A Birthday Salute to One of the First Corvette Hot Shoe Drivers, John Fitch
Racing and Corvettes are completely inseparable. John Fitch was already a hot shoe when Zora Arkus-Duntov hired him to drive one of the three specially prepared ‘56 265-CID Corvettes for a speed record run on the sands of Daytona Beach, Florida in January 1956. Were it not for those exciting early racing experiences, the tone and attitude of the Corvette would have been closer to a passenger car rather than a scrapper race car. And John Fitch was part of the first wave of Corvette drivers.
After serving in WW II as a fighter pilot, Fitch got his degree in engineering and went to postwar Europe to race sports cars. Fitch was one of the first American engineer/drivers that set the template for future engineer/drivers, such as Mark Donohue and others. A thorough understanding of how things mechanically function has proven to be an incalculable asset to a successful racing enterprise.
Before driving for Chevrolet, Fitch won the very first SCCA national championship and was the only American to drive for the Mercedes-Benz factory team. In 1957 Fitch was hired by Chevrolet to prepare and manage a team of stock and semi-modified Corvettes for competition. That same year, Duntov literally put Fitch’s feet to the fire driving the obscenely hot (temperature wise) SS Corvette.
Besides racing Corvettes, John won the 1951 Argentine Grand Prix, the 1955 Mille Miglia production class, and John competed at Le Mans six times, finishing as high as 3rd place. He was the first general manager at Lime Rock Park race track, developed the yellow “Fitch Barriers” crash barrels, and started the first advanced driving school. Being an innovator must have been in Fitch’s DNA, as his ancestor, also named John Fitch, was a clock maker, silversmith, and built the first functioning steamboat in 1787. Continue reading “Corvette Timeline Tales: Happy 94th Birthday, John Fitch!”