John Fitzpatrick (as a Ford race driver)

Born : June 9 1943

Biography John Fitzpatrick

John Fitzpatrick my life at the wheel
Fitz My Life at the wheel – Biography John Fitzpatrick

John Fitzpatrick was born in Birmingham, in the British Midlands, in a family of entrepreneurs. His grandparents used to run a wine shop, while his grandmother ran a ladies dress shop. Fitzpatricks father on his turned started a business in building and repairing commercial vehicle bodies.  Fitzpatrick inherited the interest for cars from his father, whose business ran well enough to allow the family to own cars like the Mark 7 Jaguar. 

Fitzpatricks father even took delivery of a Jaguar E-type in the 1960s. At the age of 14,  John Fitzpatrick’s father teaches him how to drive a car. At that moment however, there was absolutely no talk of motorsport.  As a teenager  , John showed more interest in playing golf . He was a quite gifted player. At 16 his father even allowed Fitzpatrick to leave  school to concentrate on golf hoping for a professional career. John Fitzpatrick even made it to Englands National Junior Team, and he won an amazing lot of golf tournaments. 

An accident with 2 broken wrists however made him loose the feeling for playing golf at the highest level. So at the age of 16, Fitzpatrick starts working in his father’s business. At the age of 17, Fitzpatrick gets his first car, a Austin Mini 850. That car was him promised by his dad at the age of 12. John Fitpatrick had to promise his dad never to smoke and drive a motorcycle. John kept his promise, and was kind enough to remind his father. And that was the moment, John Fitzpatrick’s interest in motorsport awakened and would never go away. 

The Mini and Ford years and Abarth.

Together with his father, Fitzpatrick drives down to watch the end of the Monte-Carlo rallye in 1960. One year later he witnessed a fantastic race of Stirling Moss at the 1961 Monaco GP. Soon Fitzpatrick entered his Mini in some local events, but with minor results. Everything changed in 1962 during a coincidental meet with one of Britains experts on Minis. He transformed Fitzpatrick’s Mini in a true racer, as it felt like it would blow away the family-owned Jaguar E type. Fitzpatrick did some more rallies but decided circuit-racing was more his thing. For a few years, Fitzpatrick races different Mini’s in circuit races.

In 1966 John Fitzpatrick changes his Mini for a Ford Anglia. He wins 6 out of 8 races and the championship.  That same year, he even drives a few laps in training with an Abarth after Rolf Stommelen offered him a seat. The car retired from the race after a few laps with gearbox problems. But that was enough for the Abarth works team to offer him a seat for a few races.  In 1967 Fitzpatrick marries, and his honeymoon leads him to Reims for the 12H. Not as a spectator but to drive the Ferrari 250LM of David Prophet.

First race in a Porsche at Spa

Toine Hezemans - Georg Loos - John Fitzpatrick - GELO Racing Team
Toine HezemansGeorg Loos – John Fitzpatrick

A mutual friend introduces Fitzpatrick to Ben Pon at Spa. The latter was running a Porsche 911 with Gijs van Lennep. However Van Lennep injured his hand in a crash. Ben Pon and Van Lennep were supposed to team up at the Nurburgring 6H in a Porsche 911. So Ben Pon offered the seat to John Fitzpatrick.  The first race in a Porsche resulted in a 6th place, despite leading the race for a while.  One year later, Bill Bradley offers Fitzpatrick the wheel of a Porsche 910 to compete at the 6 hour race at Montjuich in Barcelona. They finished 2nd, but there was no room for celebration as they heard the news that that same weekend, Jim Clarck suffered a fatal crash in Hockenheim.

Kremer Brothers and GELO racing

Both the races at the Nurburgring and in Barcelona didn’t go unnoticed. Erwin Kremer, from the Kremer Brothers wants John Fitpatrick to race the 1972 Nurburgring 300km in a Porsche 911. There is no way Fitzpatrick can refuse this offer.  In the first heat, won by Gerard Larousse, Fitzpatrick manages up to 3rd spot after a disasterous start from pole. Better luck in the 2nd heat, won by Fitzpatrick. These results impressed the Kremer brothers who offer Fitzpatrick a contract for the entire GT Championship. Fiztpatrick wins 6 of the GT races in a Kremer Porsche and 3 class victories in the Nurburgring 1000Kms together with Erwin Kremer.  1972 was the first time John Fitzpatrick appears at the Le Mans 24 hours , in a Kremer Porsche too. That race was not a succes, and Fitzpatrick was even back in England before the race ended.

In 1973 Fitzpatrick races both for Kremer in a Porsche, as for Ford  since the race dates didn’t collapse. Later however, he was offered both a contract by BMW and Porsche. Offers John Fitzpatrick has to refuse because of his deal with Ford. Halfway 1973, Fitzpatrick leaves the Kremer Racing Team, and signs a contract with Gelo Racing for the 1974 season. April 1974 is the first race with Georg Loos in Monza. They finish the race 3rd. Despite begin successful, and leading the GT Championship and the Porsche Cup, John Fitzpatrick is not very happy in the GELO racing team. Reason was the  strange behavior that Georg Loos was known for. Fitzpatrick decides to leave mid-season. After a small sabatical because of a small surgery, Fitzpatrick rejoins the Kremer Racing Team for a short time.

Kremer Racing , 3rd car is main competitor Gelo racing

A disagreement with the Kremer brothers makes him move to Georg Loos again, who welcomes him with open arms. The rest of the season and in 1975 too, Fitzpatrick races for the Gelo Racing Team in Porsches. There are a few sidesteps like the Spa 1000Km which he competes in a Ford Capri. In 1977, the relationship with the Kremers is flattened as they offer Fitzpatrick a seat in the new Porsche 935 whom he would drive together with Bob Wollek. At the first race in Mugello, while in 2nd position, Fitzpatrick is ran off the track by  Jürgen Barth who just had the brakes of his works Porsche 935 replaced.  With a repaired car, Bob Wollek and John Fitzpatrick finish 2nd in the next race in Silverstone.

Scrutineering the car at Le Mans

Georg Loos enteres 3 new Porsche 935s in the 1978 season and rehires Fitzpatrick. The seaon starts with a victory in the Mugello 1000kms. In the Watkins Glen 6H, John Fitzpatrick shares the wheel with Toine Hezemans and Peter Gregg. A minor incident in the pits made the drivers door of the car come off. The mechanics fixed it with duct tape. However, the repair only lasted for a few laps and the rest of the races Fitpatrick drove the Gelo Porsche 935 and took checkered flag without a drivers door. In 1979 Fitzpatrck spends another year racing for the Gelo racing team. Than he think’s it is about time to look for a new horizon.

Dick Barbour Racing

Dick Barbour – John Fitzpatrick (C) Kurt Oblinger

Dick Barbour, who scored a 2nd place at the 1979 Le Mans 24 hours with Rolf Stommelen and Paul Newman, offered Fitzpatrick a longterm deal. After good thinking, Fitzpatrick takes the plunge and moves to La Jolla near San Diego (California).  Dick Barbour had a Porsche 935 K3 delivered straight to Daytona, for the maiden race at the 1980 Daytona 24 hours A race, . Fitzpatrick won before in 1976 for the BMW team with Peter Gregg and Brian Redman. The team of Bob Garretson had the duty to prepare and maintain the car during the race. Manfred Schurti was the co-driver. He however tangled up with a back marker, and that meant the end of the race. Next race was the Sebring 12H, and main competitors were Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg of Brumos Porsche who however could not cope with the far more powerful Porsche 935 K3. Schurti and Fitpatrick win the race. In 1980, Fitzpatrick starts thinking about running his own team

John Fitzpatrick Racing

In 1981, John Fitzpatrck starts his own racing team. He buys a Porsche 935 K3 and prepares it for the 1st race  : the Daytona 24 hours. While Fitzpatrick was still looking for more budget to cover the complete IMSA season, he considered bringing a 2nd driver on board.  Jim Busby, who was sponsored, soon turned out to be the right man. The season did not start very good. Both in Daytona and in Sebring, the car broke down. Riverside was the only race that turned out to be real succesful that year. Fitzpatrick learns that running a team is different from just racing. At the moment he considers quiting because the wallet is running dry, an investor shows up and brings John Fitzpatrick Racing back in the game. Togehter with this new investor, who is only interested in Porsche they decide to buy the new Porsche 935 K4.

#79 John Fitzpatrick, David Hobbs, 24h LeMans 1982 (4th)

That  car however was not suited for fast tracks as Le Mans. And Fitzpatrick fellow investor wanted to run at Le Mans too. This resulted in buying a Porsche 935 K4 and a Joest Porsche 935, that was similar to the legendary Moby Dick and more suited for racing at Le Mans. In the USA John Fitzpatrick wins at Mid-Ohoi and Road America, teaming up with David Hobbs. At Brands-Hatch in the UK, Bob Wollek shared the wheel of the car and they finish 3rd after the faster Porsche 956. At the Daytona finale, Fitzpatrick and Wollek finish 2nd in the Joest Porsche 935.

John Fitzpatrick Racing -1981 Riverside (C) Kurt Oblinger

For the 1983 season, the John Fitzpatrick racing team acquires a customer Porsche 956 (chassis 956-102). As the 956 was not allowed for IMSA racing, the John Fitzpatrick Racing team would concentrate on European races with it. With the help of Norbert Singer, the car was prepared at the workshop in San Diego before being sent back to Europe for the races.  At the maiden race of the Porsche 956, it is beaten by a faster Bob Wollek in a Joest prepared Porsche 956. That same year, at the Riverside 6H, John Fitzpatrick racing entered 2 cars. The Porsche 935  K4 with David Hobbs and John Fitzpatrick at the wheel, and the Joest Porsche 935 driven by Rolf Stommelen and Derek Bell.  Both victory and disaster struck down on the team. Fitzpatrick and Hobbs won the race, Rolf Stommelen suffered his fatal crash.

For the 1983Le Mans 24H, John Fitzpatrick even enters 2 Porsche 956, after a sponsor deal initiated by Guy Edwards with US Tobacco Company that promoted the SKOAL brand.  After Fitzpatricks car breaks down in the night with a fuel system problem, he switches to the Skoal Porsche 956 and continues the race together with Guy Edwards and Rupert Keegan. They finished the race in 5th position.  Fitzpatrick takes 2 more checkered flags in the 1983 season, in Road America and Brands Hatch. After the last race of the seaon in Mugello, Fitzpatrick decides to throw the towel for his active racing career. The fatal crash of his good friend Rolf Stommelen, the stress for running a team with both race activites on both sides of the Atlantic, and the financial worries were to stressful.

John Fitzpatrick – Porsche 956 – Spa

John Fitzpatrick runs the John Fitzpatrick Racing team for another 3 years, mainly concentrating on the European races. Fitzpatrick and his wife and children return to Europe, as their co-investor and co-owner of the racing team was fraudulent and ended up in jail. In the 1984 season the team races 3 Porsche 956, 2 of them sponsored by the SKOAL brand. Drivers are David Hobbs, Rupert Keegan, Thierry Boutsen and Guy Edwards. Main competitors are the Rothmans Porsche works cars , the Kremer racing team and Brunn. Main succes that year is for Thierry Boutsen  at the Norisring with a victory. At the 1000Km Nurburgring Boutsen and Davi Hobbs climb the 2nd step of the podium.  The racing team continues in the 985 and 1986 season for a limited number of races but without too many succes.

1983 Brands Hatch – John Fitzpatrick – Derek Warwick in the Porsche 956 (Chassis 956-110)

After the race career

John Fitzpatrick and his family moved back to Europe after leaving the San Diego area. As they were used to the warm weather in California, they preferred living in Spain over England. And that’s where the Fitzpatrick family still resides, in their villa in Sotogrande.  Every once and a while John Fitzpatrick shows up at a race track for some fun laps. Most of his time he spends with his family, and enjoys playing golf.

Pictures courtesy Kurt Oblinger and unknown