Jump to content


Photo

Why do people say fangio couldn't drive sports cars?


  • Please log in to reply
12 replies to this topic

#1 D-Type

D-Type
  • Member

  • 7,995 posts
  • Joined: February 03

Posted 28 May 2004 - 22:49

I’ve been looking at his record. Amongst others it shows:

In 1953 he was 2nd in the Mille Miglia driving an Alfa Romeo. This was the occasion when he drove the last third of the race with only one wheel steering. He also won the Carrera Panamericana in a Lancia. Although he didn’t win any of the eight stages he won the race overall.
I can’t find any records of him racing sports cars in 1954. Could this be due to his contract with Mercedes?
In 1955 driving the 300 SLR Mercedes he won the non-championship Swedish GP and Eifellrennen.
In 1956 and 1957 he won the Sebring 12 hrs without hitting a single oil drum.

So where does the idea come from?

Is it because Moss won the three sports car classics in 1955 with Fangio ‘only’ second? But Moss was young and hungry and the old man won in Sweden and the Nurburgring anyway.

Or was it after the British GP in 1954 when he hit some oil drums in the Mercedes W196 streamliner? Many reports say he had difficulty placing the car, as he couldn’t see the wheels. This is clearly wrong; is it an early example of PR-speak obscuring the truth? He won twice at Sebring, a featureless airfield circuit with corners marked by oil drums and he never had any difficulty there. What is far more likely is that the Mercedes was experiencing aerodynamic instability in addition to the unpredictable behaviour of the Continental tyres in the changing damp/dry conditions. Can anybody clarify what really went wrong that day?

Advertisement

#2 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 53,690 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 28 May 2004 - 23:02

So really your question is 'What went wrong with the W196 at Silverstone'?

I agree that it's totally unfair to say Fangio was no good in sports cars. He had car trouble (injection?) in that Mille Miglia when Moss won too, and drove it alone, especially to mention that he didn't have the aid of 'navigation' like Moss had. I also wonder if he had as much practice as Moss did with and without Jenks?

But there were two other races that year that could come into the equation if your question really is about Fangio v the rest in sports cars...

The Targa Florio, where Moss and Collins had an offroad excursion, a boiled-dry engine and long pit stop to contend with... and Dundrod... what happened there?

This, of course, means we only compare Fangio to Moss, who was seemingly second only to the maestro in GP cars anyway, and (as you say...) younger and hungrier.

There's a whole horde of other drivers out there that he left in his wake, and not only in the M-B years...

Maybe he figured this was only secondary and he'd paid his dues in the sports cars when his co-driver died in the Andes? Maybe he wasn't prepared to take those chances any more, except in racing at the pinnacle of the sport, in F1?

#3 Wolf

Wolf
  • Member

  • 7,881 posts
  • Joined: June 00

Posted 28 May 2004 - 23:50

It's not like he drove 6000km long sports car races over all sorts of roads, at high altitudes that present additional problems and won them, did he? Oops, he did, didn't he? :)

I think it's the case that when he did all that could be done, and was not a young man anymore, he didn't feel he had to prove himself in sports car races (which IMHO favoured endurance and stamina, rather than precision and sheer skill), and at the time he was showing "who 'da man is" on the GP circuits, with finesse and dominance of the true Maestro.

I don't know about his ego, but I wonder if he knew Moss was going to be rated as one of the very best and finest drivers ever, in GP cars and anything he ever sat in, would Maesto have gone that extra mile, even in sports cars, to show his dominance. Even though, I still doubt he would go chasing Moss, driving like madman (with no little help from Jenks) up and down Italy- and I don't think he could have made it*.

* this in no way (I don't think I need to point this out here, but still) should be belittling his skill and talent, but Moss' and Jenks' '55 MM might very well be one of the greatest races ever.

#4 Don Capps

Don Capps
  • Member

  • 5,933 posts
  • Joined: May 99

Posted 29 May 2004 - 02:39

The problem at Silverstone in 1954 is said to be best attributed to the Continental tires which simply were not working well that day.

As for Fangio's sports car racing abilities, I recall that Moss always felt he had the upper hand on Fangio in sports cars. Otherwise, the notion that Fangio "couldn't race sports cars" is another of those myths that seem to pervade motor racing.

#5 Vicuna

Vicuna
  • Member

  • 1,588 posts
  • Joined: March 02

Posted 29 May 2004 - 07:41

The notion that JMF could not drive sports cars is so stupid it really doesn't warrant discussion.

#6 Doug Nye

Doug Nye
  • Member

  • 8,302 posts
  • Joined: February 02

Posted 29 May 2004 - 09:07

Exactly - I asked The Old Boy once and while he admitted he always felt happier sitting on the centreline, totally in command, of a single-seater rather than sitting offset in a sports-racing car, as far as he was concerned it was his fate, his fortune, to enjoy more success in GP cars than in sports cars...it could easily have gone the other way, the luck could have been with him more in sports-racers than single-seaters...but it was not - as his record confirms. Class is permanent - and class such as his is all-embracing.

DCN

#7 bkalb

bkalb
  • Member

  • 139 posts
  • Joined: June 01

Posted 29 May 2004 - 09:42

Enzo Ferrari's view was not that Fangio wasn't good in sports cars, but that he didn't seem to care much for anything aside from single-seaters. Keep in mind that the period we're talking about, the 1950s, was the end of a long career for Fangio. He was almost 40 when the World Championship started in '50. It's likely that he decided that at that stage of his life, he would concentrate on what counted most, which was obviously Grand Prix racing.

Barry Kalb

#8 oldtimer

oldtimer
  • Member

  • 1,291 posts
  • Joined: October 00

Posted 29 May 2004 - 22:19

In his account of the 1956 Mille Miglia, Jenks described how Fangio, in a Ferrari, stopped to enquire if he and Moss wanted a lift to the next town after Moss' Maserati had understeered off the road in the wet. On being urged to get on with his race, the 'maestro' gave a non-commital response, which nevertheless eloquently communicated that this was not the day for him to go racing as he knew it.

#9 Roger Clark

Roger Clark
  • Member

  • 5,989 posts
  • Joined: February 00

Posted 30 May 2004 - 16:14

Originally posted by Don Capps
The problem at Silverstone in 1954 is said to be best attributed to the Continental tires which simply were not working well that day.

I have seen a number of reasons suggested for the poor performance of the 1954 Mercedes at Silverstone. Karl Ludvigsen, in Mercedes-Benz Racing Cars, says that the tyres were at fault, saying that Continental had been out of Grand Prix racing for fifteen years. Pomeroy, in The Design and Behaviour of the Racing Car, quotes Uhlenhaut that understeer, which had been deliberately designed into the early W196 was the problem. Setright, in The Grand Prix Car, repeats Pomeroy (no surprise there!), but goes on to suggest that the bodywork introduced oversteer at certain speeds. It was the change between the dynamically induced understeer and the aerodynamic oversteer that caused Fangio' problems.

Whatever the problem, it had been solved two weeks later wehen Fangio won the German Grand Prix. Any handling problems at Silverstone would surely be even more serious at the Nurburgring. We know that Mercedes had addressed the bodywork problem. It may also be siginificant that the Merecedes again had handling problems at Monza when they next used the streamlined bodworok.

#10 Roger Clark

Roger Clark
  • Member

  • 5,989 posts
  • Joined: February 00

Posted 31 May 2004 - 08:03

Originally posted by Vicuna
The notion that JMF could not drive sports cars is so stupid it really doesn't warrant discussion.

Nevertheless, I think it is fair to say that he didn't exhibit the same superiority as he did on Grand Prix cars. THis clearly had nothing to do with mechanical sympathy or personal stamina; both were major strengths throughout his career. It may have been because the sports cars of the day required less precision and ultimately less skill than the Grand Prix cars.

#11 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 53,690 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 31 May 2004 - 12:35

Originally posted by Wolf
.....Moss' and Jenks' '55 MM might very well be one of the greatest races ever.


I think one of the greatest race reports... undoubtedly a supremely well reported win.

But as a drive... well, maybe not quite on the pinnacle. Certainly something that can't be denied, but there are others to consider which might not have been so eloquently catalogued...

#12 D-Type

D-Type
  • Member

  • 7,995 posts
  • Joined: February 03

Posted 31 July 2010 - 14:16

I found this photo on Motorgraphs. It shows Kling's Mercedes at Silverstone in 1954 with a substantial dent in the front wing. This confirms that it wasn't only Fangio who had handling troubles that day.

#13 Eric Dunsdon

Eric Dunsdon
  • Member

  • 625 posts
  • Joined: February 08

Posted 31 July 2010 - 16:41

I found this photo on Motorgraphs. It shows Kling's Mercedes at Silverstone in 1954 with a substantial dent in the front wing. This confirms that it wasn't only Fangio who had handling troubles that day.


Kling also spun off between Copse and Magotts accompanied by a huge cheer from the crowd!. Fangio did well to finish fourth that day. The Mercedes looked a real handfull.