Whenever our workshy French neighbours go on strike (which happens around 100 times a year), French lorry drivers have an annoying habit of blocking the French end of the tunnel with their lorries, stopping those coming from the British end of the tunnel getting through.

Today, John Surtees, the former Formula 1 World Champion and the only person to have won World Championships on both two and four wheels, became the first person to drive a sports car through it.

The Brit, who was Formula 1 World Champion in 1964, drove the British-built Ginetta G50EV electric sports car prototype to mark the 15th anniversary of the Chunnel's opening.

Surtees's son Henry was killed during a Formula 2 race in July.

British drivers have won the Formula 1 World Champion for the last two years in succession.

Taking it to the limit: Motor racing legend John Surtees drives sports car through Channel Tunnel (but is kept at 31mph)

By Daily Mail Reporter
18th November 2009
Daily Mail

Former motor racing star John Surtees made history today by becoming the first person to drive a sports car trough the Channel Tunnel.

However despite his racetrack pedigree, the only person to have won World Championships on both two and four wheels, said ‘speed was the last thing involved’ in the stunt.

He was forced to keep within the tunnel’s 31mph speed limit.

The racing veteran drove a Ginetta G50EV electric sports car prototype made by British car marque Ginetta along the service tunnel, which was opened for the first time to mark Eurotunnel’s 15th anniversary.

Tunnel vision: John Surtees becomes the first man to drive though the the Channel Tunnel inn its 15-year history

Racing legend: Surtees after driving through the tunnel yesterday and during his F1 days in 1964

After arriving on the other side of the Channel at Coquelles, Surtees, whose son 18-year-old son Henry was killed during a Formula Two race in July, said: ‘The drive was unique.

‘It was the first time for me, and the first time it’s actually been carried out.

‘To come through in an electric car was another first.’

The Channel Tunnel opened on 6th May 1994 and the first passenger service commenced on 14th November 1994. It is 31 miles long, and runs from Folkestone, Kent to Calais. It is the world's second-longest undersea tunnel overall, after the Seikan Tunnel in Japan (though the Chunnel has the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world). At its lowest point it is 250 feet deep. In 1996 the American Society of Civil Engineers identified the tunnel as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World

He said he did not know how long the crossing took as he stopped at several locations to be shown some of the tunnel’s features and to sign the wall at one point.

‘Speed was the last thing involved. It was a casual drive, shall we say.’

Proud: Surtees beside his British-made electric prototype Ginetta at the service tunnel's exit in France

Achievement: Surtees, a former former Formula One and Moto GP champion, emerges from the tunnel

Asked what the experience of driving through a 31-mile long tunnel was like, he said: ‘You certainly wouldn’t want to be subject to any claustrophobic feelings down there.

‘The tunnel is very small in parts but it’s amazing what a tremendous engineering feat it is. It’s quite staggering.

‘The important thing however, is all the money it’s raised for charity.’

The stunt also formed part of the 37th annual Burlington Beaujolais Run, which has raised £400,000 so far this year for the Richard Burns Foundation, set up in memory of its namesake rally driver who died of cancer, as well as children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent.

While Surtees drove through the tunnel, 35 fuel-powered sports and classic cars taking part in the Burlington Beaujolais Run travelled to France in the Eurotunnel Passenger Shuttle.

Speed was the last thing involved: How Surtees described the drive in which he was limited to 31mph

Eurotunnel chief executive, Jacques Gounon, highlighted the service as a more environmentally-conscious way to travel.

He said: ‘This occasion demonstrates that low carbon transport on both road and rail is available now. This friendly competition between the Eurotunnel trains and the Ginetta G50EV has once again shown how easy the Channel crossing now is.

These are the British drivers who have been Formula 1 World Champion

1958: Mike Hawthorn
1962: Graham Hill
1963: Jim Clark
1964: John Surtees
1965: Jim Clark
1968: Graham Hill
1969: Jackie Stewart
1971: Jackie Stewart
1973: Jackie Stewart
1992: Nigel Mansell
1996: Damon Hill
2008: Lewis Hamilton
2009: Jenson Button

‘I am also pleased that, even though John is the first man to drive an electric sports car through the Channel Tunnel, the Shuttle Service’s unbeatable strengths of speed, ease and reliability ensured that the cars that travelled by Shuttle got to France faster!

‘But the really important point is that they all crossed the Channel using power from low carbon sources.’

Slow thrill: Surtees drove the entire 31-mile length of the tunnel between Folkestone and Cocquelles

Rob Bellinger, organiser of the Burlington Beaujolais Run, said: ‘This is the longest running charity-centred car event in Europe.

‘We have always promoted cutting edge technology and we are continuing that trend with cars like the Aston Martins and the Ginetta G50EV and with our live ‘trackaphone’, system which is available through the website.

‘Our links with Eurotunnel for cross-Channel transport mean that we have taken the quickest and most environmentally-friendly route to France.’
I am so jealous right now.....

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