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Name : Juan Manuel Fangio
Date of Birth : June 24 1911
Birth Place : Balcarce, Argentina
Nationality : Argentina
Date of death : July 17 1995

Juan Manuel Fangio, affectionately known as "bandy legs" by his many fans, was born in Balcarce, Argentina the son of an Italian immigrant in 1911. After military service he opened his own garage and would race in local events. These "local" events were not the weekend meetings that occur all over England but long-distance races held over mostly dirt roads up and down South America. Fangio's first race at eighteen was in a Ford taxi. One particular race which he won in 1940, the Gran Premio del Norte was almost 10,000 kilometers long. This race between Buenos Aires, up through the Andes to Lima, Peru and back again took nearly two weeks with stages held each day. No mechanics were allowed and any repairs would have to be completed by either the driver or co-driver at the end of each stage. Following many successes driving all makes of American modified stock cars, Fangio was sponsored by the government and sent to Europe to continue his career after the end of World War II. It was not until 1949 at the age of 37 that he achieved regular success on the European circuit. In 1950 he was given a drive at Alfa Romeo. Battling with his teammate Nino Farina he ended up in second place but the die had been cast.

The next year Fangio won the first of his five titles. 1952 saw him suffer his first major accident, at Monza, when he broke his neck and had to miss the rest of the season. He had promised to race at Monza following a race in Belfast but due to missed connections he found himself driving all night from Paris only to arrive at the circuit one half hour prior to the race. Having to start from the back of the grid he made a rare mistake and the Maserati he was driving went into a big slide. Being extremely tired his reactions were not what they would normally have been and he could not regain control of the car before it hit a earthen bank and somersaulted in the air. Fangio was thrown out and would spend the next few hours hovering near death. The following year he returned at the wheel of a Maserati and finished the season in second place. Fangio always made it his policy to garner the loyalty of the team mechanics. He told them that they would receive ten percent of any winnings. During practice for the Italian Grand Prix he complained of a severe vibration but come race day the problem had completely disappeared. The mechanics had switched cars in the middle of the night and given Fangio's vibrating car to his teammate Bonetto.

In 1954 he moved to the Mercedes team and won his second World Championship. Fangio drove twelve Grands Prix for Mercedes winning eight times. This began a string of four straight titles. In 1957 Juan-Manuel Fangio won one of his most famous races at the German Grand Prix. Fangio both loved and was in awe of the Nurburgring circuit but driving an under powered Maserati he managed to come from behind and pass the two leading Ferraris. Passing Hawthorn by "straight lining" one of the final curves he amazed his rivals with his virtuosity. In 1958, driving his last race, the French Grand Prix he finished fourth and retired. His Maserati was not competitive that day and was about to be lapped by the race leader Mike Hawthorn. As a mark of respect for the great man known as "the maestro" by his peers Hawthorn braked and allowed Fangio to cross the line ahead of him. Getting out of the car after the race he said to his mechanic simply, "It is finished." Juan-Manuel Fangio was famous for winning a race at the slowest possible speed. His record of wins against starts will probably never be matched.

Juan Manuel Fangio died in Argentina in July 1995 at the age of 84 surrounded by his family.


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