The Humble Racer

08 December 2022

‘Driving fast on the track doesn’t scare me. What scares me is when I drive on the highway, I get passed by some idiot who thinks he is Fangio.’ – Juan Fangio

Juan Manuel Fangio was born on 24 June 1911 and died of kidney failure and pneumonia on 17 July 1995.

He was considered by many as the greatest driver of all time, nicknamed El Maestro by Stirling Moss and also El Cheuco (The Bow-legged) by his close friends.

He dominated the first decade of Formula One racing, winning the World Drivers’ Championship five times. A record that stood for 46 years until Michael Schumacher and, more recently, Lewis Hamilton bettered that.

He missed one season, after night driving, fatigued, through the Alps to attend a non-championship race in Monza. He lost control of his Maserati on the second lap at Monza and crashed, breaking his neck.

Fangio tried to help with the BRM V16, a potentially excellent race car but beset with problems. Fangio said, ‘All it needs is improvement in certain details. No car has ever given me such a thrill to drive or a greater sense of absolute mastery.’

He was a true gentleman, proving the exception to the rule; Nice Guys Finish Last.

Stirling Moss said, ‘”Most of us who drove quickly were bastards.’ He also said I can’t think of any facets of Juan’s character which one wouldn’t like to have in one’s own.’

Again, Stirling remarked, ‘The cheapest method of becoming a successful Grand Prix team was to sign up Fangio.’

Fangio did everything with style, grace, nobility and a sense of honour never seen before or since.