John Fitz­patrick

Back in 1972, en route to pick­ing up an early pro­duc­tion BMW 3.0 CSL, John re­ceived an of­fer that he had to refuse – much to his cha­grin

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents -

re­mem­bers the BMW op­por­tu­nity that got away – fast

The BMW 3.0 CSL has al­ways been one of my favourite road cars and I was as­ton­ished to see a pris­tine model for sale at £200k re­cently. I was for­tu­nate enough to have one of the first left-hand-drive mod­els to be de­liv­ered. The CSL han­dled beau­ti­fully on the road and on the track, well ahead of its com­pe­ti­tion.

In 1972 I won the 6hr Tour­ing Car race at the Nür­bur­gring driv­ing a Sch­nitzer 2.8CS with Rolf Stom­molen, and I just loved the car. If a car han­dles well at the ’Ring it will han­dle well any­where. When the CSL was an­nounced later that year I knew I had to have one. Through var­i­ous con­tacts I was able to se­cure an early pro­duc­tion model, which I planned on pick­ing up from Mu­nich on Zoll plates. On the way there I stopped off in Cologne to see Michael Krane­fuss, who’d taken over from Jochen Neer­pasch as com­pe­ti­tion man­ager at Ford Ger­many af­ter Jochen moved to BMW. Stu­art Turner had sug­gested to Krane­fuss that he take Gerry Bir­rell and my­self on to drive the RS2600 Capris in 1973.

Gerry and I signed very good con­tracts, along with Jochen Mass and Di­eter Glemser. It was a lot more money than Gerry or I had earned be­fore, so I set off for Mu­nich feel­ing very pleased with my­self.

On ar­rival at BMW the re­cep­tion­ist told me that Jochen Neer­pasch would like me to pop into his of­fice to say hello. I was a bit wary of meet­ing him again be­cause I’d had a few cross words with him at the end of the 1971 sea­son when I was driv­ing the BDA Es­cort for him at Ford.

The Capris had been set to tri­umph in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship but needed to win the last race of the year at Jarama to be cer­tain to beat Alfa Romeo. Jochen Mass and I had led the four-hour race ahead of the Capris for about three hours and I was due to take over from Jochen for the last hour. Neer­pasch had told me to slow down and let the Capris win. There had been re­li­a­bil­ity prob­lems with the Es­cort at most races and a win at Jarama would have made up for a lot. I made it clear to Neer­pasch that I was un­happy with this, al­though ul­ti­mately the Capris had a prob­lem and Mass and I went on to win.

I put on a brave face and went up to his of­fice. He gave me a very warm welcome, of­fer­ing me a con­tract for 1973 at twice the salary Ford was pay­ing. Need­less to say, I was a bit miffed at the missed op­por­tu­nity – even more so when the Capris turned out to be al­most un­drive­able, while the CSLS had their rear wings ho­molo­gated and dis­ap­peared even fur­ther into the dis­tance. Chris Amon got the drive in­stead.

How­ever, on the way home to the UK the CSL was magic. A won­der­ful ex­haust note, great per­for­mance and han­dling, and as much fun as the RS Car­rera that I ac­quired later in the year. It cer­tainly was a head­turner and my friends were very en­vi­ous. I did even­tu­ally get to race the CSLS, with wins at Day­tona and Sil­ver­stone in 1976 and at Mugello in 1977. A truly great car that I wish I still owned to­day.

In 1972, John trav­elled to BMW in Mu­nich to pick up one of the ear­li­est CSLS made

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.

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