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Fangio Remembered, 50 years after historic Nuerburgring victory

  • Story Highlights
  • Fiftieth anniversary of Fangio's historic Nuerburgring victory
  • Fangio's record held for over 40 years
  • 1957 car to be exhibited at the Frankfurt Motorshow
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by James Snodgrass for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Maserati is set to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Formula 1 legend Juan Manuel Fangio winning his fifth world championship. Fangio raced for Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes Benz before winning his fifth world championship in a Maserati. He had previously raced for Maserati in 1954 but switched to Mercedes mid-season (and went on to win his second world championship).

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Juan Manuel Fangio racing his Maserati 250F at the Nuerburgring Nordschleife in August 1957

On August 4 1957 Fangio triumphed at the Grand Prix of Germany at Nuerburgring in his Maserati 250F. It would be the last win of his F1 career and would help secure his fifth title.

The race was one of F1 legend. First there was the circuit -- the long (22 km) and notoriously dangerous Nordschleife. And secondly there was Fangio's magnificent comeback. Having lost 45 seconds during a pit stop -- a wheel nut ended up underneath his car -- Fangio had to fight back the lead from the Ferraris of Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins.

Making up more than 40 seconds in seven laps, Fangio was victorious, lowering the track record lap after lap. "I have never driven that quickly before in my life," the stunned Argentinean said after the race, "and I don't think I will ever be able to do it again."

A late starter, Fangio was 38 when he entered his first Grand Prix in 1950. And he was 46 when he won his fifth world title. In contrast, the oldest driver on today's grid is David Coulthard (36) and the youngest is Sebastian Vettel, who recently celebrated his twentieth birthday.

The Argentinean driver, who died in 1995, is considered by many to be the greatest F1 driver of all time. His record five world championship titles stood for 45 years. It was a feat equaled by Michael Schumacher in 2002. Schumacher then went on to win a further two world championships.

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the win, the car manufacturer from Modena, Italy, will present a special trophy to the highest placed 250F that competes in the Old Timer Grand Prix classic -- a race for owners of historic F1 cars -- which is to be held at Nuerburgring on August 12.

The 250F that Fangio raced at Nuerburgring in 1957 is to be exhibited at Maserati's stand at the Frankfurt Motorshow in September.

1957 would be Maserati's last year in Formula 1. It continued to build race cars for customers but closed the factory team. This was as a result of a public backlash against motor sport in Italy. That year's Mille Miglia, a 1000 mile (1600 km) road race through the country ended in tragedy when the Ferrari of Spanish aristocrat Marquis de Portago ploughed into a crowd of spectators on the approach to the village of Guidizzolo.

The 150 mph smash claimed the lives of Portago, his navigator Ed Nelson, and 12 of the crowd (half of them children). In the ensuing furore the Italian government banned the race.

The firm's fortunes have zig-zagged ever since. Absorbed by Citroen in 1968 it embarked on an ambitious range of new launches, only to be hit by the oil crisis of 1973 that would bring it down (and take Citroen with it). Citroen was bought by Peugeot who put Maserati in liquidation.

The Italian government propped up the firm until a takeover by Alejandro De Tomaso. An Argentinean like Fangio, De Tomaso participated in one Grand Prix in the 1957 season, coming ninth in the Grand Prix of Argentina.

Under his stewardship Maserati kept ticking over as a niche manufacturer before becoming part of Fiat in 1993. Originally managed as part of Ferrari, it is now paired with Fiat's Alfa Romeo subsidiary. It's most recent models, the four-seater Quattroporte and the new GranTurismo have earned praise from a normally lukewarm press. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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