John Fitz­patrick on driv­ing an 850bhp Porsche at Good­wood

John’s been floor­ing an awe­some Le Mans racer at Good­wood and rekin­dling his re­spect for own­ers who com­pete in their prized clas­sics to the limit

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Iam writ­ing this after spend­ing the week­end at the Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed and while pre­par­ing for the Sil­ver­stone Clas­sic, two amaz­ing events un­sur­passed in the clas­sic car world. At Good­wood I was in­vited to drive the 1978 Porsche 935 ‘Moby Dick’ Le Mans car – a car built specif­i­cally for the 24-hour race and de­signed with top speed down the Mul­sanne Straight in mind, years be­fore the chi­canes were in­tro­duced.

It was pow­ered by an 850bhp twin-cam, which is still in the car 40 years later. In 1978 it qual­i­fied 16 sec­onds a lap faster than the quick­est cus­tomer 935, which I was driv­ing for Ge­org Loos. The Moby Dick com­peted in only four races and was then consigned to Porsche’s mu­seum.

I was at Good­wood to demon­strate the car to rac­ing fans, so I drove it very cir­cum­spectly up the hill. How­ever, I couldn’t re­sist floor­ing the throt­tle on the straight bits and en­joy­ing that punch in the back plus the glo­ri­ous sound of the six-cylin­der 3.2-litre mo­tor. It may have been 35 years since I drove a 935 in anger, but it felt like yes­ter­day.

When I was run­ning my own team in 1982 the Porsche 956 Group C car was an­nounced and the fac­tory en­tered three cars for Le Mans. The 956 was not avail­able to pri­vate en­trants un­til 1983, so for ’82 I com­mis­sioned Rein­hold Joest to build a 935 us­ing the Moby Dick fac­tory draw­ings. We used the same alu­minum tube frame and body­work but with a 750bhp 3.2-litre 935 mo­tor. We lost out on speed down the Mul­sanne but fin­ished a cred­itable fourth be­hind the three Roth­mansspon­sored 956s. Our car also com­peted in only four races and was de­stroyed at River­side, where we lost our great friend Rolf Stom­me­len. Out of re­spect for Rolf we de­cided not to re­build it.

I ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated the Sil­ver­stone Clas­sic, which this year fea­tured 60 years of the British Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship. My first BTCC race was for the Cooper Car Com­pany in the works Mini Cooper, and the Sil­ver­stone or­gan­is­ers lo­cated a Mini for me to drive in this year’s parade.

The Clas­sic is very spe­cial to me be­cause it was one of my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as BRDC sec­re­tary. Stu­art Gra­ham put the event (then called the His­toric Fes­ti­val) on the map in 1990 and I took it on when I be­came sec­re­tary in 1993.

I got to know many of the own­ers and was gen­uinely sur­prised at how hard and com­pet­i­tively they raced. Most cars com­pet­ing there are far more valu­able than any of the su­per­cars on sale to­day, yet they are driven on their limit. I found this out when I was of­fered a drive in some very ex­otic ma­chines, as I dis­closed last month.

In­ci­den­tally, I first raced a Mini in 1962 – it was my 850cc road car that I drove to and from the tracks. It was the only car I both owned and raced un­til start­ing my own team in 1981. That meant nearly 20 years of driv­ing other peo­ple’s cars at their ex­pense and get­ting paid for it. Happy days!

John’s been pleas­ing the crowd driv­ing the Porsche 935 Moby Dick at the Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed

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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