DRIVERS: KEN WHARTON

Name: Ken Wharton
Nationality: Great Britain
Date of birth: March 21, 1916 - Smethwick
Date of death: January 12, 1957 - Ardmore Circuit, New Zealand

Born in the middle of World War I, Wharton grew up in comfortable surroundings and at 19 was able to start racing with an Austin Seven at Donington Park. He competed wherever he could, including hillclimbs, sprints and even at the great Brooklands racing circuit. The outbreak of World War II ended all motorsport activities in Britain but Wharton was quick to return to racing when the war ended, starting out in trials.

A trained automotive engineer, Wharton built his own racing specials in his garage - a Ford dealership - at Smethwick, a suburb of Birmingham. He raced and rallied, winning the Tulip Rally for Ford on three occasions, while also being successful on the British club scene. When the new 500cc Formula 3 came along in 1950 Wharton began racing a Cooper-JAP before returning to hillclimbing and winning a string of championships.

He began racing in Grands Prix with a Frazer-Nash in 1952 at the opening round of the World Championship at Bremgarten in Berne. He finished fourth, which ironically would end up being his best F1 result. The Frazer-Nash was later replaced by a Cooper-Bristol but results were few and far between. Wharton began racing BRMs in Formula Libre and joined the Owen Organisation in 1954 to drive the teamís Maserati 250F. He finished sixth in Berne and ran well in Britain and Spain. He also tried his hand at sports car racing with a factory Jaguar with which he won the Reims 12 Hours in 1954 with Peter Whitehead.

In 1955 he moved on to join the Vanwall team but then suffered a nasty accident in the International Trophy at Silverstone and suffered burns to his arms and neck. In the course of 1956 he drove whatever he was offered, including a Ferrari Monza which he took to third in the Australian Tourist Trophy in Melbourne. But at the start of 1957 he was killed when he crashed the same car at the New Zealand circuit of Ardmore.

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