racing slice

My Career

John Fitzpatrick, born in Birmingham, England on June 9, 1943, is a former English racing driver, winning many titles throughout his career. He still works within motorsport as a consultant doing corporate events and driver management and still participates in historic races. He was one of the best Porsche drivers of his era. He began his career driving Touring cars in the BSCC and ETCC, winning the British Saloon Car Championship in 1966. First it was Minis, then Ford Anglias and Escorts; BMW CSs and then Porsche 911s. He then became renowned for his expertise at driving the German machines. He was crowned European GT Champion in 1972, and then again in 1974. He moved to the United States in 1980, driving for Dick Barbour Racing, and capturing the IMSA Camel GT Championship in the process. In 1981, he moved from driver to team ownerdriver, with some success.

Fitzpatrick had little racing experience before he entered the British Saloon Car Championship (BSCC), with his pre-career largely unknown. From 1963, Team Broadspeed employed Fitzpatrick to race their Austin Mini Cooper S in the three of the closing rounds of the year. A successful debut saw him claim points, although his season was brought to a close with two retirements in the final rounds. For 1964, Fitzpatrick switched to the factory backed Cooper Car Company team, taking his first victory (in class) at the first race. A second win resulted from the fourth meeting, ultimately finishing second in the championship to Jim Clark. In 1965, Fitzpatrick returned to Team Broadspeed, remaining with them for the rest of his BSCC career. The season saw Fitzpatrick claim three podiums (including a class win) in his Morris Mini Cooper S 970. It would be in 1966, however, that Fitzpatrick put his name into the BSCC history books. Team Broadspeed were contracted by Ford to run two 1000cc Ford Anglias in the BSCC, to be driven by Fitzpatrick and Peter Proctor. Peter Proctor had a severe accident in the Goodwood race and his place was taken by Anita Taylor. Fitzpatrick won the Championship overall. Fitzpatrick followed this with a second place overall the following year, before Broadspeed changed to the new Ford Escorts.

In the final four years that he competed in the BSCC, Fitzpatrick would not challenge for the title. Team Broadspeed bought a Ford Escort for Fitzpatrick, which meant he would compete directly with the Mini Coopers once more. 1968 saw the Escort struggle early on, however, as the car was not homologated until the third race of the year. Nonetheless, Fitzpatrick took four class wins on the trot during the middle of the season, finishing sixth overall. 1969 saw a further three wins for Fitzpatrick, resulting in a 7th place overall. In 1970 and 1971, Fitzpatrick would claim a further fifteen wins in class, taking third on the championship in 1970. The new regulations introduced that year seemed to provoke Fitzpatrick to end his driving career in the series, as he entered the world of endurance racing full-time after 1971. In 1971, Fitzpatrick had signed for the works Ford outfit, Ford Köln, to race in the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC), where he partnered Jochen Mass in the endurance events. After the pair finished 4th in Monza in their Ford Escort RS 1600, Fitzpatrick would race solo in a selection of events, winning the first of these, the Austria-Trophy, at the Salzburgring. After not finishing any other races, until his final race of 1971, he won the Jarama 4 Hours in alongside Mass.

For 1972, Fitzpatrick switched to the renowned BMW Team Schnitzer for another attack at the ETCC title. After a second place in the Brno 2 hours, he joined Rolf Stommelen and Hans Heyer to win the Grosser Preis der Tourenwagen, (sometimes known as the 6 Hours of the Nürburgring) in their BMW 2800 CS. He would finish sixth overall in the end of season standing, one better than the previous season. Meanwhile, away from the ETCC, Fitzpatrick was busy racing a Porsche 911 S for the Porsche Kremer team. This he did very successfully, John Fitzpatrick winning five of the nine races in the inaugural European GT Championship, en route to the title, beating his nearest rival, Claude Haldi by more than double his points (125pts v 61pts). He also won the coveted Porsche Cup.

In the ETCC, Fitzpatrick returned to Ford Köln, to race their Ford Capri RS 2600. This switch back to Ford, saw him triumph again in the Austria-Trophy, at the Salzburgring alongside rising Touring Car star, Dieter Glemser. After taking two more podium finishes, including a second place in the Spa 24 Hours, he would finish fifth in the overall standings.

1974 saw Fitzpatrick return to the European GT Championship. Although the new Porsche 911 Carrera RSR had no competition, the title chase was entertaining, but only because of the Cologne rivalry between Kremer and Georg Loos (Gelo Racing) teams. Drivers switched between the two outfits during the season, including John. Despite this Fitzpatrick got the title by a lot smaller margin than in 1972, just 9 points, after winning three races. The lad from the West Midlands would also win the Porsche Cup for the second time. Another season in the ETCC, and another switch of marques, as Fitzpatrick moved back to München, for the 1975 season. With John back again with Schnitzer, he would win a third Austria-Trophy. For the 1975 European GT season, Fitzpatrick was back with Gelo. It seemed that he might win a third title in four seasons, but fierce competition in the Gelo Team from Tim Schenken and Toine Hezemans, handed the title to Tebernuma Racing’s Hartwig Bertrams and their RSR.

1976 saw the eagerly awaited World Championship for Makes (WCM) based on silhouette cars arrive, but only one marque was ready; Porsche. Unfortunately for Fitzpatrick, he was racing a BMW 3.5 CSL for Hermetite Products. Although the car was supplied by BMW Motorsport, it was outdated and fragile. During the Silverstone 6 Hours, the works Porsche of Jochen Mass and Jacky Ickx hit trouble along with the fast turbo version of the BMW CSL of Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson, allowing Fitzpatrick and Tom Walkinshaw through to the win by a mere 20 metres from Bob Wollek and Hans Heyer in a Porsche 935 K2. This pairing would also finish second in the 1000 Martha Österreichring 6 Hours.

Away from the WCM, Fitzpatrick was winning races outside of Europe. He piloted a BMW 3.0 CSL on behalf of BMW of North America to victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Originally, Fitzpatrick was paired with Walkinshaw, but when their car retired, he was switched to the sister car of Peter Gregg and Brian Redman, which would go on to victory, winning by 14 laps. Following a second place in the RAC Tourist Trophy, he triumphed in the Hardie-Ferodo 1000 in an Australian Group C Holden Torana L34 touring car with Bob Morris driving for the Ron Hodgson Team. In a dramatic finish, Fitzpatrick nursed the Torana home trailing smoke over the last few laps. Initially thought to be an engine problem or a broken axle (which the L34 Torana’s were notorious for doing), it was later revealed that an oil seal had failed and the leaking oil was getting into the clutch making it slip badly and slowing him down, especially on the steeper parts of the Mount Panorama Circuit. Fitzpatrick was a regular driver at Bathurst, first teaming with 1967 winner Fred Gibson in an Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV in 1975, winning with Morris in 1976 while again joining Morris in 1977 and 1978 in a Torana (both DNF). He teamed with four time winner Allan Moffat in 1979 in a Ford XC Falcon Cobra (DNF) and again in 1980 in an Ford XD Falcon (DNF). He returned to join forces with Bob Morris in 1981 (XD Falcon - 2nd). His last appearance as a driver in Australia was to have been the 1982 James Hardie 1000, but after Morris qualified their Ford XE Falcon in 6th place, Fitzpatrick had a front wheel break going through Forrest Elbow during the Saturday afternoon practice session causing the car to crash heavily into the wall. The damage was enough to prevent the Seiko sponsored Falcon from starting Australia’s Great Race.

For 1977, Fitzpatrick was back at Kremer Racing, where in five WCM races, he co-drove with Wollek to three podium finishes, reaching the top at Hockenheim. But John’s main drive for ’77 was back to Touring Cars. He had rejoined Broadspeed, to race the Jaguar XJ12C, however the racing program got off on the wrong foot because British Leyland would not finalize the decision whether or not to continue with the program following their debut in 1976. This meant Ralph Broad and the Broadspeed guys did not know whether to get on with their development program. Once Leyland gave the go ahead, valuable time had been lost. Fitzpatrick found himself partnering Tim Schenken, and together they raced eight times for Jaguar, only finishing once, in the Grand Prix Brno, held on the old Masaryk Circuit, albeit in 16th place following an exploding tire. Despite Jaguar pulling out of the ETCC, Fitzpatrick found himself in great demand, so much so, he was racing in three major championships, winning races in all of them. His berth in ETCC was the Luigi Team BMW Italia. Here, he teamed up with Umberto Grano to win the Mugello 100 Giri. Just three weeks earlier, at the very same Mugello, driving for Georg Loos (Gelo Racing) Team’s Porsche 935, he won the Mugello 6 Hours, a round of the WCM. This time he was partnered by Toine Hezemans and Hans Heyer. When the series arrived in the United States, Heyer was replaced by Peter Gregg, for a race at the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen, helping Fitzpatrick and Hezemans to victory. The next round was back in Italy, the 6 Ore di Vallelunga, which although Fitzpatrick did not win, he did finish on the podium in second and third places! The third series Fitzpatrick drove in, was the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft (DRM). Although he had raced in the championship before, this was the first time he raced the whole series with Gelo Racing, finishing 4th overall in the process. During this season, he scored 7 podium finishes, the best being his victory in the ADAC-Trophy at Zandvoort. For 1979, he dropped the ETCC from his schedule, concentrating solely on Group 5 racing with Gelo Racing and their Porsche 935. There was mixed fortunes for John, with a winless season in the DRM. However, in the WCM, results were better. Firstly with new partners, Wollek and Manfred Schurti, John was able to win the Mugello 6 Hours. With Fitzpatrick and Wollek entered in two cars for the Rivet Supply Silverstone 6 Hours, their car with Schurti encountered turbo problems, but the one with Heyer was victorious, winning by over seven laps. Gelo continued their good form in the next round, with Fitzpatrick, Wollek and Schurti taking the spoils in the ADAC 1000 Km Rennen.

1980 was the year the Porsche 935K3 became prominent, both across Europe and North America. Dick Barbour Racing had two of their own cars and hired Fitzpatrick as their lead driver. This was a good choice, as the Englishman swept the IMSA GT Championship and beat everybody, including the 1979 Champion, Gregg, winning seven of the fourteen races. These included some of top races; 12 Hours of Sebring and Los Angeles Times Grand Prix, where he was partnered by Barbour and the WCM round at Mosport Park, where Redman joined him. Back in Europe, Fitzpatrick took a Dick Barbour car to victory in the ADAC Norisring Trophy, and 2nd place in the ADAC 1000 Km Rennen. When Barbour’s 935K3 wasn’t available in Europe, Fitzpatrick piloted the Jägermeister Kremer version. Between these cars, he took three more wins, en-route to 8th in the overall standings. This resulted in the Porsche Cup returning to his hands.

In 1981, Dick Barbour experienced some financial setbacks and Fitzpatrick founded his own team, John Fitzpatrick Racing, with sponsorship from Sachs. In his debut season as the team owner-driver of John Fitzpatrick Racing, he was assisted by the Kremer brothers. By the second race of the 1981 season, he was back in Victory Lane, by winning the Camel GT race at Road Atlanta. Then he co-drove with Jim Busby to another victory in the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix. Although the championship for 1982, was between John Paul, Jr. and the Interscope Lola T600 of Ted Field and Danny Ongais, John Fitzpatrick Racing (JFR) had some good races with their impressive 935K4. John took the Mid-Ohio round, beating Paul, Jr., then had another convincing win at Lime Rock. The 935K4 would not reappear until Road America, where Fitzpatrick took another convincing win, then again at Mid-Ohio, sharing with Englishman David Hobbs. Another Englishman, Derek Bell, partnered Hobbs to assist Fitzpatrick to his third Los Angeles Times Grand Prix win in four seasons. The other JFR 935 at the Riverside was entered for Bell and Stommelen, who was the fastest 935 driver at that time, according to Bell. Rolf went off the road and damaged the car when on fresh tyres, did another lap slowly to check the car out, then went full-bore again only to have the rear body collapse, causing him to lose control and hit a wall.

The team had no idea of the severity of Rolf’s accident and switched Bell to the Fitzpatrick-Hobbs car. The team of all-English drivers went on to win, unaware that Rolf had died. Away from North America, Fitzpatrick was back behind the wheel of a ETCC Jaguar. He joined Tom Walkinshaw Racing for a few events, the best being a home victory in the Donington 500. Although the Jaguar XJS won on home soil, it was not without some drastic measures by TWR, like the second Jaguar blocking the leading BMW, and passing under a yellow flag. That second Jag was driven by Martin Brundle, Enzo Calderari and Fitzpatrick.

Thanks to a high level of sponsorship from J. David, Fitzpatrick was able to purchase two Porsche 956s to run in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) series and did in fact become the only privateer to field a multi-car team of 956s. JFR was also the first to run a 956 in the USA. Although the car was not permitted to race in IMSA events, Can-Am regulations permitted them to run, provided they complied with full Group C and Can-Am rules. Although this rendered them less than fully competitive, the team’s 956 won at Elkhart Lake on its first American outing. While in the USA, JFR had the opportunity of doing some unseen development work. When the 956 was returned to Europe, to race in the Grand Prix International 1000 km at Brands Hatch, it featured many modifications not seen on the works cars. The soaking Kent track let JFR try out their aerodynamic tweaks and Fitzpatrick and his partner for this race, Derek Warwick, became only the second team to beat the works team.

For 1984, Guy Edwards brought Skoal Bandit sponsorship to the team. JFR added a Porsche 962, as well as
a new 956, replacing the Brands Hatch winning 956. The 962 was not popular with JFR’s drivers and was sold
early into the 1985 season. Only one further victory was gained, this being in a DRM round at the Norisring
with Thierry Boutsen behind the wheel. Perhaps this was not really surprising, for by then there were so many
top-class 956s in action that wins were spread very thinly amongst them.

When Skoal Bandit pulled out at the end of 1984, JFR had difficulty in maintaining adequate levels of
finance. One car was leased to Manuel Lopez and raced with sponsorship from Canal 9 Peru. It was written off
at Silverstone and had to be rebuilt around a new 962 chassis. With backing from American 100s cigarettes, two
cars were entered into the 1985 Le Mans 24 hours, but one of these, the rebuilt car crashed heavily in practice.
For the 1985 Norisring round of the WEC, the works Porsches were not entered, which left one of their lead
drivers, Bell, without a drive, so Fitzpatrick offered him one. Bell called the 956 “diabolical.” It was painfully,
visibly slow, but I drove my backside off from virtually last place of the grid, struggling round to take 11th
place shortly before the end”. His works team-mate, Hans Stuck, had electronic troubles with his Joest Racing
Porsche, and eventually wound up 15th. So, at the end of the year, Bell was given the World Championship on
the basis of this tie-decider – 11th as opposed to 15th at the Norisring.

After the 1000 Km di Mugello, where he finished 4th with Hobbs and Boutsen, Fitzpatrick hung up his helmet,
preferring to concentrate on team organization. He relocated to Spain, and racing during 1986 with backing
from various Spanish businesses, notably Danone, he retired from Motor Sport, and he sold his entire team,
including racing cars, transporters and all equipment to Jochen Dauer.

John Fitzpatrick intended to expand the team into CART for the 1984 season with J. David sponsorship using
March customer chassis but the project did not come to fruition.