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Dan Wheldon: 1978-2011
Wheldon was born to race. That he died doing what he loved is small consolation
to his family and friends.
son of a keen amateur karter, Wheldon grew up in the sport, and was successful
enough to have won three British Cadet Karting championships by the age of 12.
Although not from a wealthy background, his early success made him an in-demand
driver for the lower single-seat formulas and he progressed through Formula
Vauxhall Junior, finishing the 1996 season as runner-up, and into Formula Ford.
1998, competing for the works Van Diemen squad, he was expected to win the
championship at the Brands Hatch FF Festival, only to be denied by one Jenson
Button. This inspired Wheldon to look across the Atlantic in a bid to further
his career, and he wasted no time establishing a reputation.
first taste of IndyCar came when he was just 24 with a couple of races late in
2002, and he made enough of an impression that he was asked to stand in for an
injured Dario Franchitti at Andretti Green Racing the following year. His first
win came at Motegi, Japan in 2004 and a year after that he won the first of his
two Indy 500 victories, finishing the series as winner. His Indy 500 victory made him
the first Englishman since the great Graham Hill in 1966
to win the iconic race, and he followed up in 2006 with another runner-up spot in the IndyCar series.
for Chip Ganassi Racing, Wheldon continued with consistent placings over the next
couple of seasons, enhancing his reputation as a man to watch (Top Gear
magazine named him our Racer of the Year in 2004). However, for 2009 and 2010
he switched back to the smaller team that gave him his first break in IndyCar,
Panther Racing. Although his placings suffered slightly, he still managed to
end both seasons in the top 10, but failed to get a full time drive for the
underlining his talent and ability, he secured an Indy 500 drive Bryan Herta
Autosport this year, and won the race for second time. It was a fitting success
for a man from Milton Keynes who embraced life and racing in the US. He is
survived by his wife Susie and two sons Sebastian (2) and eight-month old