full story here
Who is the greatest Grand Prix driver of all time? Michael Schumacher’s accomplishments notwithstanding, there are many F1 aficionados who rank Juan Manuel Fangio, the Argentinian ‘Maestro’ whose five world championships Schumacher just equalled, as the best there ever was.
In a Formula 1 career that spanned just eight years, he won 24 of the 51 Grands Prix he entered, driving cars that were not always the best in the field.
The Canadian International Auto Show pays tribute to that spectacular career with a ‘Salute to Fangio’ as part of its Classics display, always one of the show’s most popular attractions.
During a special media-day reception, hosted by the CIAS, David E. Davis Jr., former editor of Car and Driver, founder and editor emeritus of Automobile magazine, and currently editorial director of Motor Trend, regaled a throng of assembled press and motorsports figures with tales off his personal acquaintance with Fangio. Among those tales was one of visiting a restaurant with the maestro in his native Buenos Aires, where he was as glorified as a saint, and everyone in the restaurant spontaneously rising to their feet in his honour.
Before he appeared on the Formula 1 scene, Fangio cut his racing teeth in modified American stock cars on long distance races held over mostly-dirt roads up and down South America. One such race, which he won in 1940, was almost 10,000 km long and took almost two weeks to complete. One of the cars he drove during that period, a 1940 Chevrolet Coupe is owned and has been restored by Davis, and it is on display, along with two other cars associated with Fangio, at the auto show.
After winning World Championships for Alfa Romeo and Maserati in 1951 and 1953, Fangio joined Mercedes-Benz in ’54 to drive the now-legendary W196R that vaulted the German firm back to pre-eminence in the racing world. Advanced in every way, it was one of the first post-war racers to adopt true aerodynamic features.
The CIAS features one of three such cars in existence, courtesy of the Indianapolis Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, with the double pedigree of having been driven by Moss as well as Fangio. It is one of the most prestigious cars in the world with an estimated value in the range of $20-million.
The third car in the display, a 1955 Maserati 250F Formula 1 car, is a model Fangio considered one of his favourites. It was a 250F he drove in what many believe to be his greatest drive ever – perhaps the greatest drive ever – in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in 1957. After losing 56 seconds and the lead in a pit stop, he proceeded to win the race, bettering the track record by 12 seconds on three consecutive laps in the process. "I had never before had the courage to push things so far,” Fangio said.
The vehicles comprising the salute to Fangio are located on the 700-level of the South MTCC for the duration of the show.
Written by Gerry Malloy, MSN Autos Canada reviewer and regular contributor.