John Cooper Fitch

John Cooper Fitch
  • Surname
  • First name
    John Cooper
  • Date of birth
  • Date of death

Born not far from the famous race track in Indianapolis, Fitch came into contact with motorsport as a child through his stepfather George Spindler, president of the US car manufacturer Stutz and an active racing driver. Fitch took part in the Second World War in Europe as a successful fighter pilot, was himself shot down and experienced the end of the war injured as a German prisoner of war.

After his return to the USA, he opened a dealership for MG sports cars in White Plains/New York in 1948 and subsequently built his own racing car, with which he achieved ten class victories and six overall victories after his full recovery in 1951. It was during this time that he came to the attention of the racing-mad US millionaire Briggs Cunningham, who had him compete for his racing team in various national and international events in 1952.

Among them was the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Fitch's talent first caught the eye of race director Alfred Neubauer. Two months later, on the day after the Nürburgring Jubilee Grand Prix for sports cars, in which Fitch finished fourth in his class in a Porsche 356, he completed a few test laps in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL on 4 August 1952 at Neubauer's invitation. The American offered a convincing performance and was signed as a works driver for the Carrera Panamericana taking place in November. During the 6th stage of the Mexican road race, he was taken out of the classification in his 300 SL (W 194) due to a rule violation.

Three years later, Fitch was also under contract as a reserve driver for the Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 team and took victory in the GT class at the Mille Miglia together with journalist Kurt Gessl as co-driver in a dark grey 300 SL series sports car (W 198) with start number 417. With his overall time of 11:29:21 h, the American also occupied an impressive fifth place in the overall classification.

After Mercedes-Benz withdrew from motorsport, Fitch joined Chevrolet as a driver and team manager, where he subsequently also became a designer and developer. Along the way, he invented ingenious safety precautions for motorsport and road traffic.

In 1960, together with Briggs Cunningham, he again took part in Le Mans and finished eighth. At the age of 48, Fitch contested his last race at Sebring, ending a motorsport career that spanned more than 18 years. At this time, he was already the director of the newly built race track at Lime Rock Park in the US state of Connecticut. He remained closely connected to his sport, both actively and passively, into old age.