Sanderson was born in Glasgow. In common with many drivers of his era, he cut his racing teeth in the highly competitive 500cc Formula 3 class in the early 1950s. He is best known for winning the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans for the Ecurie Ecosse team, together with Ron Flockhart in an ex-works Jaguar D-Type. The following year Sanderson again competed for Ecurie Ecosse, finishing second with co-driver John "Jock" Lawrence, only beaten by the other Ecurie Ecosse D-Type driven by Flockhart and Ivor Bueb.
Although reputedly not the easiest of men to get along with, Ninian Sanderson was well known in racing circles for his lively sense of humour. Fond of practical jokes he was not averse to putting firecrackers up exhaust pipes and ribbing members of the public with his race-bred black humour. The contrast in personalities within the Ecurie Ecosse team was stark; down-to-Earth, Glaswegian Sanderson, and refined, Edinburgh-born Flockhart were "like chalk and cheese".
Ninian was also a keen yachtsman and regularly raced his yachts on the Clyde with the same competitive spirit and ebullience as in his motor racing. He owned several beautiful Clyde boatyard McGruer-built yachts: a Dragon class keelboat named "Corsair" built in 1947, an 8-metre class cruiser racer "Debbie" built in 1966 and also commissioned McGruer in 1974 to build his well-known 3/4 Tonner racing yacht "Nippie Sweetie".
In 1983 Sanderson and Jim Watt raised £10,500 for the medical oncology unit at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary following a sponsored canoe trip from Broomielaw to Tarbert, Loch Fyne. Sanderson had been receiving treatment at the unit for several years; he died of cancer in 1985. His wife Dorothy Sanderson died in 2007.
Educated at Strathallan School, in the announcement of his passing in the school magazine The Strathallian included a quote from F1 racing World champion Sir Jackie Stewart where Stewart described Sanderson as a ‘perfectionist, with immense spirit and commitment.’
- "Sanderson remains a battler until the end". The Herald (Glasgow). 2 October 1985. p. 5. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
- "Ninian Sanderson" (PDF). The Strathallian 1985-1986. Vol. 14 no. 3. p. 73. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
- "Scottish win in Le Mans Grand Prix. Sanderson and Flockhart Defeat Moss and Collins". The Glasgow Herald. 30 July 1956. p. 5. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
- "Death Marks End Of Le Mans Race". The Victoria Advocate. 30 July 1956. p. 5. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
- "Sports car sells for £1.71m". BBC. 28 October 1999. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
- "McGruer build list" (PDF). McGruer boatyard build list.
- "McGruer yacht register - Debbie". McGruer yacht register.
- "Charity cheque". The Herald (Glasgow). 15 June 1983. p. 3. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
- "Dorothy Sanderson". The Herald (Glasgow). 17 February 2007. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ninian Sanderson.|
- Brief biography at historicracing.com
- Ninian Sanderson profile at The 500 Owners Association
- Ninian Sanderson's race results at racingsportscars.com
| Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans