• European Grand Prix

Fangio wins in Fagioli's car

ESPNF1 Staff
July 1, 1951
Luigi Fagioli leads the field away at the start of the Grand Prix d'Europe. His No. 4 car went on to win, but he was not at the wheel © Getty Images

The big names Juan Manuel Fangio, Nina Farina and Alberto Ascari were on the front row for 77 laps of the high-speed Rheims track for a race which did not disappoint. At 374 miles it was a marathon, expected to last for almost three-and-a-half hours.

In the early stages Fangio and Ascari raced wheel-to-wheel although the latter seemed to have the edge until he was forced to stop with gearbox problems. Repairs were held up because Gonzales had to refuel while Fangio's engine didn't sound on full song.

Farina led but then one of his tyres threw a tread and he overshot his pit as he came in for a replacement. Ascari took over the lead now having switched to Gonzales' car but then had brake problem . Fangio, meanwhile, had swapped to Luigi Fagioli's car - so it all became rather confusing for the spectators. The rules allowing this practice, together with shared points, remained until 1958. Fangio was 18 minutes behind the leaders when he resumed but drove brilliantly to overhaul the field to secure a win by just under a minute.

Ascari finished second in car he had not started in with Villoresi in third place. Briton Reg Parnell, who had finished third in previous year's British Grand Prix, scored an excellent fourth place in his private Ferrari ahead of Farina and then Chiron in the Talbot. Although he hadn't driven the car all the way, at 53 Fagioli is still credited with being the oldest man to win a Grand Prix.

An equally heroic effort came from Consalvo Sanesi who broke down more than 3km from the pits and pushed his Alfa Romeo all the way there, refusing offers of help as he knew that would lead to his disqualification. He was classified as finishing in tenth place, 19 laps behind Fangio.

The win gave Fangio a one-point lead in the drivers' championship over Farina. But while Fagioli professed to be happy with Ascari taking over his car - the pair went out to dinner that night - within days he had informed Alfa he would never drive for them again and he retired there and then. Fangio agreed with his team-mate the system for swapping cars was unfair.

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