24 June 1911 – Juan Manuel Fangio is born. Considered one of the greatest drivers of all time, the Argentine took a total of five Formula One World Championship titles with four different manufacturers. However, there was something very special about his relationship with Mercedes-Benz. Fangio had been working as a dealer for the Stuttgart-based brand in Argentina since 1951 and, following the end of his racing career, became President of Mercedes-Benz Argentina S.A. in 1974.
It was at the French Grand Prix on 4 July 1954 that Mercedes-Benz made its first ever appearance with the latest, all-new incarnation of the legendary Silver Arrows: the W 196 R. As the leading figure in the marque’s campaign to win the Formula One World Championship in the 1954 and 1955 seasons, Fangio formed an almost symbiotic partnership with the W 196 R, taking an emphatic victory at the Reims circuit. The result was all the more significant as, exactly 40 years previously, Christian Lautenschlager drove to victory for Mercedes-Benz in in Lyon.
Despite being aged 43 at the time, making him older than many of the other drivers in the field, this would be far from a fabulous finale to Fangio’s glittering career. Instead, his first win for Mercedes-Benz at the wheel of the W 196 R marked the start of an extraordinary success story. During 1954 and 1955, Fangio lined up on the starting grid for the Mercedes-Benz team at a total of 19 Formula One and touring car races, recording ten wins and a number of other impressive results, including a solo drive to second place at the Mille Miglia in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (W 196 S).