KEN AND PETER GETHIN

Ken and Peter were father and son and were both in racing (different disciplines); in amongst all their successes each of them had one glorious moment.

Ken Gethin

Ken Gethin

Kenneth Alfred Gethin was born in Balsall Heath, Birmingham in 1911 and began his racing career as an apprentice to Epsom trainer Stanley Wootton; his first winner was Sea Monarch at Gatwick in 1929. (Gatwick racecourse closed in 1940 and the airport now stands on the site.) Subsequently he joined Henry Seymour ('Atty') Persse as stable jockey and then switched to Epsom trainer Peter Thrale (1886-1959). In 1937 Ken married Mr Thrale's daughter Alwen (born 1916).

During the Second World War Ken served with the Royal Engineers and was seriously injured when knocked down by a lorry in the blackout; he fractured his pelvis and his spine was badly damaged, making it unlikely that he would ride again. However, following a spinal graft he was back in the saddle and, as you see below, most of his biggest wins came after the War.

A selection of Ken's big winners
Year Race Venue Mount
1931 Northumberland Plate Newcastle Blue Vision
1932 Great Jubilee Handicap Kempton Park Venturer
1948 Victoria Cup Ascot Petition
1948 Eclipse Stakes Sandown Park Petition
1952 1000 Guineas Newmarket Zabara
1952 Cambridgeshire Newmarket Richer
1952 Coronation Stakes Ascot Zabara
1952 Indian Derby Calcutta Martial Law
1953 Cesarewitch Newmarket Chantry
1953 Dewhurst Stakes Newmarket Infatuation
1953 Victoria Cup Ascot Orgoglio
1960 Manchester November Handicap Manchester (now run at Doncaster) Operatic Society


Ken's biggest win was the 1952 1000 Guineas, when Zabara (owned by Sir Malcolm McAlpine and trained by Vic Smyth at Epsom) came home by half a length at 7-2. She was eventually put out to stud and became a direct ancestor of the incomparable Frankel. Ken's best season was 1947, when he rode 81 winners.

Ken and Alwen had two children - Peter Kenneth (born 21 February 1940) and Ann M (born 1944). From about 1954 until the 1970s the family lived at Timber Hatch, 18 St Martin's Avenue, Epsom and after that at 26 St Martin's Avenue. Ken became a trainer at Epsom between about 1960 and 1966 but was only moderately successful. He died in Ashtead Hospital on 7 October 1989, aged 78, and was cremated at Leatherhead.

Peter Gethin

Peter Gethin
Peter in 1971.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Peter Kenneth Gethin was born on 21 February 1940 in Epsom (some sources say Ewell). He was also in racing, but in his case it was cars.

Peter made his Formula One debut for McLaren in 1970, replacing team founder Bruce McLaren, who was killed at Goodwood on 2 June of that year. His first F1 race was the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort on 21 June, where he retired after 18 laps following an accident (this was the same race in which British driver Piers Courage lost his life).

Peter gained his first F1 point in the September 1970 Canadian GP, finishing 6th behind Jacky Ickx, but this form was not repeated in the October US GP, which saw him last, eight laps behind winner Emerson Fittipaldi. Things went better in the Mexican race, but he had to retire with engine failure; he finished the season 23rd in the drivers' standings, having just the one point from Canada.

Peter in a McLaren
Peter in a McLaren, 1971.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

The first half of the 1971 season was littered with retirements but Peter then moved to the Yardley team, driving a BRM, The BRM car had had its heyday in the 1960s, achieving great success with Graham Hill, and its performance was spasmodic thereafter. However, after coming 10th at the 1971 Austrian GP, Peter won a stunning victory in the next race at Monza, finishing just 0.01 of a second ahead of Ronnie Peterson. In fact, the first five men home were covered by just 0.61 of a second. You can see a film of the exciting finish here. This drive gave Peter the record for the fastest average speed in F1 history (242.616 kilometres per hour) until Michael Schumacher broke it at the same circuit in 2003.

Peter never had the same success again and this was his only GP podium finish; in 1974 he switched back to Formula 5000 (he had won the European Championship in both 1969 and 1970) and subsequently went into management. He died after a long illness on 5 December 2011, survived by his wife Roberta (nee Miller, married 1977) and son Nick, who is also in car racing.

Linda Jackson
August 2013

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