Last Wednesday, the remains of the five-time Formula One World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio were moved into a newly-constructed mausoleum at the museum dedicated to commemorating his life and racing career in Balcarce, Argentina. Fangio was born and spent his childhood in Balcarce, a relatively small city located 245 miles south of the country’s capital Buenos Aires.
The legendary driver’s coffin was exhumed from the city’s cemetery and draped in the Argentine flag. Fangio’s remains were transported under the guard of the Regimiento de Granaderos a Caballo, the Argentine Army regiment that also serves as the honor guard of the country’s president. Residents lined the streets of Balcarce as a hearse carried Fangio’s coffin to its new resting place.
Museo Juan Manuel Fangio was opened in 1986, when the five-time world champion was still alive. The museum was constructed near the literal center of Balcarce, near to Fangio’s birthplace. When Fangio passed away in 1995, he was originally laid to rest in a cemetery in the city’s outskirts relatively close to a racing circuit named after the driver.
Three-time F1 world champion Jackie Stewart was present for both the ceremony earlier this week and in 1995. Stewart is the last surviving pallbearer from Fangio’s funeral. At the museum, Stewart said, “The fact that he is now going to be by his cars, in his museum, I think is a great, great honor to him.”
The project to move Juan Manuel Fangio’s remains to his museum as well as how prominent the transfer ceremony was displays how impactful he was not only in the history of motorsport but also the cultural history of Argentina. There are very few athletes in any sport I can think of who are widely respected enough to be enshrined in perpetuity under the protection of their country’s military.