Read the Press Release: FITZ introduction at Goodwood Revival
For a time John Fitzpatrick had aspirations to become a professional golfer, having won numerous junior championships, but after falling from a tree he was climbing with some friends and breaking both his wrists his golf game was never the same. What to do now?
His father promised John that if he didn’t smoke or ride a motorcycle before his 17th birthday he would buy him a car. John did neither and when that day arrived his father was true to his word, rewarding his son with a new Mini.
In 1962 John began competing in and winning local events in the car, and a chance meeting with Ralph Broad of Broadspeed fame proved to be a turning point his life. He was first hired by Broad to drive for his team in a Mini, then the Cooper Car Company. Returning to Broadspeed, he found himself competing behind the wheel of Ford Anglias and then Ford Escorts.
At a race at Daytona in 1972 John met Erwin Kremer, a German team owner from Cologne, who hired him to drive his 911 in European events. His many victories that year resulted in his winning both the European GT Championship and the Porsche Cup.
While competing in Porsche RSRs for both the Kremer and Georg Loos teams, he raced Ford Capris and BMW CSLs. From 1977 to 1982 he drove multiple versions of the potent turbocharged Porsche 935 for the Barbour, Kremer and Loos teams, winning the IMSA Championship in 1980 and the Porsche Cup for a third time. In 1983 he moved up to a Porsche 956, capping off his career that year by defeating the Rothman Porsche works team in the rain at Brands Hatch.
Illustrated with 128 black & white and 231 color photographs, and written in his own words, FITZ: My Life At The Wheel chronicles John’s twenty-two years competing on many of the most famous circuits in the world in some of the most iconic cars of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Any Porsche racing enthusiast knows the name John Fitzpatrick. His career covered 22 years racing on many of the most famous circuits in the world in some of the most iconic cars of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Yet he started out racing a mini in 1962, but in due time wound up in BMW CSLs, Ford Capris and soon enough, Porsche RSRs. In 1980 he became the IMSA GT Champion, racing for the Dick Barbour team driving Sachs-sponsored Porsche 935s. In winning 8 of 12 races he competed in, he was also awarded the coveted Porsche Cup. The behind-the-scenes stories told here are worth the price of the book and the photos tie the package together beautifully. – Vintage Motorsport
Custom dictates that the worthiest books often fail to attract the audience they deserve – and one suspects this might fall into just such a category. Biographies about vacuous celebrities sell in significant quantities (for 10 minutes or so, at least), even though the content has precious little substance. This, though, is an engaging tale of a racing life well lived – and during one of the sport’s most interesting periods, too.
It is a chronological look at the career of one of the UK’s most successful sports and saloon car drivers, the racing memories sprinkled with many incidental anecdotes – such as racer Toine Hezemans and entrant Georg Loos throwing each others’ watches against a wall, to see whether a Seiko was as resilient as a Rolex, the kind of thing that was fairly standard 30-odd years ago, yet would nowadays doubtless be dismissed as puerile or unprofessional.
It combines the factual and the amusing with the poignant, Fitzpatrick’s reflections of Rolf Stommelen’s final race – and its aftermath – serving as a powerful reminder of the era’s potential perils, yet the author came through it with nary a scratch. A worthwhile read. – MotorSport
Had sports-car ace John Fitzpatrick not fallen from a tree aged 16 and broken his wrists, this could have been a book about a golf pro. “Fitz” eventually switched to motorsport, and this highly entertaining and honest autobiography relates the highs and lows of his three-decade career as driver and team manager. From early Minis through to beating the works teams with Derek Warwick in a Porsche 956 at the 1983 Brands Hatch 1000 Km, Fitzpatrick covers a wealth of experiences. Ford training camps, the nightmare of sponsor Jerry David Dominelli and the loss of teammate Rolf Stommelen are just a few insightful sagas in this highly recommended book that features more than 350 dramatic images – Classic & Sports Car
Fitz went from English club racing in 1962 to winning in the top international races in Porsche 911s, RSRs, 935, 956 and 962s plus Capris and BMWs. This is the story of “Fitz” John Fitzpatrick’s life and racing career
This is the real deal. A very well told, detailed, insightful, insider story of racing, car setup, car development, testing, racing, winning, race politics, factory deals, negotiations and all that goes with a racing career from club level to winning international races. This included racing in England, Europe, U.S., and Australia.
The 1970s and early 1980s were hard fought for both FIA and IMSA titles. This is one of the best, most entertaining books on those racing times, extremely well illustrated as told by a very successful driver – Victory Lane
John Fitzpatrick started racing a Mini 850 and ended up in a Porsche 956B. In between he drove a variety of Ford Anglias, Escorts and Capris, the occasional Ferrari 250 LM, a couple of BMW 2800 CS and 3.0 CSL coupes, Porsches of 906, 910, 911S, Carrera RSR, 935, 935/78 and 956 specification and the Jaguar XJR12C, among others.
Of course, he won in most and now enjoys retirement from a racing career that lasted nearly a quarter-century and produced championships in the British Saloon Car Championship (1966), the European GT Championship (1972 and 1974), and IMSA’s Camel GT Championship (1980). There were also victories in numerous major races, including several class wins at Le Mans and overall triumphs in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Bathurst 1000.
This book chronicles that career, and is introduced by no less than three Forewords, penned by contemporaries Howden Ganley, David Hobbs and Tim Schenken. It moves on from those testimonials to tell the story of the vision and determination that brought Fitzpatrick his success. Liberally illustrated with photographs from his career and his life with his family, this is a worthy edition to any enthusiast’s library – Vintage Racecar
John Fitzpatrick needs little by way of an introduction. He learned his trade the hard way, by racing his own private road car, a Mini, in local races.
But we are getting ahead of the story a bit, because as a youngster, Fitz as he is known, was an aspiring golfer with his sights set on becoming a professional. However, life has a way of throwing a curved ball at our plans sometimes, and when he fell out of a tree and broke both wrists badly, he found his golfing plans shattered, literally.
A chance meeting with Ralph Broad when filling his Mini with fuel, resulted in Broad offering to tune his Mini properly! When Fitz called to collect the car three days later, the car had been transformed, and the proud owner put his modified Mini to the test, in fact many tests on the track. Several more Minis followed and then came an Austin 1800, a Ford Anglia and quite soon an offer came his way to drive a Ferrari 250 LM. A Porsche 911 and a Ford Escort was followed by drives in a works BMW and Ford Capri, all the while Fitz was racking up victories left, right and centre.
Fitz’s move into the world of Porsche really began with a chance meeting with Erwin Kremer while in the US. Fitz would eventually drive for the well-known Cologne team as well as their arch rivals from across town, the Georg Loos GELO team. These were the days of the supremacy of the 911 RSR, and Fitz exploited every opportunity he could in these fabulously successful cars. Fitz then returned to drive BMWs for a few years, and very successfully too, all of which is laid out very clearly in his record of achievements and results from 1962 to 1986, at the back of the book.
But the main subject of the book concerns John’s years behind the wheel of various Porsches, and although he had driven the RSR before with good results, the 935 years were really memorable. 1980 was a particularly successful year with the Dick Barbour team which saw Fitz winning the Porsche Cup, the third time he had lifted the coveted trophy. But the end of 1980 marked a new period in his life, as the 1981 season opened with a new name of the entry lists, John Fitzpatrick Racing. JFR started life with 935s as their weapon of choice in 1981 and 1982, with the 956 only being available to privateers in 1983.
At the end of the 1983 season, Fitz decided to hang up his helmet, and to concentrate on running the young JFR team. Fitz enjoyed the trappings of loyal sponsors such as JDavid, Skoal Bandit, American 100’s, Danone and Sachs amongst others. Towards the end of the 1986 season, Fitz was persuaded to sell his whole operation to the German racer and constructor Jochen Dauer.
Fitz retired to life in the sun at the family’s new home in Sotogrande in southern Spain. It is no surprise that golf became a fairly significant activity once again, but other small business interests also helped to keep Fitz on his toes.
As a motorsport journalist and author, I have had the pleasure of interviewing Fitz on numerous occasions over the phone, by email, and face-to-face at various Goodwood events and at Silverstone. I have only ever found him to be completely at ease with life, full of stories, and absolutely straight and honest. This same refreshing attitude is evident in the way in which he has written his autobiography, which is both honest and frank. When he had an issue with a team principal or a competitor, whether from his side or theirs, he has recorded that, warts and all, for the reader to digest.
Fitz – My Life at the Wheel, is one of those books that makes you smile, because of the down-to-earth style in which it has been written. A big vote of congratulations is due to Mr. Fitz, not just for an exemplary career, but also in the way he has recorded the years, the achievements, the tears and the happiness of his time in the sport we are all fascinated with. This is a book that you can read beside the fireplace, on the porch sipping a cocktail, or at bedtime. If you are a motorsport enthusiast, make sure this is a book that you buy and display on your bookshelf, it is a conversation starter! – Porsche Road & Race