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Book Review: FITZ: My Life At The Wheel

By Steve Zautke

John Fitzpatrick isn’t a household name in American motorsports, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a major player. The affable Englishman came up through the tough and often dangerous ranks of racing in the 1960’s. His book, FITZ: My Life At The Wheel takes the reader on an interesting journey after 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. Later, returning to Broadspeed.

In next to no time, ‘Fitz’ is driving, battling, crashing and winning on the most famous racecourses in the world. Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Monza, the Nurburgring and more come to life with brilliant black & white and color photographs. ‘Fitz’ really puts you in the driver’s seat, in the paddock and even at the pub after the race.

His early aspiration was to become a professional golfer. However an unfortunate accident changed his life’s direction. With a promise from his father that if he didn’t smoke, or ride a motorcycle before his seventeenth birthday, he would buy him a car. He didn’t, and his father was true to his word. Thus, began his life towards auto racing.

This delightful book is filled with many rare racing photos that take you back to the world of English motor racing in the 1960’s, great paddock and racing action is predominantly featured. It’s a remarkable tour that includes many personal photos and reflections as he moves up through the ranks. At a race at Daytona in 1972 ‘Fitz’ 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.

‘Fitz’ also features photos of many of the priceless cars he drove, Ferrari 250LM, aforementioned Kremer Porsche 911ST, BMW CSL, Porsche 956, 962 and even a rare chance to drive the famous Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.

The extraordinary story of driving in the famous Monte Carlo Rally and sliding off a snowy mountain in an Austin 1800 is worth buying the book for.

Many times we’ve heard, ‘It’s the people that make racing fun.’ This book includes some of the most famous and interesting in motorsports. Derek Bell, Jimmy Clark, Howden Ganley, Frank Gardner, Jochen Mass, Brian Redman, Rolf Stommelen, Ken Terrell, Tom Walkinshaw, Bob Wollek just to name a few.

I totally agree with tail-end of David Hobbs’ forward in which he advises the reader, ‘you regale with some delicious insights and into our happy times together as well as with many other stories. Told in in his own inimitable style, his book will be a rollicking good read.’

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.

Available for $59.00 at: https://www.autosportsltd.com/shop/books/fitz-my-life-at-the-wheeljohn-fitzpatrick/

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Steve Zautke, a Milwaukee, WI native, was raised in the sport of auto racing. His father, Bill, was a movie photographer that shot racing footage at tracks such as the Milwaukee Mile and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the 1960’s and 1970’s Steve’s first professional job in racing was as an Emergency Medical Technician at tracks such as Angell Park and Hales Corners Speedway (1988-1991). Steve has also worked for the Milwaukee Mile as videographer, in media relations and historian (1993-2011). Steve also has worked as a reporter for Racing Information Systems (RIS) and has written features for ‘Vintage Oval Racing’ and ‘Victory Lane’ magazines. Most recently, Steve has written a book on Road America for Arcadia Publishing. ( http://www.amazon.com/Road-America-Nascar-Library-Collection/dp/1467111457 ) Steve co-hosts “Sparky’s Final Inspection” a motorsports-based radio show with hosts, Steve “Sparky” Fifer and “NASCAR Girl” Summer Santana on Sports Radio 1250AM in Milwaukee and is also available on the internet at www.Sportradio1250.com. A member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Induction Committee, Steve follows all types of racing from the dirt tracks to Formula One.