Juan Manuel Fangio bids goodbye to Grand Prix racing in France

The great Argentine race car driver Juan Manuel Fangio, winner of five Formula One driver’s world championships, competes in his last Grand Prix race–the French Grand Prix held outside Reims, France–on this day in 1958.

Fangio left school at the age of 11 and worked as an automobile mechanic in his hometown of San Jose de Balcarce, Argentina before beginning his driving career. He won his first major victory in the Gran Premio Internacional del Norte of 1940, racing a Chevrolet along the often-unpaved roads from Buenos Aires to Lima, Peru. In 1948, Fangio was invited to race a Simca-Gordini in the French Grand Prix, also at Reims, which marked his European racing debut. After a crash during a road race in Peru that fall killed his co-driver and friend Daniel Urrutia, Fangio considered retiring from racing, but in the end returned to Europe for his first full Formula One season the following year.

In Formula One, the top level of racing as sanctioned by the Fédération International de l’Automobile (FIA), drivers compete in single-seat, open-wheel vehicles typically built by large automakers (or “constructors,” in racing world parlance) and capable of achieving speeds of more than 230 mph. Individual Formula One events are known as Grands Prix. Fangio signed on in 1948 with Alfa Romeo, and won his first Formula One championship title with that team in 1951. Over the course of his racing career, he would drive some of the best cars Alfa-Romeo, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Maserati ever produced. Capturing four more Formula One titles by 1957, Fangio won an impressive 24 of 51 total Grand Prix races.

Reims, famous for its 13th-century cathedral, hosted the oldest Grand Prix race, the French Grand Prix, at its Reims-Gueux course a total of 14 times (the last time in 1966). In the race on July 6, 1958, the British driver Mike Hawthorn–who would win the driver’s world championship that season, but die tragically in a (non-racing) car accident the following January, at the age of 29–took the lead from the start in his 2.4-liter Ferrari Dino 246 and held on for the win. Fangio, driving a Maserati, finished fourth, in what would be the last race before announcing his retirement at the age of 47. The 1958 French Grand Prix also marked the Formula One debut of Phil Hill, who in 1960 would become the first American driver to win the world championship.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


Satchmo dies

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, dies in New York City at the age of 69. A world-renowned jazz trumpeter and vocalist, he pioneered jazz improvisation and the style known as swing. Louis Daniel Armstrong was born in New more

The Hartford Circus Fire

In Hartford, Connecticut, a fire breaks out under the big top of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Circus, killing 167 people and injuring 682. Two-thirds of those who perished were children. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it spread at incredible speed, racing up the more

Women inducted into U.S. Naval Academy

In Annapolis, Maryland, the United States Naval Academy admits women for the first time in its history with the induction of 81 female midshipmen. In May 1980, Elizabeth Anne Rowe became the first woman member of the class to graduate. Four years later, Kristine Holderied became more

Frank family takes refuge

In Nazi-occupied Holland, 13-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family are forced to take refuge in a secret sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The day before, Anne’s older sister, Margot, had received a call-up notice to be deported to a Nazi “work camp.” Born in more

Althea Gibson wins Wimbledon

On this day in 1957, Althea Gibson defeats Darlene Hard 6-3, 6-2 to become the first black player ever to win Wimbledon. Gibson was born in South Carolina on August 25, 1927, and raised in Harlem. She started playing tennis in 1942 at the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club under the more

George Walker Bush is born

On this day in 1946, George Walker Bush, the son of future President George Herbert Walker Bush, is born in New Haven, Connecticut. When he was two years old, Bush’s parents moved to Texas. where the elder Bush worked in the oil industry. Bush was nicknamed “Dubya” for his middle more

Explosion on North Sea oil rig

On this day in 1988, an explosion rips through an oil rig in the North Sea, killing 167 workers. It was the worst offshore oil-rig disaster in history. The Piper Alpha rig, which was the largest in the North Sea, was owned by Occidental Oil and had approximately 225 workers more

George “Bugs” Moran is arrested

FBI agents arrest George “Bugs” Moran, along with fellow crooks Virgil Summers and Albert Fouts, in Kentucky. Once one of the biggest organized crime figures in America, Moran had been reduced to small bank robberies by this time. He died in prison 11 years later. Bugs Moran’s more