Career Summary:

Graham Whitehead

  • April 15, 1922
  • January 15, 1981
  • United Kingdom
  • Not Active
  • 129
  • 8
  • 38
  • 3
  • 6.20%
  • 29.46%

Graham Whitehead (1922-1981) was a British racing driver who was active during the 1950s and the early 1960s, mostly in sports car races, but he also recorded starts in several Formula One events, both in the championship and non-championship races.

Graham's career-best result was the second place overall at 1958 Le Mans 24 Hours, in an Aston Martin DBR3 together with his half-brother Peter Whitehead. Peter lost a life in an accident three months later at Tour de France.

Graham Whitehead

Graham Whitehead

Collecting podiums in Formula Libre races

Born in April 1922 in Harrogate, Graham Whitehead started to race in 1950, driving ERA B-Type in some national events under Formula Libre rules.

He was pretty good, scoring a couple of podiums at Castle Combe and Boreham. Then, in May 1951, he participated in the Formula One non-championship race BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone, finishing third in an ERA B-Type.

Formula One championship debut at 1952 British Grand Prix

In 1952, Graham continued to collect podium in Formula Libre races and then, in July, he made a debut in the Formula One Championship. He was driving Peter Whitehead's Alta F2 car in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Interestingly, he raced in the #1 car. He was the 12th-fastest qualifier and also finished 12th in the race, eight laps behind race winner Alberto Ascari (Ferrari). His half-brother Peter finished 10th in a Ferrari 125.

Second place in the inaugural Goodwood 9 Hours

A month later, Graham Whitehead scored one of his best results in endurance races, finishing second in the inaugural Goodwood 9 Hours. He was sharing the #20 Ferrari 225 S with American racer Tom Cole. They were defeated by Peter Collins and Pat Griffith in an Aston Martin DB3.

In the world's greatest endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Graham Whitehead made a debut in June 1953, partnering Lance Macklin in the #37 Bristol 450. They had to retire after ten hours and twenty-nine laps due to an accident and fire.

Racing mostly with Aston Martins

In 1953, Graham raced a lot in an Aston Martin DB3, without wins or podiums. In the same year, he also recorded some races in a Jaguar C-Type, winning BARC race at Goodwood and finishing 6th at Silverstone International.

In 1954, Graham Whited was mostly at the wheel of an Aston Martin, including his second attempt at Le Mans. He was sharing the #21 Aston Martin DB3S with Ian Stewart, not finishing the race.

Three Le Mans attempts for Whiteheads, podium in 1958

Graham and Peter Whitehead raced together at Le Mans for the first time in 1955, sharing the #11 Cooper T38-Jaguar. They retired after 36 laps. Their second joint attempt followed two years later, in June 1957, at the wheel of the #5 Aston Martin DBR2. They retired because of a broken gearbox after 81 laps and eight hours.

Their third attempt was the most successful. In June  1958, they raced together in Peter's three-year-old Aston Martin DB3S which finished second at 1955 race. Three years later, the car was a runner-up again. After 24 hours of racing, Whitehead brothers were second, twelve laps behind race winner Olivier Gendebien and Phil Hill in a Ferrari 250 TR.

Graham Whitehead in an Aston Martin DB3S

Graham Whitehead in an Aston Martin DB3S

Peter's death at 1958 Tour de France

Graham and Peter were sharing cars outside Le Mans, such at Nurburgring 1000 Km or at Tour de France. In September 1957, they failed to finish Tour de France in a Jaguar XK150. In June 1958, they were eighth at Nurburgring.

Then, in September 1958, three months after their podium-finish at Le Mans, Whitehead brothers were sharing the #61 Jaguar MkI 3.4 at Tour de France. Unfortunately, the race ended with Peter's fatal accident.

Graham Whitehead in the #15 Ferrari at 1960 Le Mans 24h

Graham Whitehead in the #15 Ferrari at 1960 Le Mans 24h

Two more starts at Le Mans in 1959 and 1960

Graham resumed with racing in March 1959, reaching the podium in a sports car race at Goodwood in an Aston Martin DBR1/300. Later that year, he partnered Brian Naylor at Nurburgring 1000 Km and Le Mans 24 Hours in the same car, recording DNFs in both races. In September 1959, Graham returned to Tour de France in a Jaguar MkI 3.4, sharing a car with Peter Riley. They didn't finish the race due to an accident.

Henry Taylor was Graham's new co-driver in 1960. They failed to finish Nurburgring 1000 Km in an Aston Martin DBR1 and then retired at Le Mans 24h in a Ferrari 250 GT SWB. After that, Graham Whitehead scored few podiums in a Ferrari 250 GT SWB, such were at Angola Grand Prix, Lombard Trophy or Spa Grand Prix, retiring from racing at the end of 1961.

Photos: Getty Images, John Ross Motor Racing Archive,