In The News

Former racing driver John Fitch passes away

Former racing driver John Fitch passes away

THE former racing driver John Fitch, who competed on both sides of the Atlantic, has passed away. He was 95.

Mr. Fitch had been a fighter pilot in the Second World War whose love for speed and excitement led him to turn to racing cars in his native America.

He became one of the sport’s leading drivers in the 1950s and 60s, racing in Corvettes and Mercedes Benz. While with Mercedes his teammates included Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio.

In 1955 he won the GT production car division at the Mille Miglia at the wheel of a Mercedes Benz 300 SL. But within weeks the sport’s worst accident was to take place.

The disaster happened at the 24 hour Le Mans event where Mr. Fitch was paired with Mercedes teammate Pierre Levegh. But the Frenchman lost control of the car and died along with more than 80 spectators. More than 100 people were also injured in the crash (see below).

The disaster was to have a lasting effect on Mr. Fitch who began to look at ways of making race tracks safer. He was to spend years developing crash barrier systems which are now widely used in racing and on public roads.

His designs include the safety system, widely used in the United States, which uses water or sand-filled barrels to provide a highly effective crash barrier.

This system is believed to have helped save hundreds of lives over the years.

To view an interview in which Mr. Fitch talks about the Le Mans disaster, click here.

To view an excerpt from another interview with Mr. Fitch, click here.

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