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  • Year 15 Magazine Nº33

    70 years from the first triumph in Europe

    It was on April 3rd, 1949 at the San Remo Grand Prix, in Italy. He drove a Maserati. That victory was the first of five that he would achieve that amazing year in the old world.


    Settled in Europe, in the small town of Galliate, near Milan, the Argentine team was preparing for its European incursion. The debut would take place in San Remo , a touristic city located on the Mediterranean , on the street circuit of Ospedaletti of 3,378 meters. This circuit had sharp curves, slopes and descents, ranging from 15 meters high in the coastal route to 78 meters from the streets in front of the residences, where the slightest error could have a high cost.

    With the mechanical support of Amadeo Bignami, Fangio would have to drive a Maserati 4 CLT 48, similar to the one used by Ascari to win his first Grand Prix in 1948 on this same scenario. With that machine Fangio had won in Mar del Plata. Then, he went through it completely before taking it to the port and boar- ding the cars for Genoa, from where they had been transported.

    During Saturday’s Qualifying Tests, Fangio and Bira disputed the best record. Bira, also with Maserati, had 2’00 “4/10 at 101.1 Km / h. At some point, Fangio looked at the pressure gauge that signaled a sudden drop in oil pressure and cut the ignition to enter the pits. When dismantling the engine they checked that a connecting rod bearing had rotated and the crankshaft had been damaged.

    The chief of mechanics, Amadeo Bignami, told Fangio that he would not be able to race the following day, a question not ac- cepted by the pilot, who showed his excellent mechanic abilities by solving the problem and managed to put his machine on the starting line.

    The San Remo Grand Prix was played in two series of 152 km each, with a winner by the sum of scored times. In the first series, Fangio took the lead followed tenaciously by Prince Bira, De Graffenried, Campos, Bracco, Terzi and Carini. Through the winding streets of San Remo, Fangio kept the first position pra- ying for his engine. Bira, who was good, was not at his pace and increased the difference in lap after lap until 10 “. Felice Bonetto was closer to the third, the Swiss Graffenried, leaving behind Benedicto Campos who was fifth . Finally, Fangio crossed the finish line, winning with a 12 “advantage over Bira.

    The Second Series began as a repetition of the previous one, with Fangio again thrown at the top, knowing that it was very important maintain the lead in a street circuit of those characte- ristics. But Bira was willing to fight, running very close. De Gra- ffenried maintained the third position and Benedicto Campos , after solving some problems that had appeared in his car in the First Series , advanced to displace Bonetto, staying with the fourth final position.

    Prince Bira, who drove really hard with his Maserati, gradually approached Fangio, who as a precaution and speculating with 12 “in his favor, let him pass, only following him, so as not to compromise the final victory by sum of time.

    Bira set the lap record by 1’56 “at 104.8 Km / h. Fangio, in the final laps, returned to the attack to end up surpassing him and thus increased his advantage, also winning the Second Series.

    That April 3rd, 1949 a group of Argentines who had attended San Remo had a good excuse to celebrate. In the first race, Juan Manuel Fangio won and in fourth place was Benedicto Campos, members of the Argentine team Achiles Varzi. There was not much time for the “party” Fangio said. They were pilots, mechanics and drivers. As they arrived driving from Genoa, where they had gone to look for the cars, they returned loaded in the truck. Juan Manuel drove the Dodge-Guerrero and Campos the Kaiser- Frazer that they had bought the previous year in the United States. With those two vehicles, they headed to Galliate, to stay a while in the place that was going to be the seat of the team. There, during all that year, a series of successes, triumphs and sports consolidation were built, which finally placed Juan Ma- nuel Fangio in the formula one that would be born a year later. 

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