Former race car driver and renowned safety innovator John Cooper Fitch died Wednesday at age 95.
Born Aug. 4, 1917 in Indianapolis, Fitch took an interest in airplanes and became a pilot during World War II, serving in Europe and North Africa.
After the war Fitch’s interest turned to racing cars and by the early 1950s he became the first American to drive for the factory Mercedes-Benz team.
Fitch won his first SCCA national championship in 1951 and gained the financial support of Briggs Cunningham, which eventually led to his drive with Mercedes.
But it was the tragic crash at Le Mans in 1955 that killed 80 spectators that made a difference in Fitch’s life. He became interested in safety and through the remainder of his life made numerous safety innovations including the yellow, sand-filled Fitch Inertia Crash Barriers.
Fitch was also involved in the development of the Corvette and the building of the Lime Rock Park road course in Connecticut.
Fitch has been inducted into the Motorsports of America Hall of Fame.