Arguably the most famous of all racing Lotus Cortinas, 'KPU 392C' was campaigned by Alan Mann Racing and driven by Sir John Whitmore during the 1965 European Touring Car Championship season. In a crushingly dominant performance, Sir John and 'KPU 392C' won all eight races and hill climbs they contested, including six outright wins. His singular achievement was summed up in Autosport by Patrick McNally: 'In the European Touring Car Challenge Sir John Whitmore was outstandingly successful, his Alan Mann Racing Lotus Cortina proving to be both fast and reliable. The popular racing baronet often won his races outright as well as the class, and shattered course and circuit records everywhere he went.'
Baronet Sir John Whitmore started circuit racing with a Lotus 6 in 1958. In 1959 Lotus boss Colin Chapman offered him a drive at the Le Mans 24-Hour Race in which he shared an Elite with Jim Clark, finishing 2nd in class. British Saloon Car Champion in 1961 driving a Mini, Sir John later became associated with Ford, driving a GT40 at Le Mans and the Targa Florio. He was also a member of Carroll Shelby's World Sportscar Championship-winning team.
At the start of the 1965 season, Mann used the 1964 ‘A-frame’ cars pending the homologation of the leaf-sprung rear axle, and when 'KPU 392C' made its debut at the Championship's second round at Mont Ventoux, still finished in standard white/green colours rather than Mann's red livery, it carried one of the '64 cars' registration numbers. Although not a regular hill climber, Sir John nevertheless secured an overall win and set the touring car course record for the mountain.
One week later he shared 'KPU 392C' with Jack Sears at the Nürburgring 6-hour race, winning overall and setting the touring car lap record on a wet track. This was followed by overall wins at Zolder and the Olympia hill climb at Innsbruck. The next weekend brought with it a class win at Karlskoga, Sir John finishing 2nd overall. By this time it was beginning to look like the Championship would go to Whitmore and after he had driven 'KPU 392C' to overall victory at the Snetterton 500km it seemed all but certain. Another overall win at the St Ursanne hill climb in Switzerland was followed by finishing 1st-in-class and 2nd overall at Zandvoort and the Championship was in the bag.
Among the cars beaten by the combination of Sir John Whitmore and 'KPU 392C' were Ford Galaxies, Alfa GTAs, Mercedes-Benz 300Es, BMW TISAs and Alan Mann Ford Mustangs. The same car/driver combination also finished ahead of Alan Mann Lotus Cortinas piloted by drivers such as Jackie Stewart.
After the 1965 season's end, 'KPU 392C' was retired from racing and despatched on a promotional tour of Ford dealerships. In 1967 the car was acquired by Sir John Whitmore, who owned it until 1995 when it was sold to a noted US collector. During Sir John's ownership the Lotus Cortina spent time on display at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu (from approximately 1972 to 1978) before being retrieved by Sir John and placed in storage at the premises of another of Alan Mann's drivers: Jack Sears. In the meantime, the car had been back to Alan Mann Racing for a major service. Its distinctive features, such as the lowered rear suspension, were retained.
Subsequent outings were few, being confined to a couple of track tests for Thoroughbred & Classic Cars magazine (1987 and 1989). On the latter occasion, 'KPU 392C' was driven at Ford's Boreham test track by Sir John and racer/journalist Tony Dron, now of Octane magazine. Some 24 years after the Boreham test, 'KPU 392C' was reunited with Sir John Whitmore at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed Press Day on 20th March when Sir John drove the car up the Goodwood hill.
This is a unique opportunity to acquire one of the most significant championship-winning touring cars in competition history.
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