John Fitzpatrick Group C Porsches – The Definitive History
There seem to be a number of books entering the market right now on Porsche’s motor racing history. This is not a bad thing, because there is so much to explore about these fantastic and iconic race cars. The challenge, though, is to find an angle that hasn’t been covered yet. Author Mark Cole, together with ex-racer and team manager John Fitzpatrick, have done just that. In the 1980s, the John Fitzpatrick Group C Porsches, under the name of John Fitzpatrick Racing, ranked as one of the finest private Group C race teams of the decade. This is the story of John’s racing career, and subsequent move into the position of team owner and manager.
John Fitzpatrick is an interesting and easy-going person to talk to. So often these days, racing drivers have little time for the media, but not so John, as I have found out over the years during my numerous interviews and phone calls with him. As a youngster, John was determined to enter the world of golf as a professional, but an injury-ending fall from a tree put paid to that plan, and so he went racing instead. At least on the subject of golf, John and I had a lot of stories to share with each other, as this writer was faced with a similar career choice as a teenager. As a result of this, and his calm and relaxed nature, John and I sat talking casually for the best part of one and a half to two hours at the Rennsport Collective exhibition at Donington Hall.
John’s racing career began in Minis, progressing to Broadspeed Anglias and then Escorts. This experience, along with an indecent haul of trophies, prepared him for a career in the sport which in those early days included Ferrari and Porsche. John then drove BMW and Ford Capris but his attention had been grabbed by the Porsches of the Kremer Brothers and Gelo Racing. As a thoroughbred racing driver, he continued to pilot a number of different products, winning the 1976 Daytona 24 Hours with Peter Gregg/Brian Redman in a BMW 3.5 CSL. But it was to the Porsche brand that he later returned, which is where he would stay until the end of his career.
In 1977 Fitzpatrick graduated from the Carrera RSR to the mighty Porsche 935 in 1978, but it was with the 935 K3 in 1979 that he made his mark, a trend that he continued through 1980, 1981 and 1982. In 1981, taking the bull by the horns, John Fitzpatrick Racing (JFR) was formed. When Porsche released the 956 for sale to the private customer teams in 1983, Fitzpatrick was amongst the first to acquire one. Undoubtedly one of JFR’s proudest moments came when his team beat the works cars to win the 1983 Brands Hatch 1000 Kms. In 1984 he acquired a second 956, that car earning John Fitzpatrick Racing a third place finish at Le Mans, a mighty proud moment for the privateer team. Many podiums followed for JFR right up until 1985, and in 1986 Fitzpatrick sold his JFR team, choosing to retire to his home in Spain to enjoy the weather and the golf.
The author, Mark Cole, is eminently qualified to record the extraordinary career of John Fitzpatrick, having attended many of his races around the world in period. He worked in both the television and print media industries, and was at the forefront in writing motor racing scripts for the various TV programmes. In short, Cole was the perfect man for the job, having seen John Fitzpatrick’s and JFR’s racing exploits first hand in period. As a result, he has used to his advantage, his first-hand experience in sculpting this well-written historical account of a racing driver and his team. The rich text is peppered with quotes from the day, by John Fitzpatrick and many other racing drivers, and with the author’s strong journalistic background in covering motor racing all over the globe, this is an interesting and in places amusing record, of a period in racing that is unlikely to ever be repeated. While the racing during this period was subject to the usual regulations, it was devoid of all the additional and unnecessary performance balancing penalties meted out by the authorities today. As a result, the racing was exciting making the spectators the undisputed winners in all of this.
One of the challenges facing authors today when producing a book of this nature, is to find a sufficient quantity of previously unused or at least little used photographs, with which to illustrate the text. In this respect, the author has succeeded admirably, helped by John Fitzpatrick who has dug into his stash of family photos, ensuring a great spread of images of which some are unavoidably familiar, but many are previously unpublished.
The book is divided up into John’s early years in saloon car racing and his time as a professional with BMW, Ford and others, followed by a detailed description of the Group C years. That constitutes Part 1 of the book, while Part 2 covers the individual races, season-by-season and in great depth. Part 3 is dedicated to ‘Fitz’s Men’ which includes all the drivers who drove with Fitz prior to the formation of JFR, the JFR team drivers and those who ran the team. Part 4 is reserved for the driving force behind this book and the custodian of two of JFR’s Group C cars, Henry Pearman. Also included in this section, are chapters on the restoration of the 956 and 962, Martyn Konig the racing driver and Porsche enthusiast, and a chassis history of the cars that raced under the JFR banner. The car-by-car chassis history is a particularly interesting section, and a valuable source of information for those interested in the historical side of this story.
So, the question remains, is this book worthy of a place on your bookshelf? I can say quite confidently, that the quality and presentation of this publication is surpassed only by the value of the contents contained within. This book, bound in cloth and presented in a handsome and sturdy slip case, is an indispensable source of reference for the Group C cars raced by John Fitzpatrick Racing. The story is well told by an eye witness to the events on the day, making this an all-round excellent publication. The book is a hefty item, but considering the value of the history covering an unforgettable period in motor racing, this is one book you need to make space for on your bookshelf. There are only 750 copies available, so you had better get your order in smartly.
John Fitzpatrick Group C Porsches – The Definitive History