Juan Manuel Fangio
Spectacular brushes with death, kidnapping by Castro rebels, and of course his unparalleled motor racing achievement - the life of "El Maestro" Juan Manuel Fangio is as remarkable as the man who lived it.
Born in 1911 in Balcarce, Argentina, Juan Manuel Fangio dropped out of school at age 13 to work as an assistant mechanic in a local Studebaker shop. In the 1930s, his mechanic skills helped him compete in long distance races - grueling 109-hour marathons through the wild South American terrain. Chronic fatigue and the extremely high altitude of the Andes were not all a driver risked. If he broke down and couldn’t repair his own vehicle, he might die.
Argentine National Champion in 1940 and 1941, he didn’t make it to European circuits until after the war, when he was already in his late thirties. Brutal accidents in ’48 (which killed his codriver, Daniel Urrutia) and ’52, were not enough to hold him back. Throughout the 1950s, he moved from Alfa Romeo to Mercedes-Benz, from Ferrari to Maserati, seeking the best car, on an unstoppable winning streak.
When the dust cleared in 1957 he was holding five Formula 1 World Championships. An achievement which stood unchallenged for 45 years until Schumacher’s arrival (although Fangio’s win percentage - 46.15% - is still the highest in F1). And even Schumacher feels that Fangio’s achievement stands: champion at a time when the sport was more about the driver’s skill than the car’s capabilities, when goggles and a helmet were all that stood between him and death.
A true Gentleman Driver, Juan Manuel Fangio was an example for all on and off the road, always courteous, always helpful not only with his team, but also with his opponents. Believed by many Formula 1 drivers to be the greatest of all time, Fangio had an innate driving talent which he honed over years of almost scientific study. Handling the car with a minimimum of movement, his expression impassive, Fangio’s absolute mastery raised motor racing to an art form. In the pioneering precision of its timepieces, and in its rich motor racing heritage, TAG Heuer pays tribute to Juan Manuel Fangio, and to the courage and passion of those early heroes.