Spotlight: Kevin Fitzsimons

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 06/06/2020
  • By Connor O'Brien

Kevin Fitzsimons holds arguably the most impressive streak in all of Supercars.

WATCH: TOP FIVE MOMENTS OF ESERIES ROUND 9

Those outside the sport might not know he is the operations manager for Dunlop Motorsport; to those inside it, he’s a familiar face.

Fitzsimons, remarkably, has not missed a Supercars/ATCC event since Sandown 1990.

“It’s just weird the way things have panned out, between ankle reconstructions and children being born and all these things, the timing has just worked out spot on every time,” he tells Supercars.com.

Now 58, Fitzsimons plays an important if understated role in the show.

He is the chief point of contact at Dunlop for all things Supercars, guiding logistics from production orders to tyre distribution.

If there’s a tyre failure of sorts, he’s the guy leading the investigation into why. Similar story if there’s a category-driven urge to modify the characteristics of the rubber for future.

“The communication lines are very, very good with the Supercars tech department and between us and the factory, we’ve got a very good working relationship,” he explains.

“It’s the 19th year of the control tyre supply; we know the system well enough to know what can be done and can’t be done pretty quickly.”

Tyres are critical to the product that is Supercars, as Fitzsimons explains: “At the end of the day, we’re an entertainment business.

“We could build a tyre that would be fast and last forever but that’s not necessarily going to produce good racing. You’ll just have some guys drive off into the distance and there will be nobody passing anybody.

“So they have a tyre that sort of deteriorates and times drop away, so you can’t push it 10 tenths every single lap and know the thing is going to keep coming back so you have got to have smarts and a good car underneath you.

“And for the betterment of the show, you have got to have a tyre with a very, very broad working window which is what we have currently got with both the soft and the hard [compounds].”

Prior to joining Dunlop in 2002 when it became Supercars’ control tyre, Fitzsimons had been long-term with Bridgestone.

Between 1999 and 2001, Bridgestone were the series’ sole tyre supplier. When Dunlop took over that role, they promptly swooped on Fitzsimons.

Before that, the sport was an open category with multiple tyre suppliers.

Having first got a taste of motorsport at Adelaide International Raceway as a 12-year-old in 1974 – his brother was the connection, selling programs and T-shirts there – Fitzsimons soon enough was on his way to becoming a mechanic at Bridgestone.

He laughs the opportunity to work in Supercars, or the Australian Touring Car Championship as it was then known, came about by total chance.

“The guy who was meant to be going out to AIR [Adelaide International Raceway] in 1987 to do the tyres for Brocky [Peter Brock], he got gastro, so Bridgestone rang up and said ‘you’re interested in car racing, do you want to go do it?’

“It literally fell in my lap and from there, I did that round, did Bathurst, did the Adelaide Formula 1 Grand Prix event, and then the following year did the same sort of deal and it just evolved.

“It got to the stage where I was under the motorsport manager’s nose all the time, just kept appearing.

“And when Peter and Larry [Perkins] hooked back up and got back into the Commodore and we had all of these Sierra tyres around and Glenn Seton came onboard, they tapped me on the shoulder and said are you interested in doing this full-time?

“I haven’t looked back.”

There are many elements of his career the father-of-two is proud of, not least his longevity in the sport and the opportunity to take on the world stage at places like Shanghai and Texas.

But above all was being part of a great underdog success.

“I wasn’t an official part of the team but I worked very, very closely with Glenn Seton’s guys back in ’97 when Glenn was a single-car operation and to win the championship as an owner-driver,” Fitzsimons recalls.

“Just the core group of guys that put that program together and beat some guys with massively big budgets, that’s the one that is the absolute standout moment for me.”

To have made it 30 years without missing a race meeting, how has his passion not waned?

“People say, ‘don’t you get sick of the travel and everything?’ But I’m just lucky enough that I go in a plane and go to work as opposed to sitting on the freeway to go to work,” he says.

“It’s just one of those things, it’s in your blood 100 percent.

“I remember Russell Ingall’s retirement speech at the Supercars dinner when he said this is an incredibly selfish sport and unfortunately it is, so families are the ones that pay the penalty.

“You are working so many weekends and especially if you are doing things other than Supercars – back in the late ‘90s I was doing a lot of the rally tyre development for Bridgestone and it was just massively time consuming.

“But if you are passionate about it, you can turn your hobby into a job so you don’t have too much to complain about, that’s for sure.”

The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s resumption from the COVID-19 hiatus later this month at Sydney Motorsport Park will come with significantly less on-site staff and crew.

Even team bosses are likely to be working remotely, but sure enough Fitzsimons will be there to oversee proceedings, as he has done without fail for three decades now.

“The streak will get broken one day – but it will want to be a pretty good reason!”

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