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Sir John Henry Douglas Whitmore, 2nd Baronet of Orsett Hall, Grays, Essex was a very well known and established racing driver of the sixties. Born into a land-owning family, Sir John first turned to motorsports in 1956 and, after a spell of rallying and sprinting, began circuit racing with a Lotus 6 in 1958. In 1959, Lotus supremo, Colin Chapman, offered him a drive at the 24 Hours of Le Mans sharing a Lotus Elite with Jim Clark, resulting in a remarkable 2nd in class for the talented pairing. However, it's probably his association with the British Saloon Car Championship for which he will be best remembered. In his first year in the competition, 1961, Sir John won the Championship outright in his BMC Mini and, in 1963, almost repeated the feat in his Mini-Cooper (and latterly Cooper S) finishing a close second after a series of legendary 'David and Goliath' battles with Graham Hill in his Jaguar and Jack Sears, Jim Clark, Jack Brabham and Dan Gurney in their 7-litre Galaxies. In 1965 he won the European Touring Car Championship in a Lotus Cortina by finishing first in his class in 8 of the 9 ETCC rounds, an achievement that has never been repeated since. He returned to Le Mans in 1965 and 1966 aboard a 'works' Ford GT40 but had to retire from the race on both occasions with mechanical problems. Subsequently, he enjoyed much success as a member of Carroll Shelby's World Sportscar Championship-winning team. In 1966, at the height of his fame, Sir John retired from motorsports to pursue a career in the emerging science of Sports Psychology and is the author of the seminal work 'Coaching for Performance'. After many years away from motorsport, Sir John returned in 1987 and enjoyed many seasons of historic competition, including driving for the revived Alan Mann Racing Team, sharing cars with Alan himself at times. He finally hung up his crash helmet for the second time a few years ago and sadly passed away in April 2017.
Offered here is one of the most significant competition Lotus Cortinas of the sixties and the very car that guided Sir John Whitmore to the 1965 European Touring Championship crown. Legendary preparer and race engineer, Alan Mann, was entrusted by the Ford Motor Company to help implement their ambitious 'Total Performance' program preparing race cars in numerous disciplines to emphatically put the brand on the motorsport map in the sixties. During 1964, his Lotus Cortinas dominated the 1964 European Touring Car Championship, trouncing the opposition at Brands Hatch, Zolder and the Mont Ventoux hill climb, only to have almost certain victory snatched away when the final round at Monza was controversially cancelled. The team's top driver with five wins, Sir John, had to be content with 2nd place overall behind Warwick Banks' Mini Cooper S.
For the 1965 season, Alan Mann Racing used his 1964 ETC race-winning car while the recently-revised rear suspension was homologated and at the second round of the championship, the now-registered KPU 392C won at Mont Ventoux. One week later, sharing KPU 392C with Jack Sears, they won overall at the Nurburgring 6-Hour race setting a new Touring Car lap record in the rain-affected meeting. This was followed by wins at Zolder and Innsbruck. Sir John finished second overall at Karslkoga and a following win at the Snetterton 500km meant the European Championship was certainly looking on the cards. A series finale class win and second overall at Zandvoort meant that the Championship was won and Ford wasted no time letting the PR opportunities roll, diminishing rivals like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Alfa Romeo to also-rans to the superfast combination of Sir John Whitmore and the Alan Mann Racing Lotus Cortinas. Ford Motorsport and Team Lotus both ran Lotus Cortinas at the same time for luminary formula one drivers of the day but Alan Mann still engineered fractionally quicker cars.
The timeline and provenance of this most famous and historic of Lotus Cortinas are totally complete. When the 1965 season finished, the car was despatched on a promotional tour of the Ford dealer network and subsequently purchased by Sir John Whitmore himself, owning it until 1995. During this time it was displayed at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu from 1972 until 1978. Friends with plenty of storage are friends indeed, and old partner and mate, Jack Sears, provided a comfortable spot for the venerable Lotus at his farm at Griston in Norfolk for some time. In 1995, KPU 392C was thankfully purchased by an American enthusiast, who had no intention of racing the Cortina, so again the originality was preserved and the history unsullied.He was totally enthralled with the car, even inviting Sir John over to speak at a New England Lotus owners gathering and, in his possession, it travelled less than a thousand miles, mainly to car shows. He even managed to source a period-correct Pyrene fire extinguisher that had been missing for some time. The speedometer reads only eleven thousand miles from new albeit mainly race miles. In 2013, KPU 392C was rightfully returned to the UK and sold at auction. Now owned by our vendor, who is a family friend of the Manns, much detailed history has emerged from correspondence between FMC and Alan Mann Racing helping to 'round out' the story of this remarkable Cortina. The owner's file is exceptional with results, Autosport articles, correspondence, and period photos showing some of the original features that clearly identify the car.
On the button and still possessing that indefinable feel of a special unchanged 1960s racer that graced the circuits and hill climbs of Europe in 1965. It does not have FIA papers thank goodness!
It's not often that cars with this level of heritage come to market, making this an ideal opportunity to own a car that belonged to one of British motorsports' all-time greats.