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Ken Wharton

Full Name:
Kenneth Albert Wharton
21st March 1916
Smethwick, West Midlands
12th January 1957 (Aged 40)
Ardmore, North Island (NZ), racing
Most recent race (in database):

An engineer by trade, Ken Wharton was a talented and popular amateur who finished fourth on his Grand Prix debut – the best result of his 15-race world championship career.

Early racing career

The Englishman drove an Austin Seven at Donington Park in 1936 but it was after World War II that his racing career gathered momentum. He owned a Ford dealership in Birmingham’s suburbs by then where he built his own specials that powered Wharton to successive British Trials Championship titles from 1948 to 1950. Versatility was a feature of his career and rallying success with various Fords included three Tulip Rally wins.

He raced in the 500cc Formula 3 category at the time and won the first of four British hillclimb titles in a row in 1951 having fitted his F3 Cooper with an 1100cc JAP engine.

Grand Prix career

National success kept Wharton’s name in the specialist press and his Frazer Nash-Bristol finished fourth on his world championship debut in the 1952 Swiss GP. He made two more starts that year before finishing ninth in Italy having switched to an Ecurie Ecosse Cooper T20-Bristol.

He entered his own Cooper T23-Bristol in 1953 – starting five GPs without success. Wharton drove the Owen Racing Organisation’s Maserati 250F in 1954 with sixth in Switzerland his best of five GP starts. He also enjoyed some success in sports cars and won the non-championship Reims 12 Hours sharing Peter Whitehead’s works Jaguar D-type.

He joined Vanwall for the following season but suffered burns to his arms and neck after his car caught fire at Copse during the International Trophy at Silverstone. He recovered to make his last two GP appearances in the British and Italian GPs. A bad year ended with the tragic 1955 Tourist Trophy at Dundrod. Wharton was unwittingly caught up in the multiple accident that claimed the lives of Jim Mayers and Bill Smith. Blinded by the smoke from the wreckage, he also crashed and had to be dragged clear of his burning Frazer Nash.

Less successful in 1956, he travelled to New Zealand for the start of the New Year. His Ferrari 750 Monza sports car was leading at Ardmore on January 12 1957 when he clipped a straw bale and was launched into a lurid roll. Thrown from the car in the accident, Wharton was killed on impact.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1955 F1 World Championship
Vandervell Products
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
1954 F1 World Championship
Owen Racing Organisation
4 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
1954 World Sportscar Championship
Jaguar Cars
2 0 0 0 1
1953 F1 World Championship
Ken Wharton
Cooper Car Co
5 0 0 0
0% win rate
1953 World Sportscar Championship
2 0 0 0 1
1952 F1 World Championship
Ecurie Ecosse
Scuderia Franera
4 0 0 0
0% win rate
13th 3