Ken Miles: a legendary OV

Ken Miles: a legendary OV

The film Ford vs Ferrari, or Le Mans ’66 as it is billed in the UK, is based on the true story of Ken Miles, an Old Veseyan and legendary racing driver.
Miles and fellow protagonist, Caroll Shelby, an American car designer played by Matt Damon, work together to attempt to beat Ferrari at the 24 hour endurance race held at Le Mans.
The film is captivating throughout, and even for those not interested in motor car racing, watching the political twists and turns, as well as the development of the characters is gripping.
Born in Sutton Coldfield in 1916, Miles raced motorcycles before serving as a tank commander in the British Army in WW2. Post War he raced some of today’s most infamous automotive brands such as Bugattis, Alfa Romeos and Alvises, with Vintage Sports Car Club, before turning to a Ford V8 Fraser-Nash. By 1935, Miles won his first race in the US, at Pebble Beach, and won ever race in the under 1500cc class that year, before going on to drive numerous other cars until the late 1950s.
Following the death of Walt Hansgen in a Mk.11.Ford, the executive decision was made to shelve the car for the remainder of the 1966 World Sports Car Championship Season. In August 1966, Shelby American resumed testing and development work, with Miles serving as the primary test driver.
Following a long day of testing in the Southern California Heat, Miles approached the end of the track’s 1-mile downhill back straight, at top speed (over 200 mph) when the car suddenly looped, flipped, crashed and caught fire. The car subsequently broke into pieces and ejected Miles – killing him instantly as he left behind his wife Mollie and son Peter.
Ken’s brother paid tribute in the school’s magazine, describing him as “always doing anything better than I could and knowing more than anyone else, demanding the impossible”, and it was this quote which resonated with members of the school community.
Current Vesey students, are still encouraged to strive for excellence and push our own boundaries of what we believe is possible – just like Ken Miles did all those years ago. Ken was inducted into the Motorsport Hall of Fame of America in 2001 as a recognition of all he did and the legacy he left. It was, in fact, because of Ken’s death that strict Health and Safety regulations have been past and steel cages have subsequently been installed on circuits to protect drivers.
Read Ken’s obituary by following the link here, from the 1966 edition of ‘The Veseyan’. Part two can be found here.