24h Le Mans
11/11/2019 - 12:01


To coincide with the opening of the exhibition at the 24 Hours Museum (21 October 2019 to 23 February 2020) spotlighting the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans and the release of the film "Le Mans 66" (15 November in the UK), this series revisits the 34th running of the race, now revived on the big screen by James Mangold. Here we unearth a few facts that connect Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby, played by Christian Bale and Matt Damon respectively.

- Ken Miles was just over four years older than Carroll Shelby. The British driver was born on 1 November 1918 at Sutton Coldfield, and the American on 11 January 1923 in Leesburg (Texas).

- During the second world war, Ken Miles was first posted to an anti-aircraft unit then served as a driving instructor before joining an electromechanical engineering unit. He was part of the D-Day landing with a tank unit that he then followed to Germany. Carroll Shelby remained in America as a test pilot and flight instructor.

- Their respective Le Mans stories are relatively short, with three 24 Hours starts for Miles and two for Shelby. Miles teamed up with John Lockett and finished 12th with MG in 1955. A decade later, he returned as a Ford works driver, first paired with Bruce McLaren in 1965 (DNF) then Dennis Hulme in 1966 (second). Shelby drove for Aston Martin in 1954 with Belgian Paul Frère (DNF), then took victory in 1959 with Great Britain’s Roy Salvadori. Shelby hung up his racing helmet for good a few months later.

- Just before Christmas 1951, Ken Miles, his wife Mollie and their son Peter, then aged three, moved to the United States. They acquired American nationality in 1959... the year that Carroll Shelby triumphed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

- In February 1963, Miles joined Shelby American, founded by Shelby a year earlier to build and market high-performance mechanical components and sports cars for road and race.

- At Shelby American, Miles made a significant contribution to the development of the Cobra Daytona. Driven by Dan Gurney and Bob Bondurant, the car finished fourth overall at Le Mans in 1964 and took the class win, beating the iconic Ferrari GTO on the Italian marque’s favourite stomping ground. Miles was also involved in advanced development work on the Ford GT40, which is still the only car built by an American manufacturer to win Le Mans outright, with four consecutive victories: two in Shelby American colours (1966 & ‘67) and two sporting Gulf’s sky blue and orange (1968& ‘69).

PHOTO (TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX) - Respectively portraying Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby, Christian Bale (left) and Matt Damon appear on screen together for the first time in James Mangold’s film Le Mans 66.