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Driving with Fangio

2 years ago

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Mel Nichols | Journalist


11 March 2022

Fangio is driving. I’m sitting behind him in a Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL. We are overtaking a De Tomaso Pantera GTS racecar on the outside in one of Silverstone’s trickiest corners. I turn my head to the right and gaze down on its helmeted driver, just three feet away. He’s on the limit, sawing at the wheel while his raw racer bucks and twitches through the bend.

He glances up to see that a long-wheelbase Mercedes driven by an old man in a suit and tie, with three passengers, is passing him through Becketts. I smile condescendingly and jiggle my fingers: bye-bye. As the SEL’s tail clears the Pantera’s nose, Fangio swings the big saloon right and shuts the door. The Pantera driver’s humiliation is complete. He backs off and fades away.

It is May 1974. It’s Michelin’s International Test Day where the UK’s car importers have arranged 97 models for journalists to sample. Mercedes has gone one better and flown Juan Manuel Fangio across from Argentina. He will be 63 next month. He hasn’t raced here since he won the British Grand Prix, a lap clear, in a Lancia-Ferrari D50, 18 years ago.

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