In the mid-1960s, the Argentine automotive market was revolutionized with a national product that stood up to foreign brands. It was about Torino, conceived by Kaiser Argentina Industries. With the impulse of these events, IKA redoubled the bet and decided to measure its car outside of Argentina.
You tried to try your luck in the Monte Carlo Rally 1968, but the large size of the model made it impossible. The chance then came in 1969 in an endurance test organized by the Royal Motor Union of Liège from Belgium. The official name was Route Marathon, although in our country we knew it for its duration and the emblematic circuit that was its stage: the 84 Hours of Nürburgring.
This is how the “Nürburgring Operational", Which rose to fame as the"Argentine Mission”. The project brought together the most representative of motorsport of that time, both drivers and preparers, with the figure of Juan Manuel Fangio as the main flag.
Carlos Lobbosco, director of IKA, was the executive coordinator; Chueco Fangio was appointed as CEO; while Oreste Berta, who was in charge of the Torino sports program at the national level; he was appointed as technical manager.
THE PILOTS OF THE ARGENTINE MISSION
It was decided to enlist three torino and the best pilots of the time were chosen: Eduardo Copello, Alberto Rodríguez Larreta (Larry), Juan Manuel Bordeu, Gastón Perkins, Jorge Cupeiro, Eduardo Rodríguez Canedo, Rubén Luis Di Palma, Oscar Cacho Fangio y Carmelo Galbato.
Shortly after the appointment, Bordeu suffered a career accident that left him out of the Mission. Instead they summoned Oscar Mauricio Franco and was appointed as a substitute Nestor Jesús García Veiga. Carlos Reutemann y Carlos Pairetti they had also been invited, but declined to compete.
Berta and a group of six mechanics traveled to Hamburg in July to receive the three Torino 380Ws that had been sent from Buenos Aires in the Rio Cuarto ship de ELMA (Argentine Maritime Lines Company). The cars traveled painted white with two blue stripes from the nose through the roof ending in the trunk.
None of the drivers knew the Nürburgring, the legendary circuit on which Fangio had won three times during his campaign in the F1 (1954, 1956 and 1957). That is why the previous tests were fundamental. Logically, they were not without drawbacks: Galbato got confused with a borrowed Renault 16, Rodríguez Canedo hit a side of the Torino and left it in poor condition (they straightened it as they could and christened it La Banana) and even Berta himself, in his role of tester, flipped one of the cars.
Fangio was in charge of the crews for each of the vehicles, identified by the organizers with numbers 1, 2 and 3. For the N ° 1 the chosen ones were Di Palma, Cacho Fangio and Galbato; for No. 2, Perkins, Rodríguez Canedo and Cupeiro; and for No. 3, Copello, Franco and Rodríguez Larreta.
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
The test started on Tuesday August 19 from Liège and from there the caravan of 65 cars He went to the city of Chaud-Fontaine to start at 21 in a symbolic way. The competitors had a period of four hours to arrive at the Nürburgring respecting the traffic rules since each infraction was penalized with the discount of five laps of the race.
The three Torinos reached the track without problems and on Wednesday the 20th at one in the morning they started the race in which they had as rivals big brands like BMW, Porsche, Lancia, Ford, Triumph, Fiat, Mercedes-Benz y Mazda.
The riders who started were Galbato (1), Cupeiro (2) and Rodríguez Larreta (3) and after three hours running under a thick fog they left their places to Di Palma, Copello and Perkins. The epic was on.
LOS TORINO, FORWARD
In the early morning of the first day and after three regularized hours, two Torino were in the lead and the remaining delayed to 35th place. Perkins, the pointer, took 13 and a half minutes to make a lap at an average of 125 km / h. The other Torino who was fighting upstairs got confused with Rodríguez Larreta and it was Copello who regained ground. Di Palma, delayed, came from the middle of the peloton and reached fourth place.
There was a lot of water on the circuit and you traveled to the limit and that complicated Cupeiro, who on lap 41 slipped, lost control, got lost and got stuck. Unable to return to the track, the crew of the Torino N ° 2 could not continue.
After twelve hours, the best Torino was N ° 3 with Copello at the wheel, who gave the Lancia a hard fight, while Cacho Fangio, with N ° 1, tried to discount from tenth place. The race pace began to slow down due to the torrential rain, but the No. 3 kept ahead. At that point, Argentine cars were performing an extraordinary task that was closely followed from our country by radio broadcasts.
The arrest of the Lancia who was fighting ahead allowed the Torinos to reach 1-2 during the first 16 hours, although it was not easy for the Argentines to fight against the Italian vehicles. In the exact half of the race the Torinos were Franco and Perkins, but it was raining again and there were only 39 cars left.
After two full days of racing, Rodríguez Larreta-Franco-Copello's car was still in the lead with 190 laps and Di Palma-Fangio-Perkins's car was third with 177, although this one began to have problems with the taillights.
In the early hours of Friday the failure of the lights of the Torino No. 1 took its toll: In one of the curves of the Di Palma circuit he went off the track, the car broke down and he could not continue. The only Argentine car left was first, but it was 35 hours before the checkered flag.
THE BULL OF THE PAMPAS
At 53 hours the surviving Torino had exhaust pipe problems. He pitted and was overtaken by a Ford Capri. Franco replaced Copello, but the problem returned: the noise was intense and loud and it was not allowed to exceed 83 decibels. Franco stopped again and when he took to the track he again exceeded the decibels, but despite the suspicions of the sports authorities he continued in the race. With 63 hours, a lot of rain and a low temperature, the peloton had a Ford in front and Torino as an escort.
With 64 hours the Toro again had problems with the silencer, enduring a penalty of six laps; and then he had to stop because of brake problems. The Torino suffered two major surcharges while the Ford Capri stalled due to engine problems. Two hours later the Ford quit and the Torino was fifth among the 28 cars remaining in the race. Ten hours to meet the agreed time, Franco was close to fourth place with a Torino that had an impressive ride.
A heavy drizzle slowed the pace, lap times rose and the dangers grew. Rodríguez Larreta managed to stay in the middle of the cold morning and with 81 hours Torino was very close to third. However, the sports commissioners again warned the team about the problems with the exhaust and the repeated noises.
In moments of so much tension Berta and Fangio gave instructions to Franco to solve the problem himself. When he took the wheel he had asbestos and wire with him to repair the exhaust. Within a few laps of leaving, he stopped, fixed it in less than three minutes and kept on running.
A TORINO IN GLORY
Two hours from the end, Franco accelerated the Torino and went to look for third place, but Berta ordered him to stop to refuel to secure the position and not take a risk at the end of the strenuous race.
At 13 o'clock on Saturday 23 August 1969, the Lancia Fulvia of Kallstrom-Barbasio-Fall received the victory flag. Six minutes later the Torino 380W arrived, driven by Oscar Mauricio Franco. The Torino N ° 3 had the special praise of being the car that fulfilled the most real laps, with 334 during the 84 hours, although its average fell due to penalties and it was classified in the fourth final position.
The result was taken as a feat, as a true epic that, 50 years later, still fills Argentines with emotion and pride ...
FANGIO TO THE RHYTHM OF A TANGO
The demand took its toll on the Torino N ° 3 brakes, which had to be changed by Rodríguez Larreta in an exclusive area of the track where you couldn't get help from the mechanics (by regulation each pit stop was penalized with one lap). The task was more complicated than it should have and that caused Berta despair, who began to give him directions. The authorities took notice of the matter and the preparer had to shut up. It was there when Fangio appeared… that he began to give them to her as if he were singing a tango. The mischief was successful and the pilot was able to change the pieces.
RANKING 84 HOURS OF NÜRBURGRING
|Pos||Pilots||Brands||Vtas. Royals||Vtas. Computed|
|1||Kallstrom / Barbasio / Fall||spear||332||322|
|2||Duchting / Scheider / Degen||BMW||319||318|
|3||Barbara / Carpentier / Duvachel||Triumph||315||315 (*)|
|4||Copello / Rodríguez Larreta / Franco||Torino||334||315|
|5||From Fierlant / Enever / Bertinchamps / Kelleners||Mazda||322||311|
|6||Rieder / Degen / Boek||Porsche||311||309|
|7||Jans / Bous / Lagotay||BMW||305||303|
|8||Simonis / Hoeir / Vogl||BMW||304||302|
|9||Rattazzi / Di Montezemolo / Ceccatto||Fiat||300||302|
|10||Bialas / Chistofferson / Wangstre||Volvo||300||299|
* There were no penalties. That is why he finished in front of Torino N ° 3 despite the fact that the same number of laps were computed.