Buenos Aires (Autodromo Oscar Galvez)

Dictators are often good news for motor racing. Just as Adolf Hitler's support of the German motor industry in the 1930s produced some remarkable Grand Prix machinery, so Argentine President Juan Peron's support of Argentine racing drivers in the late 1940s and early 1950s helped them to become big international stars.The Peron Cup races of 1947 - which were dominated by Gigi Villoresi - helped to form the groundwork of the Temporada Series and it was Peron who was the political force behind the construction of the Autodromo 17 Octobre at Buenos Aires - the first truly international standard racing circuit in South America.Built on swamp land on the outskirts of Buenos Aires the autodromo featured a dramatic white archway at the entrance, dedicated to the memory of Almirante Guillermo Brown. The track had 12 different layouts. It was opened in March 1952 and hosted the Peron Cup - won by Fangio. The following year there was the first World Championship Argentine Grand Prix. The race was won by Alberto Ascari but the victory was overshadowed by an accident caused because of overcrowding. Nine people were killed. Despite the crash the race returned the following year and between 1954 and 1957 was won each year by local hero Juan-Manuel Fangio. In 1958 Fangio retired from what would be his last home Grand Prix and Stirling Moss took his Cooper-Climax to a landmark victory - the first win in F1 for a rear-engined car.Peron was forced into exile in 1955 and the retirement of Fangio in 1958 and the disappearance of the other top Argentine drivers of the era - Froilan Gonzalez, Onofre Marimon, Carlos Menditeguy and Oscar Galvez - coupled with a series of of unstable governments and rampant inflation saw the Argentine GP disappear after 1960 (the last race was won by Bruce McLaren) and a similar fate befell the Autodromo's sportscar event - the Buenos Aires 1000.The return of military government in 1966 stabilized the country but it was not until 1971 - with a new Argentine hero Carlos Reutemann emerging - that international racing made a tentative return to Argentina. The Buenos Aires 1000 of 1971 was, however, an unhappy race which resulted in the death - in a controversial accident - of Italian Ignazio Giunti, who died when he was hit by the Matra of Jean-Pierre Beltoise while he was pushing his Ferrari along the track - against the rules. Two weeks later a non-championship Formula 1 race took place which Chris Amon won for Matra, but third place went to Reutemann in a YPF (the state oil company)-sponsored McLaren.A year later Reutemann had been signed by Brabham and - in front of his home crowd - took pole in his first World Championship event. Carlos would never win the Argentine GP, but the race produced some memorable moments including the sensational debut win for the Wolf team in 1977 and the surprising dominance of Ligier in 1979. In 1980 the circuit broke up badly and in 1981 Brazilian Nelson Piquet annoyed the locals by winning. At the end of 1981 Reutemann lost out in his battle for the Championship with Piquet and retired from the sport. At the same time Argentina's generals ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands. This resulted in a brief war with Britain.Although the generals were replaced in 1983 by a civilian government led by Raul Alfonsin there was no suggestion that motor racing would return until 1989 when Carlos Menem won the presidential election. Menem was keen on the sport and his son was competing successfully in international rallying. Menem was the motivational force behind a plan to refurbish the Autodromo - which was renamed after Oscar Galvez. The track was bought from the city of Buenos Aires in 1991 by a private consortium which raised the money to rebuild the circuit. Work began in August 1992 but it was not until 1995 that Formula 1 returned. The new track was nothing like the original and the drivers complained that it was bumpy and allowed little chance for overtaking.The F1 circus returned four times but in 1999 it became obvious that there was no money to run the race and it was canceled.