Features

Lapping the Nürburgring in a Maserati 250F – evo Archive

How the ultimate celebration of Fangio’s greatest moment was orchestrated

Fangio's greatest moment

Talk about dreaming big. Over the years there have been some stories in motoring magazines that I’ve admired hugely, not just for the way they were written or photographed, but for the sheer audacity to try to set them up in the first place. And Dickie Meaden following in Juan Manuel Fangio’s tyre tracks in a Maserati 250F around the Nürburgring is right up there with the best of them. 

‘It was an idea that had been rolling around in my head for a long time,’ recalls Meaden. ‘I’d first thought about it when I was at a magazine called Car Week, but it was over ten years later when it all finally came together, for the 50th anniversary in 2007.’

The feature appeared in evo 112, and the elapsed half decade it was marking was since Fangio drove his (and possibly F1’s) greatest ever race. Setting lap record after lap record in his 250F, the Argentinian came back from a bungled pit stop to beat the Ferraris of Hawthorn and Collins, in the process winning not only the race but his fifth and final drivers’ title. It’s one of the ultimate motorsport tales and it was ripe for the retelling. But first you’ve got to get an almost priceless Maserati…

> 2022 Maserati GranTurismo – all you need to know about the new Italian GT

‘The 250F we used was run by Ten Tenths Racing,’ says Meaden. ‘The owner, Nick Mason, thankfully liked the idea. Obviously the bill to get the team and the car out to the Ring was pretty enormous, but thankfully Harry Metcalfe [evo’s then editorial director] signed it all off as only Harry could.’

Then there was just the small matter of getting some exclusive track time on the Nordschleife. ‘Pagani was attempting a Ring record, and being Argentinian himself, Horacio Pagani is obviously a huge admirer of Fangio. I think he liked the idea of seeing the 250F lined up with the Zonda, so we managed to get him to agree to let us use any downtime that they might have while they had the track booked for the record attempt.

‘I remember it was a perfect day: crystal clear, blue sky. I was fully in love with the Nürburgring at that point, having competed in my first two 24-hour races – the first of which, appropriately, was in a Maserati 4200 in Fangio’s colours. Normally I’d be a bundle of nerves, but when the opportunity arrived there wasn’t time to get nervous. I jumped in – no belts – and they just pushed me across the public car park to bump-start it. Then it was out through the barriers onto the empty Döttinger Höhe straight and into the most surreal lap of skinny tyres and a straight-six.’

Just before it all gets too wistful, however, Dickie then paints a more prosaic picture that we can all relate to…

‘Driving a 250F is actually a bit like sitting on the toilet, reading a magazine with your legs going numb. Imagine the toilet brush to your right is the gearlever. You feel totally exposed.’

I’m puzzled: ‘Surely you just shut the door?’ 

‘A 250F doesn’t have any doors, Henry.’

‘No, on the… Oh, I see. Right. Sorry. Anything else you remember?’

‘It was unlike anything I’d driven before. Even compared to the 1950s Jaguar sports cars I’ve driven since, this was a different animal. A proper Grand Prix car, whatever the era, is just on another level. The gearbox was lovely and the steering started to make sense once you adopted the approved elbows-out technique. I’d have loved to have felt how the balance of the car changed over time as that massive fuel tank behind the seat began to empty, but I only had one proper lap that day. Somehow, that made the whole thing seem even more special, though.’

Over a decade of plotting and planning to get one lap. And absolutely worth it.

Recommended

Porsche 963 LMDh revealed – Le Mans contender set for 2023 debut
Porsche 963 LMDh – front quarter
Porsche

Porsche 963 LMDh revealed – Le Mans contender set for 2023 debut

Porsche looks for victory number 20 at Le Mans with new Penske developed racer
24 Jun 2022
New McLaren Artura GT4 racer revealed – hybrid power ditched, 130kg saved
McLaren Artura GT4 – front
McLaren Artura

New McLaren Artura GT4 racer revealed – hybrid power ditched, 130kg saved

New 2023 Artura-based GT4 race car will be lighter and more powerful than its 570S-based predecessor
21 Jun 2022
BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh contender revealed
BMW M V8 Hybrid – front quarter
BMW

BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh contender revealed

The new BMW M endurance racer has been revealed, but the question remains: will it race in Europe?
6 Jun 2022
Racing licences explained: from ARDS test to National B and beyond
ARDS Test at Silverstone
racing

Racing licences explained: from ARDS test to National B and beyond

We look into the world of racing licences, explaining how you can get yours while offering some helpful tips along the way
1 Jun 2022

Most Popular

2022 BMW M3 Touring revealed – the Audi RS4 rival we've been waiting for is here!
FOS M3 Touring
BMW M3 Touring

2022 BMW M3 Touring revealed – the Audi RS4 rival we've been waiting for is here!

Wagon lovers rejoice, the new BMW M3 Touring is here exclusively in xDrive Competition specification
21 Jun 2022
New Porsche 911 GT3 RS spotted undisguised
Porsche 911 GT3 RS 2022 992 – rear quarter
Porsche 911 GT3 RS coupe

New Porsche 911 GT3 RS spotted undisguised

Big aero and bespoke bodywork are on the cards for Porsche’s next 911 GT3 RS
21 Jun 2022
New McLaren P1 Spider revealed
Lanzante P1 Spider – front quarter
McLaren P1

New McLaren P1 Spider revealed

McLaren specialist Lanzante unveils bespoke P1 Spider commission at Goodwood Festival of Speed
23 Jun 2022