The Four Wheel Drift

Fangio, Maserati 250F, Rouen-Les Essarts

Here is a truly classic Grand Prix image: the great Juan Manuel Fangio in an acute high speed drift on the long and very fast descent from the start/finish area on the public road course of Rouen-Les Essarts during the French Grand Prix on July 7, 1957. Fangio is holding his Maserati 250F at just the angle he will need when the long fast turn straightens out. This could be achieved with a racing car in the 1950s which had adequate power by using the relatively low adhesion of the thin tires of those days. By balancing throttle and steering Fangio was able to hold a nearly full power drift and thereby maximize the speed through a quick corner. But for sure it is far easier to describe than to achieve, especially when one needs to consider that even a tiny mistake in those days would probably prove fatal.

When the flag fell, Fangio’s teammate Jean Behra had jumped the start and led for the first lap. Fangio was not beyond letting Behra know that it was time to move over as the dent on the nose of Fangio’s 250F was matched by one on the tale of Behra’s similar car! Behra’s 250F expired late in the race. He parked it just before the finish line and, covered with oil from his engine, got it over the line after Fangio had passed the checkered flag.

Although Fangio’s dramatic victory at the Nürburgring in August has received the most attention over the years, his win at Rouen-Les Essarts was perhaps even more impressive. Here his ability to conquer the circuit’s daunting sweepers on the descent to the Nouveau Monde hairpin gave him a victory of some 5o seconds over the Ferraris of Luigi Musso, Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn. It was a truly masterful performance by the World Champion.

Photo by Edward Eves ©The Klemantaski Collection –


One comment

  1. Jim Sitz · · Reply

    To my thinking, the best driver of our generation, with this photo clearly showing just why.!
    Those of us on hand laughed of the dented nose–even the best drivers make mistakes.
    Fangio and the Maserati–what a combination.

    jim sitz


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