Wakefield was born in Marylebone, London, the son of a explosives manufacturer. He was a wealthy young man who studied aeronautical engineering.
He started racing motorcycles before turning to cars in 1936 with an Alta. For 1937 he bought a Maserati 6CM and raced it painted in a multitude of colors with some success, with a third at Picardie, and second in the Phoenix Park 100 and the JCC International Trophy race, the first mass rolling start in the UK. In a close race during which he diced with Raymond Mays and Billy Cotton, he finished second to Mays at an average speed of 80.32 mph.
In 1938 he destroyed the Maserati in Cork and replaced it with an ERA. With the ERA he won the JCC 200 at Brooklands after overhauling Bira in the closing stages of the race.
R14B had a 1.5litre C-type Zoller supercharged engine and a pale blue colour scheme. Although no longer one of the most competetive cars around, he won the JCC 200 at Brooklands after overhauling Bira in the closing stages of the race. Wakefield was selected for the British Team against the Germans in the British Grand Prix at Donington along with Arthur Dobson and Billy Cotton. In a race which was to become famous, Nuvolari took the individual win in an Auto-Union, while the British team took the coveted team prize. He also finished third in Siam Trophy at Brooklands and third in the Berne Grand Prix, Switzerland.
In 1939 Wakefield moved on to more advanced cars and aquired a new Maserati 4CL, winning at Napels, Picardie and Albi, and finishing second in the voiturette suport race for the French Grand Prix. He won the BRDC Road Racing Gold Star that year but this was not officially awarded until the club's 21st birthday celebrations in December 1948 when HRH Prince Philip finally presented the star to Wakefield's widow.
One of the top British racing drivers before WWII, he was a test pilot for Vickers Armstrong but was killed in a flying accident near Wargrave, Berkshire in 1942.
The Johnny Wakefield Trophy is awarded every year to the driver setting the fastest race lap of the season on the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit.