Racing Safety with John Fitch
John Fitch Collectibles  
Full Driver Capsule  
Basic Driver Capsule  
Compression Barrier  
Displaceable Guardrail  
Fitch Barrier  
John Fitch Biography  
Press Center  
Related Links  
Race Legends
Motorsport Celebrity Agency
John Fitch to Drive 2002 Mille Miglia
Mercedes Veteran to Recreate His Route of 1955

Lime Rock, CT - May 6, 2002 -- John Fitch will again drive the Mille Miglia, in 2002, May 2 - 6, with car owner and co-driver Bob Sirna, in a Mercedes-Benz 300SL. It will be 47 years since the drive reputed to be his greatest. In 1955 Fitch took a production Mercedes-Benz 300SL to a 5th place overall, ahead of numerous sports racing cars in the prototype class. A full biography of Mr. Fitch can be found on the Web site.

Fitch drove the original Thousand Mile Race twice - the first time was in 1953 at the wheel of a Nash Healey that eventually went out with mechanical ailments. Engaged to drive by Donald Healey, he practiced the long course with ex-world champion Nino Farina. The prototype car arrived only 3 days before the start. It was untested, unproven and unreliable. The event began with a carburetor fire on the starting ramp, and was punctuated with a whining differential and a broken brake line at the 150-mile mark. Time taken for repairs put the car out of contention.

The second year that he drove the Mille Miglia, 1955, he was also scheduled to drive at LeMans before the big crash. He did drive the Italian GP, Tourist Trophy and the Targa Florio. The 37-year-old ex-fighter pilot was the only American driver in the largest field to start the Mille Miglia - 533 cars. He finished the 1000 mile race in only 11 hours.

While several Ferraris (121LM, 118LMs, Monza, Mondial, 375MM), Maserati A6CGS, Porsche Spyder, and Aston Martin DB3S were entered, these were sports racing cars in a different class than the one Fitch was contesting. His closest rival, in fact, was teammate Olivier Gendebien, driving an identical car. Friends among the Mercedes mechanics would pass slips of paper to Fitch with the position of Gendebien - at Florence, Italy, the American was a minute behind. Late in the race, Fitch's car lost 1000 rpms and its top speed went down to 130 mph. But he was determined to finish first in the GT class. With a major effort and a lot of risk-taking on the dangerous mountain roads of Italy, terrifying his co-driver, Fitch made up the time and held onto his lead.

John Fitch's greatest drive was overshadowed at the time by the magnificent performance of Englishman Stirling Moss, who won overall in Mercedes - 300SLR racing model, with a time of 10 hours and 7 minutes. Fitch's time, however, had equaled the winning time of the 1954 Mille Miglia, in which Alberto Ascari had posted an average speed of 86 mph in the fantastic Lancia D24.

This year's will be the second Mille Miglia revival for Fitch, the first having been 1988 when he co-drove a Cunningham C-4R with Bob Williams. To be sure, finishing position does not count for as much in the new rally version, but some of the same old magic is there: the ritual touching of cars at speed, holding 140 mph at night in the rain, and passing four cars abreast in the wide sections of the road.

There's a certain symmetry about doing the best drive of one's life at age 37 and then coming back for another great drive on the same roads in the same kind of car when you're 84 years old. John Fitch is doing it now. For additional information on the adventurous life of John Fitch, go to the Web site.

John Fitch
(860) 435-2006
433 Salmon Kill RD
Lime Rock, CT 06039
Carl Goodwin
221 W.5th St. Box D
Palisade, CO 81526

Donn Gurney
(608) 237-1922
Race Legends, Inc.
5410 Highway 73
Marshall, WI 53559-9679

Copyright ©2016 by Race Safety, Inc. Portions copyright John Fitch. All Rights Reserved.