Indiana News

Racing Legend John Fitch Dead at 95

10/31/2012


(photo courtesy RaceSafety.com)

Indianapolis native John Fitch, one of the true greats of sports car racing, and a pioneer in highway safety, whose innovations can be seen on countless highways, has died at the age of 95.

Fitch was born in Indianapolis on August 4th, 1917. His step-father was an executive at the Stutz Motor Company in downtown Indianapolis.

Fitch was a pilot in World War II and was a prisoner of war after being shot down just prior to the end of the conflict.

Fitch won the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1953, and competed in the famous Mille Miglia, Tourist Trophy and 24 Hours of LeMans.

In the 1955 LeMans race, Fitch was co-driver with Pierre Levegh for the Mercedes-Benz team, when a terrible crash involving Levegh, Mike Hawthorn, and Lance Maklin led to the death of more than 80 spectators. Fitch was just about to take over the car when the accident happened.

Fitch had two starts in Formula One, and also attempted to qualify for the 1953 Indianapolis 500. Despite the fact he didn’t qualify for the 500, Fitch was one of the few living drivers who drove on the front-stretch when it was still all brick.

You may not know John Fitch from his racing career, but you almost certainly know his work in automobile safety. Fitch developed several safety innovations, but is perhaps best known for the Fitch Barrier, which are the yellow barrels filled up with sand or water that can be found next to bridges and off-ramps on highways across the country.

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