Indianapolis 500: The outstanding debt of Juan Manuel Fangio

Shortly before retiring, Juan Manuel Fangio tried to participate in the Indianapolis 500. An uncompetitive car prevented him from meeting his goal.


After achieving his fifth title in the F1 and get tired of winning on the European tracks, Juan Manuel Fangio he began to seriously think about retirement. However, this 46-year-old man still had a pending account: to run the Indianapolis 500A competition that, although it was on the F-1 calendar, the Old World teams left aside due to the high costs to move to the United States and the need to develop an exclusive vehicle for an oval.

Even Juan Manuel Fangio stayed out of the Indianapolis 500
Crooked smile on the Dayton Steel Foundry vehicle.

“My desire to participate in Indianapolis is an aspiration that I have had for a long time”, El Chueco said at that moment. And the opportunity came in 1958 - just two months before leaving the competition - when he accepted the challenge of the Californian tycoon. Floyd clymer, who doubted their conditions and scrolls.

Clymer bet him $ 6.500. Of them, 500 would correspond to Argentine when he registered in the race, 1.000 if he managed to classify among the 33 drivers qualified to start, 2.500 if he finished the race in the top five with a Yankee car or 5.000 if he did so in a European car.

The Quintuple only put two conditions: have a competitive vehicle and donate the money that he could win with the bet to a charity.

Fangio arrived in Indianapolis with the intention of touring as soon as possible with the Kurtis Kraft 500G Offenhauser with the N ° 77 that was sponsored by the Dayton Steel Foundry. However, the vehicle was not yet in condition to be tested.

While his team was finalizing details, to gain time and experience the Argentine went to the oval with a Kurtis Kraft 500F of the team Novi Automotive Air Conditioning that in the race I would run it Bill cheesbourg. After ten laps, Fangio managed to lower the time of Paul russo, the other driver of the team.

When Fangio was finally able to get on his Kurtis Kraft he only completed three laps and in one of them he spun. He returned to the pits and told his mechanics that the car had some problem that was preventing him from staying on the straights. The mechanics ignored him and Fangio chose not to compete.

"The car is not in optimal condition to allow Mr. Fangio to maintain his reputation as a world champion driver", said a Chueco spokesman on May 15, ending the adventure in the Indianapolis 500.

“I would have liked to race in Indianapolis with a suitable car and also have had a good practice to have a good race. I only tried two days and in total I completed six laps plus as many as many in which I pitted. I'm not saying run to win, but at least to compete ahead and have a chance ”, Fangio acknowledged in an interview.

The difference between his car and the rest was remarkable. Besides the problem in the chassis it also had a fault in the carburetion. His final speed was around 228 km / h against the 234 km / h of the leaders. A difference that not even Fangio, with all his scrolls, could have remedied.

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Diego durruty

Journalist with 30 years of experience. Worked in magazines STROKE, The graphic, Coequipier y Only TC, on the Internet sites SportsYa!, e-driver.com y kmcero.com and on the radios Rock pop y Vorterix.com. He covered the Dakar rally for the German agency dpa. He currently drives Two Daring Guys, a car magazine that is broadcast on Tuesdays from 18 to 19 by RadioArroba.com; is editor of motorsport in Red Bull Argentina, columnist on the show WorldSport (AM Splendid) and in Surf & Rock FM.  He is also a teacher in SPORTS. Now you can read it on his blog: automundo.com.ar.

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