Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fangio's Incredible Nurburgring Victory

Fangio portrait:

Incredible Then And Now...

Stirling Moss: "This was one of the classic drives of all time,
by perhaps the greatest driver of all time. I was witness to it,
and in fact I finished fifth in that German Grand Prix. I know
the word 'incredible' is much devalued these days but what Juan
Manuel Fangio did on the 4th of August in 1957 was, and remains,
absolutely that."

The mighty Nurburgring, the brooding giant of a track lurking menacingly
in the midst of the thickly forested Eifel Mountains, had so many twists
and turns along its 14.5-mile length that their number could hardly be
determined with absolute accuracy. It was generally agreed that
it had about 90 main corners that turned left and only slightly
fewer that went in a right-hand direction. Some of the turns were
long and sweeping while about 30 of them were acutely
sharp hairpins. The sections of road linking them were seldom
straightforward - indeed, aside from the 1.24-mile-long stretch
preceding the start-finish line, there were no straights worthy
of the name. Many of the more complicated corners did have names
and these (translated from German) - such as Butcher's Field,
Swedish Cross, Pick Axe Head, Park of Wild Animals, Enemy's
Garden - were testimony to their teutonic fierceness.
Complicating the task for those who tackled the track in speeding
cars was the fact that the undulating obstacle course, which
encompassed over 1,000 feet in elevation changes, including many
pronounced bumps and several humpback bridges that launched the
cars six feet into the air for distances as long as 50 feet. For
the drivers, the Nurburgring was as much a test of courage as of
skill, though it had to be treated with the utmost respect
because an excess of bravery had been the major cause of the
125 fatalities to date in the 30-year history of this most
dangerous track in the world.

Juan Manuel Fangio: "There was always fear at the Nurburgring.
Fear is not a stupid thing. Winning is not a question of courage,
but of faith in oneself and in the car. But the Nurburgring was
always my favourite track, from the first day I drove on it in an
Alfetta in 1951. A circuit that was dangerous was good for me,
because there you could tell the difference between us all, and
my luck never let me down."

In the 1957 edition of the race Fangio's Maserati was leading the
Ferraris of Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins (destined to die here
in 1958) when the 'Old Man' made a pit stop for tires and refueling.
The pit stop did not go smoothly and when Fangio returned to the track
with 10 laps remaining he was 45 seconds behind the Ferrari teamates.
If he won the race he could clinch his fifth world championship, though his
chances of catching, let alone overtaking, the Ferraris seemed remote in
the extreme.

But Fangio accomplished the astonishing feat, lapping the
notorious Nurburgring faster and faster in a superhuman display
of courageous driving, smashing his own lap record to smithereens,
and finishing the race with a scarcely believable average speed
of  88.7mph for the entire three and a half hour Grand Prix, pitstop
included, which was faster than the lap record Fangio himself had set
the previous year.
Juan Manuel Fangio: "That day I had everything turned on and
firing on all cylinders. I was ready to do anything. Whichever
way you look at it, it was an extraordinary race. When it was all
over I was convinced that I would never be able to drive like
that again - never. I had reached the limit of my concentration
and will to win. Those were the two things that allowed me to
take the risks I did that day. I knew I could win, but I knew
equally I could lose.
"I was stretching myself to the limit, and afterwards the car was
covered with grass and dirt. I was trying out new things, pushing
myself further at many blind spots where I had never before had
the courage to go to the limit. I was never a daredevil, never a
spectacular driver. I would try to win as slowly as possible.
Until that race I had never demanded more of myself or the cars.
But that day I made such demands on myself that I couldn't sleep
for two nights afterwards. I was in such a state that whenever I
shut my eyes it was as if I were in the race again, making those
leaps in the dark on those curves where I had never before had
the courage to push things so far. For two days I experienced
delayed-action apprehension at what I had done, a feeling that
had never come over me after any other race, a feeling that still
returns to me this day when I think about that time. I had never
driven as I drove then, but I also knew I'd never be able to go
so fast again - ever."
And he didn't, for this Homeric triumph at the Nurburgring, his
24th win in a World Championship Grand Prix, was to be Juan
Manuel Fangio's last major victory.

Link to eBook edition of acclaimed Fangio biography...

Stirling Moss and Gerald Donaldson talk about Moss's hero, Fangio...

1 comment:

  1. Sir, what is it "delayed-action apprehension" exactly? I'm trying to find out but it's impossible. Thanks!