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What happened to Cifuentes after the 1958 Cuban Grand Prix?


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#1 Marcel Visbeen

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 16:31

Armando Garcia Cifuentes was a young (26 years old in 1958) local driver who entered the Cuban Grand Prix (which was run under sportscar regulations) with a mighty Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa for the Cuba Racing Team.

After only five laps around the Havana street course, he lost control of his car on oil that had been leaking from Mieres' Porsche. Cifuentes hit a curb and was launched into the spectator zone along side the Malecon boulevard. He literally ploughed through several rows of people before his Testa Rossa was stopped by a construction vehicle that was left there by some builders.

The crash took the lives of seven spectators and left forty injured. Cifuentes himself miraculously survived but was one of the severely injured. In the chaos just after the disaster, he was taken care of by his teammate Abelardo Carreras, who put him on the bonnet of his Testa Rossa and drove him to the hospital. (!)

Two days later Cifuentes was still recovering and he was surprised by the notice that he was officially charged with manslaughter for the killing of the spectators.

This is as far as my research goes. Does anybody know what happened to Cifuentes?
Did he recover from the crash, physically (and mentally)? Where the charges carried out in court and was he sentenced?
And did he ever race again?

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#2 Marcel Visbeen

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Posted 23 March 2008 - 20:32

Is there really no one who can shed a light on this? :|

#3 JB Miltonian

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Posted 23 March 2008 - 21:51

Here's what I can offer:

From an article in Sports Car International, June 1995: "Armando Garcia Cifuentes recovered from his wounds but never raced again."

From a letter to the editor of Road & Track, June 1958: "As you know by now, the second Cuban Grand Prix was stopped by a serious accident which cost the lives of several people and caused many injuries. As a racing fan, and a Cuban, and friend of most of the Cuban racing drivers, I would like to give you the true facts about the accident. There were two guilty parties: 1) El Club de Conederes de Automoviles de Cuba, and 2) the driver himself - Armando Garcia Cifuentes. Mr. Cifuentes had never driven a Ferrari before, and to my knowledge had never driven a competition car of any kind. The sponsoring club was aware of this, but let him enter the race anyway. THIS IS MURDER, GENTLEMEN." Name withheld.

From a response letter to the editor in R&T, September 1958: "As President of the Competitions Committee of the only club which sponsored, although it did not actually organize, the Il Gran Premio de Cuba, I feel that I must answer the erroneous statements which appeared in your June letters column under the title "Cuban Fire'. The following are the true facts:
1) There exists in Cuba no such organization as 'El Club de Conederes de Automoviles de Cuba'.
2) Sr. Garcia Cifuentes had driven Ferraris before on many occasions and in public.
3) Not only had Cifuentes driven competition cars previously, but he gone so far as to compete in the Grand Prix of Venezuela in 1957, having driven there in a Porsche Spyder and placing quite well in his class. This was a World Championship race.
4) Cifuentes has one of the most distinguished and successful racing records in Cuba, having competed in practically every race held there during the last three years.
5) Juan Manuel Fangio's public statement concerning the accident included his opinion that it had been an accident that could have happened to any one of the competing drivers present that day.
6) The club has maintained the validity of Cifuentes' International Competition License in view of the fact that no evidence of negligence or incapacity on his part was found during the investigation of the accident.
I trust that you will see fit to reproduce this letter as you did the previous one on this subject, and I must insist that you DO NOT withhold my name.
Signed Julio Batista-Falla, Havana, Cuba.
(Editor's note: The letter was NOT anonymous. We chose to delete the author's name).

I'm sorry this does not answer your specific questions, but it does seem to indicate that an investigation DID take place, and that Cifuentes was not prosecuted. I'm also curious as why Fangio was commenting on the accident and the track conditions if he was not present for the race.

#4 Marcel Visbeen

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Posted 23 March 2008 - 22:31

Thank you very much JB, that's very interesting info.

Concerning the matter of Fangio commenting on the track conditions: he did compete on the course for practice and qualified on pole position for the race. And also, he knew the track from the previous year, when he won the 1957 Cuban GP.

Already in 1957 drivers were complaining about dangerous situations with the public. Some reports say they even tried to touch the cars in the corners and young daredevils occasionally ran across the track just in front of the cars...

#5 Marcel Visbeen

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Posted 23 March 2008 - 23:14

Originally posted by JB Miltonian
"As President of the Competitions Committee of the only club which sponsored, although it did not actually organize, the Il Gran Premio de Cuba, I feel that I must answer the erroneous statements which appeared in your June letters column under the title "Cuban Fire'.
Signed Julio Batista-Falla, Havana, Cuba.


Interesting: a quick search on the internet shows that Julio Batista-Falla was a privateer himself. He owned a Ferrari Testa Rossa 500 which he raced in several sportscar events in 1957 en 1958, including the 1957 Venezuelan GP. During the 1958 Cuban GP, however, his car was driven by Carreras, Cifuentes' team mate!

Originally posted by JB Miltonian

3) Not only had Cifuentes driven competition cars previously, but he gone so far as to compete in the Grand Prix of Venezuela in 1957, having driven there in a Porsche Spyder and placing quite well in his class. This was a World Championship race.
4) Cifuentes has one of the most distinguished and successful racing records in Cuba, having competed in practically every race held there during the last three years.


I can only find one Cuban who entered the 1957 Venezuelan GP in a Porsche Spyder and he is listed as Manuel Garcia (not Armando Garcia Cifuentes), but this could be the same person. However, to say he did well in his class is exagerated: he came in fifth and last, zeven laps down from number four.

#6 Pablo Vignone

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Posted 24 March 2008 - 14:15

Gentlemen, Fangio was seeing the race on TV when held by Castro's guys. That's how, not perhaps the best way, he sustained his point of view.

#7 M. Baró

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 17:38

Sr. A. Garcia-Cifuentes resides in Madrid.
He left Cuba short after F. Castro took the power, set in Spain and did some local rallies.
He returned to La Havana for first time recently to celebrate the 50 years commemoration of Cuban G.P. and was very moved to meet his 500TRC (#0690) again at the RetroClassic held last year in Oviedo (Spain)

#8 Figaro

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 13:48

Well well, the things one discovers on this great internet...

I am the son of Julio Batista Falla.

It is my first time on this forum. I have been researching my father's racing career for many years, and had never read this letter!

Additionaly, as part of that research I had lunch with Armando Garcia Cifuentes, a good friend of my father, last week!

Julio Batista

#9 M. Baró

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Posted 14 September 2008 - 18:50

Hi Marcel: Have sent a PM to you.

#10 Nanni Dietrich

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 12:49

The 1958 Grand Prix de Cuba was held on Monday, 24 February 1958, which happened to be a Cuban national holiday. On 5th lap of the race happened Cifuentes' accident that claimed the lives of seven spectators (or five, or six, or eight, according to different accounts).
Another fatality occurred two days before, during Saturday practice session, when local driver Diego Veguillas' car went off the road, rolled and caught fire. Veguillas died on the spot. It is not clear what car he was driving, it was listed as a "Mike Special 2000".
Any clue?

#11 Marcel Visbeen

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 12:52

Originally posted by Nanni Dietrich
Another fatality occurred two days before, during Saturday practice session, when local driver Diego Veguillas' car went off the road, rolled and caught fire. Veguillas died on the spot. It is not clear what car he was driving, it was listed as a "Mike Special 2000".
Any clue?


I'm very curious about this incident because I did quite some research on the Cuban Grands Prix and none of my sources mention it. It's not in the articles of the contemporany newspapers or magazines and the book From Havana To Miami, about the Cuban Grands Prix concludes its chapter on the qualifying for the 2nd Grand Prix in 1958 with the remark that 'Happiness abounded during this festive weekend, but few people suspected what was soon to happen.'
May I ask what your sources are?

#12 Nanni Dietrich

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 10:58

Originally posted by Marcel Visbeen


I'm very curious about this incident because I did quite some research on the Cuban Grands Prix and none of my sources mention it. It's not in the articles of the contemporany newspapers or magazines and the book From Havana To Miami, about the Cuban Grands Prix concludes its chapter on the qualifying for the 2nd Grand Prix in 1958 with the remark that 'Happiness abounded during this festive weekend, but few people suspected what was soon to happen.'
May I ask what your sources are?


Marcel, I've found the news of Veguillas' fatal accident in an article written by Gianni Cancellieri (who is definitely a reliable source) on magazine Autosprint, issue 04 February 1997, pages 48/55.

#13 allenre

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 11:54

I'm very curious about this incident because I did quite some research on the Cuban Grands Prix and none of my sources mention it. It's not in the articles of the contemporany newspapers or magazines and the book From Havana To Miami, about the Cuban Grands Prix concludes its chapter on the qualifying for the 2nd Grand Prix in 1958 with the remark that 'Happiness abounded during this festive weekend, but few people suspected what was soon to happen.'
May I ask what your sources are?


Marcel,
There is a Maserati (300S?) in the automobile museum in Havana that is said by the museum to have been driven by Fangio. As you have researched the Cuban Grands Prix, do you know if this is the one he was supposed to have driven in the '58 GP? Or can you identify it otherwise? I can supply a photo if required. It looks a bit forlorn sitting there gathering dust and its engine has been removed.

#14 D-Type

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 12:24

I thought that Fangio was due to drive the 450S of Temple Buell which was eventually raced by Maurice Trintignant when Fangio was kidnapped. Because the 450S had been delayed en route he practiced (qualified?) in John Kimberley's 300S.

But I could be mistaken.

#15 coco

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 12:39

Marcel,
There is a Maserati (300S?) in the automobile museum in Havana that is said by the museum to have been driven by Fangio. As you have researched the Cuban Grands Prix, do you know if this is the one he was supposed to have driven in the '58 GP? Or can you identify it otherwise? I can supply a photo if required. It looks a bit forlorn sitting there gathering dust and its engine has been removed.

Allenre,
could you please post the photo of the Cuban-museum-"300S" here? Many thanks.

Ciao!
Walter


#16 Marcel Visbeen

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 21:01

Marcel,
There is a Maserati (300S?) in the automobile museum in Havana that is said by the museum to have been driven by Fangio. As you have researched the Cuban Grands Prix, do you know if this is the one he was supposed to have driven in the '58 GP? Or can you identify it otherwise? I can supply a photo if required. It looks a bit forlorn sitting there gathering dust and its engine has been removed.



I think I have an article about the car in the Havana museum somewhere. I will look it up during the weekend.



#17 Marcel Visbeen

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 21:07

I thought that Fangio was due to drive the 450S of Temple Buell which was eventually raced by Maurice Trintignant when Fangio was kidnapped. Because the 450S had been delayed en route he practiced (qualified?) in John Kimberley's 300S.

But I could be mistaken.


I'm not able to check it right now, but I remeber he drove John Kimberley's car in practice and the Temple Bell car in qualifying. And it was indeed Trintignant who replaced Fangio in the Temple Bell Maserati during the race.

Edited by Marcel Visbeen, 04 June 2009 - 20:12.


#18 raceannouncer2003

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 04:28

Marcel,
There is a Maserati (300S?) in the automobile museum in Havana that is said by the museum to have been driven by Fangio. As you have researched the Cuban Grands Prix, do you know if this is the one he was supposed to have driven in the '58 GP? Or can you identify it otherwise? I can supply a photo if required. It looks a bit forlorn sitting there gathering dust and its engine has been removed.


Probably the one discussed in this thread, post 19:

http://forums.autosp...w...6&hl=Havana

Fangio won at Cuba in 1957 in a 300S.

Vince H.


#19 coco

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 07:49

Probably the one discussed in this thread, post 19:

http://forums.autosp...w...6&hl=Havana



Vince H.

Yep, correct! Many thanks. This blue car in the Cuban museum is a fake!

Ciao!
Walter


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#20 D-Type

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 08:23

Maybe not a total fake.

Martin Krejki lists several Maseratis competing in the three Cuban races: 450S, 300S, 200S and 150S. But most were entered by regular international privateers or driven by the likes of Fangio, Moss and Schell so presumably they didn't stay in Cuba.

Given the external similarity of these Maseratis, the museum car could be any 200S or 300S. A possible candidate is the car entered in the 1960 race as a "Maserati-Chevrolet" driven by Manolo Perez de la Mesa. A Cuban owner coupled with the Chevrolet engine (remove it and you have a car with no engine) fit the circumstances. Not ex-Fangio but a Maserati of sorts

#21 gotero

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Posted 06 December 2009 - 22:00

Well well, the things one discovers on this great internet...

I am the son of Julio Batista Falla.

It is my first time on this forum. I have been researching my father's racing career for many years, and had never read this letter!

Additionaly, as part of that research I had lunch with Armando Garcia Cifuentes, a good friend of my father, last week!

Julio Batista


Mr. Cifuentes was the married too my best friend and neighbor Randy in Cuba (Reparto Kohly). I was 6 or 7 at the time of the accident. If you see M. Cifuentes will ypu let om know I would like to contact Randy.
George Otero
gotero@gotero.com

#22 AlMark

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 15:52

Mr. Cifuentes was the married too my best friend and neighbor Randy in Cuba (Reparto Kohly). I was 6 or 7 at the time of the accident. If you see M. Cifuentes will ypu let om know I would like to contact Randy.
George Otero
gotero@gotero.com


George,

By any chance were you related to the long time third base coach of the Cincinnati Reds, Reggie Otero?

Gil

gilmann@bellsouth.net

#23 fasguy

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Posted 24 December 2009 - 02:01

I noticed several items in this thread regarding 1958 I would like to comment about.

I was at Havana for the 1958 and 1960 races.

1. Batista's Ferrari 500TR was chassis # 0698
2. Fangio drove Francesco Godia's 300S during the first practice.
3. His own mount, the 450s belonging to Temple Buell, was awaiting a fresh engine that could not be installed in time for the practice.
4. I went with Hans Tanner from Havana to Miami where we picked up the replacement engine and brought it back. It was installed
over saturday night. On Sunday morning as dawn broke I got to drive it for a few miles (at low speed) to make sure everything was working properly.
A little reward for having helped out all Saturday night.
5. A formal police investigation of the Cifuentes accident was done, which I have a copy of.

Soon to be published is my detailed history of the Cuban Gran Prix races, which should hopefully answer, most, if not all of your questions.
Having said that I am still looking for more photos, particularly color images from 1958.

Feel free to reply to me directly - aysmith@mac.com

#24 Jose

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 15:29

Hello,

I am new to this board, Happy New Year everybody,

I am 27, Cuban(Born and Raised In Miami,parents came in 67 and I am related by my grandma to Carlos Prio Socarras) but I have keen interest in vintage Racing,Specifically Corvettes, and The Cuban Grand Prix, 57,59,60,61,etc. not to mention the Rallies that preceded them :
Havana-Santa Clara, ETC.


I have the Book Grand Prix -Miami-Havana(1989,NO isbn,put out for that years Miami GP,I got at a cost of $200+on ebay a while back)

I am looking for footage of the "Gran Premio De Cuba" . I see clips are available but at a horrendous price,so there is footage out there. it was televised by CMQ.

I tried contacted Ralph Sanchez but he has nothing.

I know someone has to know something about Footage in A DVD/VHS NTSC Format?

I look forward to the Cuban Grand Prix Book*when will it be available ? cost?* And Look forward to your replies :)

Best Regards

Jose R. Lopez, Miami,Florida USA

Edited by Jose, 03 January 2010 - 15:31.


#25 raceannouncer2003

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 07:27

I am looking for footage of the "Gran Premio De Cuba"


You can find footage of the 1958 race at British Pathe and Movietone. Here are the links to the websites:

http://www.britishpathe.com/

http://www.movietone.com/

Vince H.


#26 Jose

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 13:41

You can find footage of the 1958 race at British Pathe and Movietone. Here are the links to the websites:

http://www.britishpathe.com/

http://www.movietone.com/

Vince H.



Thanks Vince,

What about On DVD(NTSC Format) or Vhs Video? Please?

Thanks

Jose

#27 Felix7

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Posted 02 March 2010 - 10:41

An image from Bill Warner of the 1960 Cuban GP which did not feature in the March issue of Octane http://tiny.cc/AW9Ah would love to find any images of the practice session

Edited by Felix7, 02 March 2010 - 10:42.


#28 hansfohr

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Posted 02 March 2010 - 11:03

I am new to this board, Happy New Year everybody,

I am 27, Cuban(Born and Raised In Miami,parents came in 67 and I am related by my grandma to Carlos Prio Socarras) but I have keen interest in vintage Racing,Specifically Corvettes, and The Cuban Grand Prix, 57,59,60,61,etc. not to mention the Rallies that preceded them :
Best Regards

Jose R. Lopez, Miami,Florida USA

Welcome aboard Jose!

An article of the 1957 Cuban GP which I found on a blog today:
http://havana5060.bl...ba-1957_25.html

#29 Wetpet

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 15:41

Watched the F1 race with armando on sunday. he is doing well. If you need his contact information, email me at ed@wetpetsinc.com.

Posted Image

#30 arttidesco

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 09:46

Posted Image

Here is a pic of the restored Testa Rossa #0690 driven by Armando in the tragic 1958 Cuban GP.



#31 Cynic2

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 16:24

Artidesco,

Thanks for the photo of 0690 MDTR. I once owned a TRC, and believe they are among the most beautiful racing Ferraris ever.

I guess I'm old fashioned (no, I'm sure I am) but a "restoration" to me would include an engine at least resembling the original. Cifuentes raced a four-cylinder car; 0690 now has a new body and a V-12 from a street Ferrari, probably a 2+2. That doesn't make it a 250 TR, rather it now resembles the short run of (DK Engineering?) 250 2+2s with the chassis cut down and a replica of a TRC body replacing the original. (When I saw the photo, that was my first reaction.) Perhaps, in the hands of a later owner, it will be returned to proper specifications.

I am glad that at least part of the car survives, although with my usual cynicism I do wonder exactliy what Crabbe brought out of Cuba.

Cynic

Edited by Cynic2, 18 November 2010 - 16:25.


#32 Graham Clayton

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 03:46

The report on the Cifuentes accident from "LIFE" magazine, dated 10 March 1958:

http://books.google....A...tes&f=false

#33 Flatinfifth

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 07:11

Gentlemen,

I recently began a quest for my motorsports "roots" as it were. I am Cuban born and a close relative of the family raced in the fifties in Cuba. His name was Oscar Napoles. From a very early age, Oscar would stop by the family home and his conversations would eventually involve the sport of auto racing. His visits were magical. His tales of daring behind the wheel absolutely captivated my imagination. I remember with fondness how he would occasionally bring me toy racing vehicles as gifts. I believe he did not father any children and I guess I was his favorite "nephew" so I can only imagine he spoiled me rotten.

An interesting side note is the following: I believe the day before Fangio was abducted, Oscar interviewed Juan Manuel Fangio on the Gaspar Pumarejo program and I sat on Oscar's knee during the interview. I don't believe I was much older than 7 at the time. Fast forward to 1978 and I approached Fangio at the Long Beach Grand Prix where I mentioned the episode and he fondly remembered the "petizo" that sat with Oscar. I also had close family living in Argentina and my uncle there, Carlos Mardones new Fangio very well. With these two touchstones I managed to get a long and protracted conversation going with Fangio. He even invited me under the barriers where he introduced me to several Ferrari mechanics that were working on either Villeneuve's or Reuteman's F1 cars. At any rate, the passage of time has roughened up my memories of that visit with Fangio but he was a real gentleman and super "buena gente".

By 1978 I had already pursued a career in motorsports as a driver and not finding sponsorship, the following year I hung up my gloves and went back to the books. After dental school I returned to racing and raced all around the country but by now things just weren't the same. I had gotten older and racing had changed. Racing sedans in Escort and Firehawk series was not my cup of tea; I am an open wheel man through and through. I love to race but my real passion is open wheel. That said, these memories of Oscar Napoles coming by the house and being with us at the top of a hotel in Havana watching the race simply refuse to leave my mind. Oscar Napoles planted in me the seed to race and to this day, there is very little else that I really enjoy as much as racing.

That said; who can help me track down information on Mr. Napoles....my mentor of childhood. I do know he raced in American sedans and placed third in one event but little else is known..Your help would be greatly appreciated. I will be returning to this forum more frequently now. The older I get, the faster I was !!!!!!

Thank you so very much.
Sincerely,

Dr. Angel Sanchez-Figueras, Jr.

#34 Jose

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 14:23

Gentlemen,

I recently began a quest for my motorsports "roots" as it were. I am Cuban born and a close relative of the family raced in the fifties in Cuba. His name was Oscar Napoles. From a very early age, Oscar would stop by the family home and his conversations would eventually involve the sport of auto racing. His visits were magical. His tales of daring behind the wheel absolutely captivated my imagination. I remember with fondness how he would occasionally bring me toy racing vehicles as gifts. I believe he did not father any children and I guess I was his favorite "nephew" so I can only imagine he spoiled me rotten.

An interesting side note is the following: I believe the day before Fangio was abducted, Oscar interviewed Juan Manuel Fangio on the Gaspar Pumarejo program and I sat on Oscar's knee during the interview. I don't believe I was much older than 7 at the time. Fast forward to 1978 and I approached Fangio at the Long Beach Grand Prix where I mentioned the episode and he fondly remembered the "petizo" that sat with Oscar. I also had close family living in Argentina and my uncle there, Carlos Mardones new Fangio very well. With these two touchstones I managed to get a long and protracted conversation going with Fangio. He even invited me under the barriers where he introduced me to several Ferrari mechanics that were working on either Villeneuve's or Reuteman's F1 cars. At any rate, the passage of time has roughened up my memories of that visit with Fangio but he was a real gentleman and super "buena gente".

By 1978 I had already pursued a career in motorsports as a driver and not finding sponsorship, the following year I hung up my gloves and went back to the books. After dental school I returned to racing and raced all around the country but by now things just weren't the same. I had gotten older and racing had changed. Racing sedans in Escort and Firehawk series was not my cup of tea; I am an open wheel man through and through. I love to race but my real passion is open wheel. That said, these memories of Oscar Napoles coming by the house and being with us at the top of a hotel in Havana watching the race simply refuse to leave my mind. Oscar Napoles planted in me the seed to race and to this day, there is very little else that I really enjoy as much as racing.

That said; who can help me track down information on Mr. Napoles....my mentor of childhood. I do know he raced in American sedans and placed third in one event but little else is known..Your help would be greatly appreciated. I will be returning to this forum more frequently now. The older I get, the faster I was !!!!!!

Thank you so very much.
Sincerely,

Dr. Angel Sanchez-Figueras, Jr.



Dr.

Are you in The Miami Area? I am looking for Actual Racing Footage, There is a new book Out that I have and highly recommend(it is expensive) that compliment's the book Grand Prix Miami/Cuba ,Miami Motorsports 1989, No ISbn.

The book is called Caribbean Capers - http://www.racemaker...;products_id=22

It is full of Color and text. I got my signed Author's copy.

Jose,Fellow Cuban Exile. (American Born, My family came in the 60's Freedom Flights)