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GP Week : Issue 150
THE LEGEND OF THE 1962 'GRAN PREMIO' Argentinian motorsport would never be quite the same again. The concept of heroic deeds by men in their cars, driving for days on end around the huge South American country, was dashed completely after the Gran Premio in 1962, 50 years ago. As Rally Argentina 2012 approaches, Martin Holmes tells a fascinating tale ... T he Gran Premio, the jewel in the crown of Argentina road sport, was a long event for lightly-modified production cars. It was based at Buenos Aires and the 4500km route was split up into individual days, each using long high speed, non-stop sections on ordinary public roads. It was a series of city-to-city races, a refinement of the old traditional Turismo Carretera events in which the nation's heros such as Juan Manuel Fangio and Oscar Galvez made their marks in the world. Because of its involvement with production cars the Gran Premio had become hugely important in the commercially emergent South American automobile market place, an event that European manufacturers could not afford to ignore. There were classes for cars of every conceivable size. For the 1962 event the organisers had 287 entries, 258 of which lined up at the ceremonial start before moving just outside the metropolis for Buenos Aires where the cars departed at 10 second intervals with 10 minutes or so between separate classes. It was as near to a mass start race as circumstances allowed. It was a real man's job to control the cars on their hard- compound, long-life tyres, especially on the slippery wet roads. Drivers strove constantly to overtake slower cars in the narrow gravel roads. Car reliability was critical. There was no assigned time for service, except just a few minutes between the end of each leg before the cars were impounded for the night. Servicing of cars was carried out on an absolute time loss basis. The range of competing makes of cars entered in the old Gran Premio event was staggering by today's standards. In addition to entries from local manufacturers such as the NSU-associated Autoar company, IKA-Renault and Panhard, there was direct involvement from Europe coming from Mercedes, Peugeot, Borgward and Volvo. For overall honours the fight in 1962 was expected to be between Mercedes and Volvo, and the best available drivers were courted by the companies to drive their cars. The Swedish company's competition manager Gunnar Andersson headed the Volvo challenge with 122S cars, but most eyes were on the Mercedes team, which was managed by the legendary Fangio. Mercedes had four cars, two large 300SEb cars to be driven by Eugen 37 GPWEEK.com // RALLY >>> FEATURE