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Juan-Manuel Fangio, one of the greatest sportsmen, let alone racing drivers, of all time, has died after a lengthy illness at the age of He was admitted to Buenos Aires Hospital a few days ago with pneumonia. The son of poor Italian immigrants to Argentina, he became a hero on the track and an ambassador off it. He won a record five world championships and 24 of his 51 grands prix during the s, and never tarnished his reputation with controversy, as those embroiled in Formula One's latest acrimony might be reminded.
Fangio won the first of his titles in , at the age of He took four more in consecutive seasons, from to , whereupon he became the oldest champion in the history of the sport. He retired the following year. Stirling Moss, friend, admirer and adversary, has always maintained that as a driver and a man Fangio had no equal. He drove for some of the legendary marques - Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Mercedes and Ferrari - and always with the combination of style and strength that enabled him to outpace the rest well into his 40s.
It is generally reckoned his outstanding performance was in the German Grand Prix, at the formidable, mile long Nurburgring. But he eventually won by 3. Fangio was born in Balcarce, in the province of Buenos Aires, on 24 June, His father was a stonemason but he started work as an apprentice mechanic at the age of 13 and learned how to prepare and race cars with his brother, Toto.
He made his racing debut in a modified taxi and had his first win in an endurance event, across the Andes to Peru. He went to Europe in to take up professional racing and competed in the inaugural Grand Prix World Championship two years later. He narrowly escaped death at Monza in , and saw many of his colleagues killed on the track. He quit racing, saying: "My best friends died in stupid accidents and I didn't want to go on. Following his retirement, he returned to Argentina a folk hero.
A race track and museum have been built in his honour at Balcarce. His funeral takes place in Balcarce today. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Try Independent Minds free for 1 month. Independent Minds Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Minds. It allows our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss real-world solutions, and more.