25 years ago Argentine motorsport was very different from today. There were not so many categories, nor intricate and difficult to understand sports regulations. Nor was there talk of the standardization of the elements to lower costs. Yes, there were many idols and reference pilots.
The two most relevant divisions were the Road Tourism, for all its folklore and the eternal struggle between Ford y Chevrolet; and the TC2000, for having a park that reflected the current situation of the local automotive market. Each had its own strongholds. In the TC were Oscar Castellano, Oscar Aventin, Eduardo Ramos, Fabián Acuña, Juan Antonio De Benedictis, Emilio Satriano, Roberto Urretavizcaya y Luis Minervino, to name a few. In the Tourism Competition stood out Juan Maria Traverso, Michelangelo Guerra, Ernest Bessone, Guillermo Maldonado, Daniel Cingolani, Miguel Ángel Etchegaray, Luis Belloso, among others. It was difficult for any of them to run in both championships at the same time until someone accepted the challenge: the Flaco Traverso.
At the age of 43, two TC titles (1977 and 1978) and another six in TC 2000 (1986, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993), Ramallo thus began a new stage in his sports campaign since, in addition to pilot, also became the person in charge of the structure with which the two tournaments faced. “At that time it was not something easy to do because with my own team I had to attend to three cars: the TC and the two TC 2000, mine and Miguel Ángel Guerra's, who was my partner. I had the same people to optimize the work and that was an advantage for us ", said a few years ago Traverso, who achieved the maximum to which a rider could aspire at that time in our country: to be champion of the TC and TC 2000 in the same season.
This magnificent result was reached with a team that had other people in key roles: Alberto Canapino, as responsible for the chassis of the cars; Jorge Pedersoli, as a motorcyclist; Y Alberto scarazzini, as a sports director.
Success, so to speak, began to take shape several months before. At the end of 1993, the company Sevel (European Vehicle Society for Latin America), an Argentine joint-venture created by the Italian company Fiat SpA and PSA Group of France, proposed to Traverso to build a team for the TC2000 and show off on a Peugeot 405 the "1" achieved with Renault...
“I responded directly to SEVEL for that structure that I had formed from scratch. As the objective was to compete as early as 1994, the company commissioned an engine from Peugeot Sport because we would not have enough time to prepare it. But with that impeller we didn't even see it square. In the middle of the season, one of the people in charge of Peugeot Sport went to a race in General Roca and there he realized what the category was. It had reached such a level that everyone used three engines, one for each day; while we only had two for the entire championship… ”.
While his entire group was focused on getting the 405 to ride in the Touring Competition, El Flaco sped up an idea he had in the pipeline: returning to the Touring Highway with a Chevrolet, much to the chagrin of Ford fans who had celebrated their two-time championship at the end of the year. the 1970s. “The TC was bad. The deaths of Roberto Mouras and Osvaldo Morresi had played against him… Oscar Aventin, who was a leader of the ACTC, asked me to return because the category was complicated. At first I didn't want to know anything, but we started talking and a couple of friends like (the businessman who died) Diego Ibáñez joined the project, who was the one who convinced me ”.
Traverso had his teceísta return on the seventh date of the '94 tournament, which was held on June 19 at the Autodromo de Buenos Aires. And he did it with all the TC 2000 paraphernalia at his expense, something that immediately stood out in a division that was practically amateur in that regard.
Starting his Chevy, with the number 140 on the sides, he had only one sponsor: the postal company. OCA. The car, built by Jorge Pernigotte And with Pedersoli engines, it took three races to be competitive (he did not start at the Gálvez and finished 22nd at Río Cuarto). In Balcarce, and with the attention of Tulio Crespi on the chassis, the Ramallan escorted Ramos; while in the 2 Hours of Buenos Aires he finished third, sharing the leadership with Guerra. In the semi-permanent of Bolívar, finally, he achieved the first of his three victories of that exercise (he also won on the track of the Campo de Mayo air base and in Gálvez).
“My previous stage in the TC had been in the mid-1980s and I found a category that had made little progress and had not had great changes. Those who were running when I left were still there, although they were skinnier and more bellied. But it was more or less the same. The TC 2000, on the other hand, was a step ahead in a lot of technical things. I spent all that experience with my team at the TC and it served me a lot. It was unbalancing. "
The successes achieved in the popular category were an incentive for the group, since in the Tourism Competition things did not go quite well due to the low competitiveness of the 405. Traverso climbed to the podium twice (second in Rafaela and third in Paraná) and finished 12th in the contest, far from the monarch Guillermo Maldonado (with an official VW Gol). While Guerra, with the other Leon car, was 18th in the standings.
Reorganized and with more experience, Traverso and his team had a brilliant 1995 in both categories. In TC 2000, which had the electronic injection as its main technological novelty, there were great joys from the start. The contest began with the successes of Flaco in Posadas, breaking a streak of 20 months without climbing to the highest step of the podium, and Rosario, in which he was seconded by Guerra. After three dates without flattery, the Traverso-Peugeot formula shone again at the San Martín circuit in Mendoza, where the Ramallo circuit premiered the 1.8 motorization leaving aside the 2.0; Santa Rosa, Rosario, General Roca, Trelew and Paraná. “Thinking back to the 1995 tournament, we decided that the best thing was to develop the engines in the country and that this task would be in charge of Pedersoli, but using the elements provided by Peugeot Sport. It was successful because after dragging us for a whole year, when we started the championship we gave them a monstrous beating. Already in the first race we knew that we had a big difference compared to the rest. In fact, I never ran to the limit or required ”.
Traverso won the title at the Entre Ríos event and ended the year with a 38-point advantage over Cingolani, who tried to make him some force with the Renault 19 officer prepared by Oreste Berta... The same Flaco who had so many times triumphed with the Magician's cars "returned" the kindness by winning him a championship. “While I raced at Renault, the credit went to the brand and Berta. But that changed because after winning the title, the recognition went to Peugeot, who put the batteries in and gave me all the support to build a team in two months, and for me. It was special to beat Berta because it was impossible to think of achieving something like this… ”.
On the TC, which debuted a technical regulation that allowed gearbox free-ratio and a rear deflector to improve downforce, the purple Chevy was unstoppable. El Flaco won in Río Cuarto, the 2 Hours of Buenos Aires, the 200 Miles of Rafaela (in both races, with Guerra as a guest), Nueve de Julio and the coronation in Buenos Aires. Neither the 15 kilos of ballast that he loaded for each victory, nor the three changes to the regulations or the exclusion of Balcarce (III) due to anomalies in the fuel could stop him to achieve his third teceist scepter and Chevrolet's first since 1990 when the Golden Bow brand celebrated with Satriano. The joy came in the penultimate appointment of the calendar in Punta Indio, just a week after obtaining the title of the Tourism Competition, when he achieved the necessary points to leave Patita Minervino as runner-up.
“In that TC they only worried about having a good engine and that the car was more or less straight; whereas I was used to a TC 2000 in which it was already working with the aerodynamic loads, the alignments, the clearance of the floor or the pressures of the tires. My experience and that of my group made a difference. Especially because having a large budget was not decisive since, technically, the vehicles were all the same and without major developments. Reaching us took a long time ”.
The atmosphere, obviously, was stunned by the JMT campaign, which had achieved the two most important titles in Argentine motorsport with a total of 13 victories. The feat transcended the nut world and that is why he won the Silver Olympia in the shortlist of motorsports in the traditional ceremony organized by the Círculo de Periodistas Deportivos. He was even a great candidate for the gold statuette, which was finally left for the skater Nora vega thanks to the two gold medals he achieved at the Pan American Games held in his native Mar del Plata.
Those who attended the awards ceremony and those who followed it on TV were astonished by the bump. "Who the hell knows Nora Vega?"Traverso fired almost immediately as if to show his indignation (which still lasts for him). "That year I had very good statistics and in the rest of the sports there was no one outstanding ... At that time, most of the people who were there did not know who Nora Vega was ... The truth is, they screwed me up and that's why I never went back to go to a delivery of the Olympia ”.
Juan María Traverso does not like to compare times and does not know if that 1995 season was really the best of his sporting life. Maybe he leaves a phrase well suited to his style and that paints him full-length: "I was always the best."