In the mid-sixties I carefully extracted Geoff Goddard’s Fangio portrait from Georgano’s Encyclopedia of Motorsport, framed it and hung it over my bed. That was as close to the great man as an Alabama boy was likely to get.
Fast-forward to August 1975, when I was working as a TV camera assistant. I had the framed Fangio in my bag, along with film reels, because the great man was at Talledega as one of NASCAR’s special guests. The sight of a gold Mercedes 450 parting the rowdy crowd led me to a quick walk: the object of my devotion was in the Merc’s front passenger seat. Butterflies flying formation in my stomach, I pulled the picture from my pack as Mr Fangio emerged and requested a signature in my pidgin Spanish. He gave a brief smile, took the pen, looked at the picture and stopped cold. He gazed almost wistfully for a minute or two, then carefully signed and dated the print. He called a pretty blonde interpreter over, looked back down at the picture and asked, “Do you know who is behind me in this picture?” I replied that it was Eugenio Castellotti and there was a great emotion in his eyes as he looked directly at me.
His interpreter said: “Mr Fangio is very happy that you brought this today. He says this man was a dear friend, that he hasn’t thought of him for a while and this picture has brought back many memories, both great and sad.”
Continuing that kindly gaze, he said, “I know you will take care of this because it is already framed.” With that he was guided away, but turning on his heel he came back, shook my hand and smiled once more.
Thanks, Nigel, for Eugenio’s story in Reflections (July issue). You’d have brought a smile to the great man.
John O’Hagan, Birmingham, Alabama