John Fitzpatrick

John re­calls the time when you could dump a Capri RS2600 out­side an air­port with its engine run­ning and no­body would steal or ‘neu­tralise’ it

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents -

re­calls ter­ror­is­ing Bri­tish pub­lic roads in a Ford Capri RS2600

In 1971 Martin Hone was busy try­ing to pro­mote a Birm­ing­ham Grand Prix. It took him and oth­ers 15 years to con­vince the au­thor­i­ties that it was a work­able project and would bring pub­lic­ity to the city. His plan was to use the new in­ner ring road and he asked if I could find a suit­able open­top car to drive around the pro­posed cir­cuit with a lo­cal ATV cam­era man.

Back then I was driv­ing for Ford Cologne and my loan car was an RS2600 Capri. Ford had pro­duced a lim­ited run of highly mod­i­fied Capris to ho­molo­gate for Group 2 rac­ing with the 2.6-litre V6 pro­duc­ing well over 250bhp, stiff­ened sus­pen­sion and light­weight door and body pan­els. It was a rocket ship and Ger­man-reg­is­tered, which saved me a few speed­ing tick­ets after ad­dress­ing Bri­tish po­lice in my best Ger­man. ‘Guten Tag of­fi­cer. Was ist los?’

The week­end after Martin’s call I bumped into Alan Edis, a good friend from Birm­ing­ham and a mo­tor rac­ing en­thu­si­ast in­volved with Jim White­house’s Ar­den Mini Team. He also hap­pened to be di­rec­tor of prod­uct plan­ning for Bri­tish Ley­land and was con­tem­plat­ing a high per­for­mance ver­sion of one of its road cars. He was fas­ci­nated by my RS Capri and asked if he could bor­row it for a few days. He of­fered me a Tri­umph Stag in re­turn. Although not a very ex­cit­ing prospect, it did oc­cur to me that the open top Stag would be ideal for tak­ing the cam­era­man around the pro­posed Birm­ing­ham cir­cuit.

We did the swap and early on Sun­day morn­ing I drove around the cir­cuit with the cam­era­man on the back, with Martin hold­ing on to him for dear life. Well, he did say he wanted to drive around quickly and who was I to ar­gue? I met with Alan a few days later and he was very im­pressed with the Capri. No doubt the ex­per­i­men­tal de­part­ment had been crawl­ing all over it. I can’t say I was too im­pressed with the Stag but they tell me a con­cours con­di­tion one is worth about £35,000 these days.

The Capri could hardly be called a clas­sic but it was an amaz­ing road car. I had driven it to a race in Zand­voort one week­end and had in­tended to leave it with my good friend To­nio Hilde­brand in Am­s­ter­dam while I flew back to Birm­ing­ham. After the race I was in a big hurry to get to Schiphol to catch a BEA flight and told To­nio I would park the car near the ter­mi­nal for him to col­lect. I ar­rived with min­utes to spare, parked in front of the ter­mi­nal and dashed in­side to check in, leav­ing the engine run­ning and boot open, in­tend­ing to come straight back and take it to the car park.

I was told I had a few min­utes to make the plane. I set off in a panic and it wasn’t un­til I was on it that I re­mem­bered the Capri. I ex­plained things to a BEA per­son and gave them To­nio’s phone num­ber. Later that evening I called him and asked what had hap­pened. He’d made it to the air­port about two hours later. The Capri was still sit­ting out­side the ter­mi­nal, engine run­ning and boot open. I didn’t men­tion the in­ci­dent to Ford team man­ager Jochen Neer­pasch. John Fitzpatrick be­gan his rac­ing ca­reer in the Bri­tish Saloon Car Cham­pi­onship, win­ning it in 1966. He was Euro­pean GT Cham­pion in 1972 and 1974, and be­came a team owner in 1981.

John (fur­thest right) with his Capri RS2600 and the rest of the 1971 team (left to right): Jochen Neer­pasch, Jochen Mass, Di­eter Glemser, Alex Soler-roig and Hel­mut Marko

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