It was hailed as the greatest road race of its age and attracted such star driving legends as Juan Manuel Fangio and the Galvez brothers to compete for the glory of winning ‘The Grand Prix of South America’.
The rally covered nearly 10,000km, through Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela and attracted crowds of millions along the way.
The one and only running of the race was in 1948. It started at midnight in Buenos Aires and finished just two weeks later in Caracas, Venezuela.
In essence it was a road race, and it attracted the South American masters of the day including Fangio, acknowledged as one of the greatest racing drivers ever.
The original race resulted in an epic battle between Fangio in a Chevrolet Master and the Galvez brothers driving Ford V8s. Ultimately none of them won – Fangio crashed out on the 1322km-long seventh stage, while Juan Galvez succumbed to an accident on the very last stage and his brother was disqualified for receiving outside assistance following a breakdown.
A ‘Knight of the Road’ will be recognised in the 2018 event in deference to Eusabio Marcilla who was dubbed ‘El Caballero del Camino’ for his selfless acts of rescuing competitors when they got into trouble. He went to the aid of Fangio on Stage 7 when his car slipped off the edge and disappeared down a 200 metre drop. Marcilla was in contention all the way and would probably have had a top two or three finish if he had ignored the plight of his fellow competitors.
With Juan and Oscar Galvez clear of their main rivals they continued to swap stage wins through Tumbes, Quito, Pasto, Cali, Bogota, Cucuta and Valera before the final run into Caracas.
But as the cars sped towards the finishing line Juan Galvez was involved in an accident on the last stage leaving the prize open for his brother. However, Oscar suffered a breakdown within sight of the finishing line. As he was pushing the car towards the chequered flag a spectator joined in to help, which resulted in his disqualification because this was classified as ‘receiving outside assistance’.
The spoils then went to the somewhat surprised Domingo Marimon, nicknamed Toscanito, because of his habit of always smoking a Tuscan cigar. He had driven a steady race and was rewarded for his cautious approach.
The 70th anniversary of this great event will be celebrated with a new Grand Prix of South America being run next year from October 18 to November 17.
The organisers, Bespoke Rallies, say it will follow the original route where possible: “Where the roads are new we will find the old and where they have been covered in tarmac we will look for dirt”.