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Juan Manuel Fangio

Excelled In Long-distance Races

Fangio loved competing in South America's infamous long-distance races. These grueling events were some of the wildest and most dangerous races of all time. Drivers spent days on the course, hoping to avoid Andes Mountain drop-offs and herds of cattle. Fangio first made a name for himself by placing seventh in the 1938 Gran Premio Argentino de Carreteras, a grueling 4,590-mile race.

After this race, the proud people of Balcarce pooled their money to buy Fangio a better car: a six-cylinder Chevy coupe. In 1940, Fangio drove the car to his first noteworthy victory, winning the Gran Premio Internacional del Norte. Fangio spent 109 hours completing the 6,000-mile road race from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Lima, Peru, and back.

Juan Manuel Fangio

The race lasted nearly two weeks and tested drivers more than their cars, as passing through the Andes Mountains caused many to suffer from altitude sickness. At those altitudes, changing a flat tire could be a life or death situation. As Fangio noted in the book about him: "In the mountains of Peru it is also difficult for the man, for the driver. We ate garlic tablets and chewed coco leaves," because of the high altitude. "You get very tired easily in the thin atmosphere and if you are not careful you get agitated, and you lose your breath."

Fangio drove his way to the Argentine National Championship in both 1940 and 1941. Just as Fangio came into his own, racing ceased in 1942 because World War II caused a fuel shortage.

When racing resumed in 1947, Fangio was ready. In 1948, he made his first trip to Europe to compete, then returned home for the 6,000-mile Gran Premio de la America del Sur. The course was basically a one-lap of South America. Fatigued and plowing through considerable fog, Fangio crashed, killing his faithful friend and co-driver Daniel Urrutia. It was the first of many times Fangio would narrowly escape death, but the experience was not enough to make him quit.


1911 Born in Balcarce, Argentina, on June 24
1932 Spends mandatory one year in the military
1936 Makes racing debut in Argentina
1942 Forced to stop racing due to fuel shortage caused by war
1947 Resumes racing because war has ended
1948 Crashes car, killing co-driver and friend Daniel Urrutia
1951 Wins first of five world championships
1952 Breaks neck bone in crash at Monza, Italy
1958 Kidnapped by Fidel Castro rebels
1958 Retires from racing
1960 Separates from 20-year companion, Andreina Espinosa
1995 Dies in Buenos Aires on July 17

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Famous Sports StarsAuto RacingJuan Manuel Fangio Biography - Developed Childhood Interest In Cars, Pieced Together Own Race Car, Excelled In Long-distance Races - SELECTED WRITINGS BY FANGIO: