AUTO RACING LEGEND JUAN FANGIO DIES AT 84
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Racing great Juan Manuel Fangio, a five-time Formula 1 world champion, died Monday in a hospital here. Fangio was 84.
The Argentinian, who dominated racing in the 1950s in a silver arrow Mercedes, had been suffering from kidney problems for some time. Fangio was hospitalized Saturday with pneumonia.
He won 24 Grand Prix races, a total that is seventh behind Alain Prost (51), Ayrton Senna (41), Nigel Mansell (31), Jackie Stewart (27), Jim Clark and Niki Lauda (both 25). He was world champion in 1951 and from 1954 to 1957.
Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo called Fangio ``the most outstanding figure in the history of motor racing.''
Fangio raced in the days when drivers wore leather helmets and goggles. Often Fangio raced in shirt-sleeves, sitting bolt upright on straightaways and leaning slightly into curves.
His reflexes and anticipation were legendary. That, he said, came from racing Fords and Chevys on unpaved roads in Argentina and South America before advancing to Alfa Romeos, Maseratis and Mercedes-Benz on the European circuit.
``We had the opportunity to learn to feel the car with the entire body,'' he recalled.
Fangio said caution and attention to detail led to his success.
``I never took an unnecessary risk. I always knew my limits,'' he told reporters Friday. ``I always talked with my cars. I listened when the car wasn't going well.''
Britain's Stirling Moss was Fangio's teammate with Maserati and Mercedes.
``The skill that Fangio had was enormous. What made him so great was his concentration and his balance of the motor car,'' Moss said. ``He wasn't a technician. He was just a great artist of driving. But above all that, he was a gentleman and to me a wonderful man, a father figure.''
In 1948, his co-driver in a race from Buenos Aires to Caracas, Venezuela, Daniel Urrutis, died after the car flipped over. In 1952, he narrowly escaped death when he crashed at the Monza Grand Prix, suffering a concussion and broken neck when he was thrown from his Maserati.
He retired in 1958 at age 47, in part because he thought race car teams in pursuit of speed were thinking too little of drivers' safety.
``My best friends died in stupid accidents and I didn't want to go on,'' he said.
Since retiring as a driver, he worked around the racing circuit and cars, advising Argentine racers and his former sponsors. He was honorary president of Mercedes-Benz in Argentina.
Mercedes-Benz and Pirelli, the Italian tire company, sponsored the book, ``Fangio,'' that was written by Moss, Britain's top race car driver in his day and a competitor the Argentine remembers as ``one of my toughest.''
Fangio's wake will be at the Argentine Automobile Club's central building in Buenos Aires. His funeral will take place Tuesday in his home city of Balcarce.