Victory in September’s Brands Hatch 1,000km would be Fitzpatrick’s last – and most satisfying.
“I had driven powerful cars with wings but never with ground effect,” he says of the Group C 956. “I had practised a 917/10 for Loos at one of the German airfield circuits when [contracted Interserie] driver Tim Schenken was delayed. That had a 1,000bhp and was awesome.
“And the 956’s turbo lag was less than that of the 935’s, so that wasn’t a problem. It was the g forces.
“When we got our 956 we took it straight to Riverside; [Porsche’s chief engineer] Norbert Singer had flown over to stay with us for a few days to help me learn the car. But after 10 laps in a row I couldn’t hold my head up. I had to work like hell on my neck muscles.
“The key to Brands – where we beat the Rothmans works cars fair and square – was how quick [co-driver] Derek Warwick was in the rain at the start of the race. He won that race for us. No question. He pulled out a lead so massive that only a complete idiot would have lost it.
“And I drove better than I ever had. Derek inspired me.”
Had the unassuming Fitzpatrick won Le Mans he would have become a household name: “That’s my biggest regret. I never had the luck. I was on pole in 1980 in Dick Barbour’s 935 and basically we led until we got a misfire in the early morning. That was my best chance.
“Again, I’m not complaining. I’m proud to be known as a Porsche guy.”
Photography courtesy of LAT