The 50’s. The Wild West of Grand Prix racing and a time when it all seemed so primitive. Men raced rugged machines around undulating tracks, and danger vibrated through the minds of many. Juan Manuel Fangio’s tale is diverse and obscure. From his regular visits to the podium to a bizarre kidnapping. We take a quick look into the spellbinding life of the man who became The Maestro.
On the 17th of July 1911, one of the most compelling and accomplished Formula One drivers was born. The start to his life was not made easy and his journey into Formula One was a rigorous path to travel. Juan Manuel Fangio spent his adolescence in San José de Balcarce, a dusty rural city in the Buenos Aires Province. Like many children in Argentina, he went to school and played football with a keen passion. It was on the football pitch where Juan adopted his first nickname, El Chueco – “The bandy legged one”. This was thanks to his avid skill in bending his left leg completely around the ball to score.
Juan Manuel dropped out of school at the very early age of 13, and worked as an assistant mechanic as he had done so for the previous two years. He spent nearly 40 years working as a mechanic, often preparing his own very basic motorcars for events. He entered them into strenuous, long distance Argentine races, often spanning over an obscene length of 400 km. Years later, Fangio’s mechanical skillset in the European world of racing would prove to become invaluable.
Britain has had some fantastic drivers over the years. Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, Damon Hill, and in recent years, Lewis Hamilton. The introduction to Scotland’s unique love affair with motorsport began with a quiet, unassuming young man named Jim Clark. His “innocent talent” and gentlemanly stature was greatly respected and was luring to his fellow peers and fans.
James Clark junior was born into a farming family in Kilmany, Fife, Scotland. As a rural boy, he shared his childhood with four siblings, all sisters. Clark was educated privately in institutions on the peripheral regions of Edinburgh. As with any young man in his adolescence, partaking in sport was, and still is much the norm in school. But road racing never teased his thoughts. Clark excelled in field sports, where he enjoyed the modest pleasures of cricket – a likely reflection of his personality, being a gentlemen’s game. But at the age of 16 James was forced to return home after the sudden deaths of his uncle and grandfather.