By Charles Jennings
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Additional info for Burning Rubber: The Extraordinary Story of Formula One
He was off, now. In 1949, a 166M won Le Mans; Froilán Gonzales gave the team its first GP win at the British GP of 1951; in 1952 and 1953, the fairly frantic Alberto Ascari won back-to-back Formula One World Championships in a Ferrari at the same time as the team was gearing up to win two more back-to-back titles in the World Sportscar Championship. Enzo’s role in all this? More inspirational than strictly mechanical. ’ Then again, he didn’t even bother to instil enthusiasm if he didn’t particularly feel like it.
Peter Collins, a rising star in the second half of the 1950s, similarly claimed that Fangio could ‘size up a circuit and its hazards with almost slide-rule accuracy’. He was also deeply and meaningfully unsentimental, driving for four teams (Alfa, Maserati, Mercedes and Ferrari) in the space of eight years. He used his authority on and off the track (old enough to be father to some of the other drivers, and he knew it) to get what he wanted. Poor young Collins got stuffed by Fangio’s autocratic needs in 1956, at Monaco, when he was ordered to hand over his Ferrari to the Maestro, who had broken his own car; and then committed self-immolation in the same year by volunteering his car at Monza, thus depriving himself of a win and a possible Championship, ceding the title to Fangio.
He had learned his trade before the war, driving a succession of terrifying, stripped-out Chevvy two-doors in immensely long and gruelling South American road races – rallies, effectively, on unmade tracks and mountain passes. Stirling Moss claimed that you had to be ‘mad’ even to get into one of Fangio’s home-built specials, one of these 100 mph dustbins, let alone drive it. But he did, was Argentine National Champion in ’40 and ’41, and got national funding to take him across to Europe in 1949.