APRIL 1, 1996
Where are we going this week?
THE Autodromo Municipal Oscar Alfredo Galvez in the Parque Almirante Brown in the suburbs of Buenos Aires was the first truly international standard racing circuit in South America. Built in 1952, the Autodromo was the result of a campaign started in 1947 by President Juan Peron to use motor racing to boost the international image of Argentina. Initially there were races on the streets of Palermo Park in downtown Buenos Aires but then Peron ordered the construction of permanent racing circuit and an area of swamp land outside the city was chosen. Initially named the Autodromo 17 Octobre the track hosted international races for the Peron Cup, although this replaced in 1953 by the Argentine Grand Prix. That race was won by Alberto Ascari, but the Italian's victory was overshadowed by an accident in which nine people were killed when a car crashed into the huge crowds around the track. Between 1954 and 1957, local hero Juan-Manuel Fangio won the race each year but in 1958 Fangio retired from the race leaving Stirling Moss to take his Cooper-Climax to the first victory of a rear-engined car in F1.
The retirement of Fangio and the disappearance of the other top Argentine racers of the era: Froilan Gonzalez, Onofre Marimon, Carlos Menditeguy and Oscar Galvez coincided with a series of unstable governments and rampant inflation and after the 1960 race the Argentine GP and the Buenos Aires 1000 sportscar race dropped from the international calendar.
The return of military government in 1966 stabilized the country and in 1971 - with a new Argentine hero Carlos Reutemann emerging - international racing returned. The Buenos Aires 1000 was a disaster with Italian Ferrari driver Ignazio Giunti being killed when his car crashed into a Matra which Jean-Pierre Beltoise was pushing along the track. Two weeks later a non-championship Formula 1 race took place which Chris Amon won for Matra.
A year later Reutemann took his Brabham to pole position in his first World Championship event. Carlos would never win the Argentine GP, but the race has produced some memorable moments including the sensational debut win for the Wolf team in 1977 and the surprising dominance of Ligier in 1979. The last Argetine GP was in 1981 - won by Brazilian Nelson Piquet. The following year Reutemann retired and Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands sparked a war with Great Britain.
It was not until President Carlos Menem came to power in 1989 that the idea of a race was revived again but last year Reutemann - now a leading politician in the country - delighted the locals by demonstrating a Ferrari 412 T2...
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