Sir John Whitmore: 1937 – 2017

04th May 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

Veteran British racing Baronet Sir John Whitmore has died at the age of 79. An old Etonian and Sandhurst Military Academy graduate, Whitmore began his career in sportscar racing in the late 1950s, campaigning Lotus MkVI and Elite models. 


He was soon thrust into the international limelight when he finished 10th in his first appearance in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1959, sharing an Elite with future World Champion and good friend Jim Clark.

He maintained a constant presence in endurance racing at home and abroad during the first half of the 1960s, demonstrating his versatility in AC, Aston Martin, Austin-Healey, Jaguar, Lotus, MG and Porsche machinery. He landed plum roles at Le Mans in a works Ford GT40 – in 1965 sharing with Innes Ireland and ’66 with Frank Gardner – but failed to finish on both occasions.

Whitmore also made a name for himself in touring car racing in Britain and on the Continent. He won the British Touring Car title in his first season aboard a BMC Mini Minor in 1961 and took the runner-up spot two years later, also in a Mini.

He also enjoyed success in the burgeoning European Touring Car Championship in 1964, winning at Zolder, Brands Hatch, Karlskoga, St Ursanne and Timmelsjoch in an Alan Mann Racing Ford Lotus Cortina.


In his second season on the European tin-top scene, further wins in the AMR Cortina at Mont Ventoux, the Nürburgring, Zolder, Olympia, Snetterton and St Ursanne helped him lift the title in the up-to-1600cc class, with more race wins following in 1966.

Whitmore could also count appearances in the Sebring 12 Hours, Reims 12 Hours, Targa Florio, Nürburgring 1000km, Kyalami 9 Hours and Spa 500km on his varied CV before retiring from professional competition at the end of 1966.

Having raced at Goodwood in its first evocation, tackling the Tourist Trophy in 1961, ’62 and ’63 in Chris Barber’s Lotus Elite and the 1964 Lavant Cup in a Porsche 904 among other races, he would return to the circuit for its Revival Meeting retrospectives and become a good friend to the event, as well a competitive challenger in historic racing. 


He regularly competed in the St Mary’s Trophy in Alan Mann Racing Ford Mustangs and Lotus Cortinas, and the RAC TT Celebration race in AC Cobras and Shelby Daytona Coupés. He was also a keen supporter of the Festival of Speed, demonstrating a number of cars over the years, including the iconic red-and-gold Ford Escort run in period by his friends at Alan Mann Racing.

In later life, Whitmore became a well-respected sports psychologist and management-training consultant, for which the high-pressure and focused environment of motorsport stood him in very good stead. A published author of books on performance coaching, he was also a founder member of Performance Consultants International, a world-renowned provider of coaching, management training and business development.

Everyone at Goodwood offers their sincere condolences to the family and friends of Sir John, one of Britain’s best racing all-rounders.

Pictures by LAT Images

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