TIME MACHINE: 1983 - TRAGEDY OVERSHADOWS FITZPATRICK'S THIRD WIN FONTANA, Calif. (March 23, 2005) --- John Fitzpatrick, who had back-to-back Riverside International Raceway wins in 1980 and 1981, came to the Los Angeles Times/Datsun Grand Prix...
TIME MACHINE: 1983 - TRAGEDY OVERSHADOWS FITZPATRICK'S THIRD WIN
FONTANA, Calif. (March 23, 2005) --- John Fitzpatrick, who had back-to-back Riverside International Raceway wins in 1980 and 1981, came to the Los Angeles Times/Datsun Grand Prix of Endurance on April 24, 1983 with a two-car assault ready to conquer his third win.
Driving the first of two Porsche 935's would be Fitzpatrick and David Hobbs while the second car would have Derek Bell and three-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner Rolf Stommelen.
Al Holbert, who established a new pole speed record of 121.516 mph, was paired with co-driver Jim Trueman. They sprung into the lead at the start and paced the first 330 miles of the six-hour event.
By then, Stommelen had rooted his car in second. As he approached the end of Riverside's long back straight, his rear wing of the long tailed racecar he was piloting suddenly came loose, forcing him into the concrete barriers on the outside of the track at turn nine. Stommelen died of cardiac arrest at a nearby hospital less than one hour later.
Shortly after the accident, Fitzpatrick gave up his seat to Bell, who along with Hobbs, persevered in the team's remaining car. Clutch problems late in the race caused Holbert/Trueman to drop to second and gave Hobbs/Bell/Fitzpatrick the race win by just over one lap. Bob Wollek/Mauricio de Narvaez finished third followed (four laps down) by Ralph Cooke/Harald Grohs in fourth (five laps down) and Wayne Baker/Jim Mullen/Kies Nierop in fifth (15 laps down).
California Speedway will continue this series remembering Riverside International Raceway's rich history. Next up, Chevrolet trumps Porsche in the 1984 Los Angeles Times/Nissan Grand Prix of Endurance.
Great road racing continues to thrive in Southern California at the home of California Speedway. Join Grand American for the Rolex Sports Car Series 400 and Grand-Am Cup Series 200 on April 1-3, 2005. Tickets are available as both weekend packages and individual tickets. For ticket and event information, call 800-944-RACE  or visit www.californiaspeedway.com.