John Fitch Remembers Briggs Cunningham (1907-2003)
Briggs Cunningham, Americas Cup champion and well-know auto racer and team owner dies at age 96.
Lime Rock, CT - July 9, 2003 -- Briggs Cunningham, my boss, companion, mentor and, most of all, my friend, has passed on and, even though his last years were pretty much spent apart from all of us, the world seems just a bit emptier today. I dont need to belabor his life and careers - those statistics of his various endeavors will be found elsewhere as the world pauses a moment to consider just who he was. I would rather think of our times together, stretching back to the very early days of postwar motor racing in this country, our great campaigns with the cars that bore his name so proudly, the long talks, the common pursuit of speed and all the other things that characterized our times together.
|Briggs Swift Cunningham, jr. at the start of the 1952 Watkins Glen Gand Prix. (Photo: William Green Motor Library)
People dont talk about the Cunningham racing efforts so much these days there are only a couple of us left who were closely involved in those years and there has been a lot of great racing over the intervening years. However, it was Briggs Cunningham who wanted to bring America to the front of road racing and he wanted to do it in an American designed car, built and campaigned by American engineers and mechanics and driven by American drivers. That goal doesnt seem to be so difficult looking back at the big efforts by Ford and Corvette but Briggs did this all before the American automotive giants had much interest in the sport and he did it pretty darned good.
I was part of that time, raced the big Cunninghams on a variety of circuits from Watkins Glen to Road America to Le Mans and enjoyed every moment of it all. Looking back, of course, it doesnt seem quite so important now in the large scheme of things but, at the time, we were a dedicated bunch, marshaled together by a great leader and we didnt do too badly. Of course, that leader was, in so many ways, bigger than life and his stature in the sport was paralleled by only a few people mostly gone now. Briggs passing brings to a close a very special chapter in my life and, Im sure, for many others as well.
I have a vision of Briggs up somewhere in the clouds, where he and his old competitors meet each day to fire up the cars and race each other lap after lap. Enzo Ferrari is there, Rob Walker and now Briggs Cunningham. Ill put my money on the white cars with the blue stripes. Briggs has just been biding his time on this earth waiting for one more run against the best.
Drive fast, old friend, its the only way you ever knew how to do it!
- John Fitch
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