John Fitz­patrick on the times when mod­ern and clas­sic rac­ing col­lide – in a Lis­ter

John came in for some good-na­tured rag­ging af­ter demon­strat­ing a rather ebul­lient rac­ing style at Sil­ver­stone – and in some­one else’s clas­sic too

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents - 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.

As I’ve men­tioned pre­vi­ously, I have owned sev­eral cars that have be­come clas­sics and af­ter sell­ing them have watched as their value in­creased to a level at which I could never af­ford to buy them back. But thanks to the Good­wood Re­vival and Sil­ver­stone Clas­sic, I have been in­vited to drive many real clas­sics that would nor­mally fall well be­yond my means. My first ven­ture into his­toric rac­ing was when David Pen­nell in­vited me to drive his Lis­ter-jaguar in a sup­port race at the Span­ish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

This was in the late Nineties, about 15 years af­ter I had re­tired from mod­ern rac­ing, and it was all a bit new to me. I had driven very few open-top cars and stick­ing my head up above the body­work to be buf­feted around by the wind made it all a bit dif­fer­ent. I soon got used to it though, putting the Lis­ter on the front row of the grid along­side a Maserati Bird­cage and a Jaguar D-type. It was great fun and the tail­happy, over­steer­ing Lis­ter kept me busy and amused un­til I fin­ished in third place, which was where I had started.

As a re­sult David asked me to drive again and I started to en­joy the Lis­ter and get the hang of it, un­til one race at Sil­ver­stone when I got rather too high-spir­ited. I was well back on the grid af­ter a prob­lem in prac­tice and it was rain­ing at the start. I al­ways en­joyed rac­ing in the wet and saw this as a great op­por­tu­nity to work my way through the field to chase af­ter Frank Syt­ner and Gary Pear­son, who usu­ally won th­ese his­toric sports car events.

I got a bit over-en­thu­si­as­tic on the first cou­ple of laps and made con­tact with some com­peti­tors’ cars while mak­ing my way im­pa­tiently through the field. Noth­ing se­ri­ous, but the clerk of the course was not im­pressed. Just as I was clos­ing in on the lead­ers, I crossed the start/fin­ish line to be faced with a fu­ri­ously wav­ing black flag ac­com­pa­nied by my start num­ber. I pulled into the pits and suc­cumbed to a se­vere telling off from the clerk – I knew him quite well and he had a smirk on his face while he was scold­ing me. I looked suit­ably re­pen­tant and was al­lowed on my way, but David never in­vited me to drive again. I can’t say I blame him.

De­spite this, over the next few years I was in­vited to drive a great va­ri­ety of clas­sics in­clud­ing Fer­raris, Corvettes, Lo­tus 15s, GT40S, Ford Galax­ies and Austin A95s. I will al­ways be grate­ful to the own­ers of th­ese cars for not only trust­ing me with them but giv­ing me the op­por­tu­nity to drive cars I had never sat in be­fore.

My two favourites would have to be Lord (Irvine) Laid­law’s Porsche 904, which we shared at the Nür­bur­gring and Spa, and Marc De­vis’s Fer­rari 250GT SWB in my last race at the Good­wood Re­vival. The SWB was not the fastest Fer­rari I have driven but it han­dled beau­ti­fully and, even wear­ing ear plugs, the note from the V12 was fan­tas­tic. A good way to bow out – and I didn’t hit any­one ei­ther.

Crash, bang, wal­lop... Stonie’s car­toon of the day when John’s en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ing earned him a wig­ging from the clerk of the course

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