It's been almost 55 years since Juan Manuel Fangio's retirement from Formula One, but the Argentinean made history once again on July 12th when a Mercedes-Benz he drove in 1954 became the most valuable race car ever sold by auction with a record-breaking figure of US$29,650,095.
The car in question is the Mercedes-Benz W196R, with which Fangio won both the 1954 German and Swiss Grand Prix races in route to the second of the five Formula One World Championships he achieved.
The auction was organized by Bonhams, founded in 1793 and one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques, as part of the Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale taking place at Chichester,Goodwood, in the United Kingdom.
The W196R marked the introduction to Formula 1 of some important technologies, such as the fuel-injected engine, all-independent suspensión, all-round inboard-mounted brakes, among others.
Fangio won five championships in Formula 1(1951, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957), a record that remained intact until Michael Schumacher won his sixth title in 2003. During the 1954 season, in which Fangio drove the Mercedes-Benz W196R, the Argentinean won six of the eight races he took part of, and achieved the championship over a countrymen, José Froilán González, Ferrari’s Formula One first winner, who died recently at age 90.
The most valuable motor vehicle ever sold at auction until for the moment was a Ferrari, which was sold in 2011 at US$16 millions. Today’s sale broke the following auction world records: most valuable motor car ever sold at auction, most valuable Formula 1 racing car ever sold and most valuable Mercedes-Benz.
When Fangio raced in Formula One, the sport was very different from what it became later, far away from the millions of dollars figures. It is hard to know how the five times champion would react with a news like this one, although Doug Nye, a world authority in racing history, has an idea: “He would shake his head and smile his slow smile. He was a humble man”.