How the home fires were extinguished

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The white BT34, its distinctive YPF logo prominent on the flat nose wing separating its two ‘lobster claw’ water radiators, rolled to a halt on pole position in front of the packed grandstands, beneath an unyielding sun. Nothing like this had been seen since the days of Juan Manuel Fangio and Froilan Gonzalez two decades before. “Lo-le, Lo-le!” The fans chanted Reutemann’s popular nickname. Reutemann looked straight ahead. “Lo-le, Lode!” Then came a moment of pure theatre. Reutemann slowly raised his gloved right hand in fleeting, momentary acknowledgement. And further tweaked the crowd into a tailspin of ecstasy.

Reutemann had qualified 0.2sec ahead of Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell for his championship debut at the 1972 Argentine Grand Prix, but the Scot led first time round and Carlos could only hang onto second place for seven laps. He eventually finished seventh, delayed by a pitstop to change his blistered — and too soft — Goodyear tyres. Two years later, Carlos would be back for another helping of disappointment on home ground. He’d finished seventh in the 1973 drivers’ world championship, but in 1974 emerged as a serious contender for victory. Gordon Murray processed his F1 design philosophy a crucial step further and came up with the superb Brabham BT44.

By the third lap of the 1974 Argentine Grand Prix at Buenos Aires, ‘Lole’ was through into the lead in front of his adoring home crowd. Yet there was to be a cruel sting in the tail of this particular event. Having led for 49 laps, there were just two laps to go when the Brabham started running out of fuel, allowing Denny Hulme’s McLaren into the lead. And with just a mileand-a-half left to the chequered flag, Reutemann ground to a standstill. The Bralpham’s tanks were almost bone dry. Immediately prior to the start of the race the mechanics had been in something 0f0 rush to change a faulty wheel bearing. In the panic it seemed that a fivegallon churn had not been tipped into the tank. It was the only conceivable explanation. ‘Lole’ never won the Argentine Grand Prix. In ’75, he qualified and finished third, having led the first 25 laps. In ’77, he was third again. A front-row start brought him only a seventh-place finish in ’78. A year later, in the Lotus 79, Fte was second. But the Argentine GP results that really grated came in his Williams days. In 1980, his FWO7B retired from a race which his team-mate Jones won. Then in ’81, he finished second to Nelson Piquet’s Brabham BT49C which many people felt was illegal. Although he never said in it so many words, Reutemann felt he had been cheated

Twelve months later, he had retired from the cockpit.

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