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History: Fangio’s Silver Arrow victory at the Nürburgring

History: Fangio’s Silver Arrow victory at the Nürburgring

The camp fires in front of the tents and caravans surrounding the Nürburgring illuminate a dark and unseasonably cool night. In the paddock, the skilled hands of the mechanics are busy fitting components to cars. Engines are winched out and lowered back into their bays, minor damage from practice is repaired and the cars get the final setup tweak for the race on Sunday.

The German Grand Prix, also run with the honorary title for the European Grand Prix, is the first race for the open-wheel version of the Mercedes-Benz W 196. Until then, the W 196 had been driven with a streamlined body – in fact, Hans Hermann is still using this design.

Juan Manuel Fangio, on the other hand, is driving the open-wheeler and sets a fastest time of 9:50.1 minutes – three seconds faster than his nearest rival, Mike Hawthorn on Ferrari, and some ten seconds quicker than third-placed Stirling Moss on Maserati.

However, practice went badly wrong for another Mercedes-Benz driver, Karl Kling, whose front right wheel comes loose on Antoniusbuche, the fastest section of the circuit. Kling controls his car magnificently but fails to post a time, which means he has to start from last on the grid in the 22-lap race around the 22.77km Nordschleife.

At the start, Kling charged from P22 to tenth. After the second lap, he was eighth, and after the third, he was running fifth. It was not long before Fangio led a Mercedes 1-2-3 with team mates Kling and Hermann Lang in hot pursuit.

But fortune didn’t smile on the two Germans: Lang swerved off track trying to overtake Kling and was forced to retire. Kling ran out of luck a little later, too. He had driven almost the entire race with fuel leaking from a faulty weld on his tank. Driving like a man possessed, he tried to pull out enough time to make a pit stop, but in doing so, snapped a tie rod on his rear axle and needed to pit for emergency repairs. They bumped him down the field from first to fourth.

After a distance of more than 500 kilometres and a total race time of 3:45:45 hours, Fangio crosses the finish line as winner with an average speed of 133.37km/h.

But he was unable to fully savour his victory: his thoughts at this moment were with his fellow Argentine, Onofre Marimon, who had been fatally injured the day before. Marimon lost his life in free practice at Wehrseifen when the wheels of his Maserati locked and he plunged through a hedge and down an embankment.

For Mercedes-Benz, though, it is a memorable weekend. Fangio’s victory compensates the defeat at Silverstone where he could only finish fourth after being lapped. The win came just one month after the Federal Republic of Germany (founded only five years before in 1949) had secured yet another sporting achievement, winning the football World Cup in Berne.

Even Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was impressed enough by this first Grand Prix win in over 15 years at the Nürburgring to send a congratulatory telegram the following day.

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