Mr. José Froilán González received us at his dealership in Buenos Aires, dedicated to the Fiat, Maserati and Ferrari brands.
Trophies and photographs accumulate in his office, but we have gone to rescue memories and anecdotes that still remain in the memory of the first driver who won a Grand Prix at the wheel of a Ferrari.
Before reaching his 1951th birthday, we had the opportunity to meet in person Froilán González, the Argentine driver who in 1 won, in turn, his first F375 victory at the British Grand Prix. On the Silverstone track, Froilán had set the best time in practice aboard his Ferrari 100, also achieving an average that for the first time exceeded XNUMX miles per hour.
Already at the official start, the Englebert tires skidded before so much fieryness, but Froilán, known by the nicknames "The big head" y "The Pampa's Bull"I was already leading the race by completing the second lap. Since then, he has dosed his advantage and kept his friend and contender Juan Manuel Fangio at a distance. In the end he won, 51 seconds behind the crook and taking two laps to the third, his teammate Luigi Villoresi.
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As expected, that victory marked the life of Froilán González, who continued racing in F1 until 1954, but it also meant a strong push for an Enzo Ferrari that had beaten his old Alfa Romeo. Six decades later, we have the opportunity to chat with this son of the Leonese emigrant Isidro José González and Magdalena Pérez, established on a large farm near Arrecifes, a city located 177 km west of Buenos Aires.
We meet in a central Buenos Aires building linked to the Fiat group. Froilán arrived with British punctuality and the conversation began after the usual greetings.
- Don Froilán, when did you start driving?
[su_quote] «From a very young age I already drove. I was ten years old and I couldn't get to the pedals, but I knew my dad would put the first gear like that and the car would go ahead.
My first race was in 1946, because before I was an intern for five years at the Salesianos school until 1939. Then I went to work in the Chevrolet workshop of my uncle Julio, who was a good coach and a very good driver. Instead, I would take care of the most arduous tasks, such as greasing the chassis, charging batteries with acid, or replacing the leaf springs.
With the money I saved, I bought a 1936 Ford truck and later a 1940 Chevrolet. In them I took cereals to Buenos Aires that were sent to a Europe at war. And I discovered that at the wheel I could go three days without sleep. But on December 14, 1940, in the first stage of the "Thousand Argentine Miles," my uncle Julio was killed. We kept the workshop, but then I was dedicated to transporting cereals until the end of the war. " [/ su_quote]
- How was the arrival to the competition?
[su_quote] «During the war I had a DKW motorcycle and later a Matchless. With the noise it made, it drove all the reefs crazy until the war ended in 1945 and I began to have an immense desire to run. Without saying anything to my father, I bought a half-prepared Chevrolet and we completed it. In my first race, on August 8, 1946, I used the pseudonym “Canuto” and won the series, but the car broke down before the final test. The next race was in Arrecifes, where I won in the third heat and in the final, with two laps to go, I broke my engine when I was leading. My father found out and we argued, but he accepted that this was what I wanted. " [/ su_quote]
- Bad results right?
[su_quote] «The mechanics were failing, but I noticed that with my handling I could be ahead. In 1947 I participated in “Fuerza Limitada” races with a Ford B. I finished second in Mar del Plata and Salto, and I won for the first time in Chacabuco. During 1948, I won again three times, but mostly I got used to running fast on long circuits and long distances. And in 1949 I sold almost everything I had and bought a Maserati 4CL. In the Juan Domingo Perón International Award, held in December in Buenos Aires, I finished fifth with the Maserati, behind Villoresi, Ascari, Farina and Fangio. And that the 13th had come out! " [/ su_quote]
- Already within the Argentine team financed by the government of Juan Domingo Perón, Froilán González arrived in Europe in March 1950, after having demonstrated his qualities at the Mar del Plata Autodrome. How was the arrival to the Old Continent?
[su_quote] «In 1950 we went to open the first World Championship in Monte Carlo. So I was 27 years old and I was the youngest of all. Only I remain from that time, because Stirling Moss is seven years younger. To get into the atmosphere, our first race was in Marseille with a Simca Gordini from the Argentine team, but a piston broke. Fangio was luckier, because he finished third with the Ferrari of his choice.
The next race, in Pau, Juan and I ran with the two Maseratis and we had the Ferraris of Ascari and Villoresi in front of us, very superior. My differential broke and I quit, but Juan Manuel Fangio beat the Ferraris. At that time we lived in Galliate, in a house of Acchille Varzi's father and there were no gyms to build arm and leg muscles. We trained with bicycles, to be able to endure 500 km on the machines. " [/ su_quote]
- And Monte Carlo arrived, where Fangio scored the pole with his Alfetta, Farina came second with another Alfetta and Froilán completed the first row at the wheel of a Maserati. What are your memories of that race?
[su_quote] «Then the circuit was different and I didn't have those chicanes to go slow. The engines had more than 300 hp and the start was carried out on a narrow street, with the cars very close together and it was easy for there to be frictions. In the race, I could not believe that I was third and that I had passed the two Alfetas in my first World Championship. But that did not last long, because my mechanic had forgotten to close the gas tank cap. For this reason, fuel was coming out and when a flare came out of the exhaust the car caught fire and I set myself on fire.
I went off to the right and jumped out of the car while it was still running. In the hospital my third degree burns were cured and soon I was ready to run twenty days later in Angouleme, France. There I was third with the Ferrari. » [/ su_quote]
Back to Argentina, more races. Froilán doubled in two races held at the «La Costanera» circuit, with a Ferrari 166 C and ahead of the Mercedes W163. From that moment on, Froilán is already a national idol. Fangio has signed with Alfa Romeo and Froilán embarks for Europe with the young Onofre Marimón and two Maseratis. And it is that in 1950 the sporting result was successful, but the Argentine team had dissolved due to lack of budget.
[su_quote] «In 1951 it's a different story, because Juan was at Alfa Romeo and they gave me the Talbot-Lago 4500 winner of the« 24 Hours of Le Mans »in 1950. With him I finished second in the first race, the Grand Prix of Paris. That year I lived with my wife in Milan and had visited Enzo Ferrari, very happy for the victory in Buenos Aires. And at one point he tells me: "Too bad I don't have a car for you, because I have the whole team complete."
At Le Mans, I teamed up with Onofre Marimón at the wheel of the Talbot-Lago. We were doing very well, until during the night Onofre stopped to refuel and the head gasket had burned, forcing us to leave. And at the Reims race, while I was at the hotel, I received a telegram from Enzo Ferrari to test the 375 of Serafini, injured in the Mille Miglia . For me that car was like a new toy and I had very good times.
In the race, I was leading the test on lap 34 when they told me that I had to go into the pits. I was a guest driver and had to hand over the wheel to Ascari, who finished second behind Fangio. After that, a new visit to Maranello. Il Commendatore offered me a contract similar to the one Ascari and Villoresi had, with a $ 2.500 exit bonus. I signed the contract for the rest of the year. » [/ su_quote]
- Two weeks later, Froilán achieved the victory described at the beginning, which completed that season with two second places at Monza and Pedralbes. Froilan, What memories do you keep from the Pedralbes Circuit?
[su_quote] «In Pedralbes we lost the World Championship, because we ran out of tires. There on the long straight, we came to the end of the corner and our sponsor Englebert's tires came apart under braking. I got to go last, but then I went up positions until I was second, to the wheel of Juan Manuel Fangio. » [/ su_quote]
He had yet to talk about his successes in the following years, but the agreed half hour had passed. Froilán invited us to drive his modern Fiat to his dealer, remodeled and opening that afternoon. During the tour, Froilán drove with rare finesse and reflexes, while he told us sarcastically that he was calmer on the Le Mans circuit in 1954 than on the current avenues of Buenos Aires.
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Video | DANIEL CAAMANO