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Fangio to drive Maserati 250F at 2010 Formula 1™ Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix

Submitted by on March 6, 2010

Manama, 4th March 2010: Juan Manuel Fangio II, nephew of five-time Formula 1™ world champion Juan Manuel Fangio, will take to the track at the wheel of a Maserati 250F as the world’s biggest annual sporting series celebrates its 60th anniversary at the 2010 Formula 1™ Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix on March 12-14.  As the first round of the 2010 season, Bahrain is hosting a landmark celebration with more than 20 title-winning cars and virtually every surviving world champion expected to attend.

Former sports car and IndyCar racer Fangio II will drive the evocative Maserati 250F in a spectacular cavalcade of title-winning cars that will form part of the on-track entertainment through the weekend.  In many minds his uncle remains the greatest driver of all time, and Fangio II is delighted to represent ‘the Maestro’ in Bahrain.

“I imagine being him and looking back from his perspective I would say to myself how quick life goes by, and how strange it feels to endure as a defining contributor,” he said.  “I’m sure he would think what a privilege it is just to be remembered so fondly 60 years later.”

Juan Manuel Fangio was the most successful driver of the 1950s, winning five world championships in the seven full seasons that he contested.  Born in Argentina in 1911, he raced in the gruelling South American cross-country events and regional circuit races until his Formula 1™ debut at the 1948 French Grand Prix.  Returning to Europe the following year Fangio won the San Remo, Pau, Roussillon, Marseille and Albi Grands Prix and in so doing earned a drive with the all-conquering Alfa Romeo team for the first season of the world championship in 1950.

After losing the inaugural title by just three points to his team leader ‘Nino’ Farina, Fangio claimed the honours in 1951 after fending off Alberto Ascari and the rising Ferrari team.  In 1952 a major accident early in the season left Fangio with a broken neck from which he made a long recovery, returning to form in 1954 when he became team leader for Mercedes-Benz and swept majestically to his next two world championship titles.

When Mercedes-Benz withdrew from the sport at the end of 1955, Fangio switched to an uncomfortable alliance with Ferrari.  He won the world championship when his young team-mate and title rival Peter Collins voluntarily handed his car over at the deciding Italian Grand Prix after Fangio’s own car failed.

For 1957 Fangio moved to Maserati and drove his greatest season in the 250F.  Although 46 years of age he would often use the gruelling three-hour race format to his advantage, keeping pace with the younger men in the first hour then increasing the pressure relentlessly to the finish.  His final race victory in the 1957 German Grand Prix remains the greatest in the history of the sport when, having lost 48 seconds in the pits, he charged out and broke the lap record nine times to pass the leading Ferraris of Collins and Mike Hawthorn.  “I have never driven that quickly before in my life and I don’t think I will ever be able to do it again,” he said.

Fangio retired the following year and returned to Argentina, where he nurtured the talents of Juan Manuel Fangio II before passing away in 1995.  “I really feel that his true legacy is the commitment he demonstrated to live life in pursuit of your passion – no matter what,” said Fangio II, who is looking forward to taking the wheel of the car his uncle made legendary.  “I would say that the old cars are defining examples of art, while the new ones are pure precision,” he added.

Juan Manuel Fangio II joins former champions including Sir Jack Brabham (1959, 1960, 1966), John Surtees (1964), Emerson Fittipaldi (1972, 1974) and Mario Andretti (1978) in this once-in-a-lifetime celebration as part of the 2010 Formula 1™ Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix weekend.

Nick Garton

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