On Wednesday, the remains of five-time Formula 1 world champion Juan Manuel Fangio they were moved to a newly built mausoleum to the museum dedicated to the commemoration of his life and competitive 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 pilot’s coffin was exhumed from the city cemetery and draped with the Argentine flag. The remains of Fangio were transported under the guard of the Regimiento de Granaderos in Caballo, the regiment of the Argentine army which 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.
The Juan Manuel Fangio Museum was opened in 1986, when the five-time world champion was still alive. The museum was built near the literal center of Balcarce, near the birthplace of Fangio. When Fangio died in 1995, he was originally buried in a cemetery on the outskirts of town, relatively close to a racing circuit named after the driver.
Three-time F1 world champion Jackie Stewart was in attendance at both the ceremony earlier this week and in 1995. Stewart is the last surviving coffin bearer of Fangio’s funeral. At the museum, Stewart said, “The fact that he will now be near his cars, in his museum, I think is a great, great honor for him.”
The project to move the remains of Juan Manuel Fangio to his museum and how important the relocation ceremony was shows how much it has had an impact not only in the history of motorsport, but also in the cultural history of Argentina. There are very few athletes in any sport that I can think of that they are respected enough to be enshrined forever under the protection of their country’s military.