1940 Chevrolet V8 Coupe. Drivers – Juan Manuel Fangio & Hector C. Fieri. Model by De Agostini
The great long-distance South American Road Races began in the late 1930’s and continued for decades afterwards. Cars used were mainly American-built Chevrolets & Fords and drivers such as Juan Manuel Bordeu, Marcos Ciani, Eusebio Marcilla and Domingo Marimon were very sucessful, along with the Galvez brothers Juan & Oscar. The Buenos Aires racing circuit was later renamed in their honour, Aútodromo Juan y Oscar Galvez.
But the most famous driver of all was undoubtedly Juan Manuel Fangio. With great support from his home town of Balcarce in Argentina, he made his reputation in South America, before moving to Europe and becoming Formula One World Champion no fewer than five times in the 1950’s. The road races in South America were tough – very tough. Bad roads, bad weather and mechanical breakdowns were not all that the drivers had to contend with. Fangio wrote later about the 1940 Gran Premio del Norte which was 10,000 kms long, began in Buenos Aires, went over the high Andes to Bolivia and Peru and then returned. He described the 15-day race as a terrible ordeal, driving through hot deserts, freezing cold mountains and insect-ridden jungles. High altitudes made breathing difficult, running repairs were carried out by both drivers and he was so cold at night, that he drove with his co-driver’s arms around him to keep himself warm. Did he win? Of course! But it makes you think if today’s molly-coddled, over-paid racing drivers would put up with the conditions that Fangio and his fellow competitors had to contend with during every race!