“You know, I’d rather die in a racing car than get eaten up by cancer”
Inspired by the recent release of the film Ford vs. Ferrari, here is a small insight into the inspirational life of a man known to the racing world as Ken Miles. (No spoilers. Don’t worry)
Kenneth H. Miles was born in England in 1918. From a young age, he always had a passion for building and racing. He served in the British military for during World War Two. After the war, he moved to America, where he ran his own shop and won many races that gained him some popularity in the racing community. He soon caught the eye of Carroll Shelby, who recognized his outstanding potential as both an engineer and a driver.
Ken Miles would join up with Shelby in the early 60’s and become an invaluable team-member in developing a race car for the Ford Motor Company. Ken Miles’ unique skills as both a driver and an engineer allowed him to fine-tune their racing machine to near perfection. His strong influence led to the creation of a car that would prove to outperform anything else on the racetrack.
In 1965 and 1966, Ken Miles proved his effectiveness on the racetrack at Le Mans, a famous international race in France. There he drove a car that was his baby, a car he had tinkered with inside and out for many, many months. One could say he knew the car so well that it became an extension of himself. This trait, which none of the other drivers could boast, combined with Ken Miles’ exceptional abilities as a driver, led to him outperforming every other car out there.
Christian Bale, who played Ken Miles in Ford vs. Ferrari, referred to braking power in the 60’s with these words: “They weren’t sure they could stop at that time. …in those days, they were flying down that Mulsanne Straight at 230 miles an hour. …230 miles an hour. In the 60’s? When they weren’t really sure if they were gonna be able to stop at the end, you know? What type of man is willing to do that? That’s a fascinating man and that’s worth making a film about.”
The Mulsanne Straight, as implied, is a long, straight section of the Le Mans course that abruptly ends with a sharp right turn.
Ken Miles was, in a sense, a pioneer in racing. This was a guy who was as competent under the hood as he was on the track. There was little to hold him back. Pushing the car to its limits in a race, there was a point where the only other limitation was himself. It was just him, his car, and the horizon.
Ken Miles was an underappreciated inspiration, and thankfully the release of this recent movie highlights his work and peers into the mind of this racing legend.