Don't drivers mind racing on the 13th?" a reporter asked Britain's Stirling Moss last week.
"Here's one that does," answered Moss.
Jan. 13 was indeed a shattering day for the Briton despite his Maserati team's crushing victory over rival Ferrari. For Argentina's Juan Manuel Fangio, though, the day marked an easy triumph and eight points toward his fifth world's championship.
Quiet Fangio and the roaring Maseratis, naturally enough, were pre-race favorites this year in the fifth annual Argentine Grand Prix. "To me," said Moss, "he's the greatest driver there has ever been."
"Fangio has everything," said Italy's Cesare Perdisa.
Snapped another driver: "Rules here are always interpreted so that Fangio will win if possible."
Argentine officials do seem hesitant to annoy the champ, and there is usually an understanding among his teammates that they won't try too hard to beat the old master on his home ground even if they could. Fangio ensured the understanding this time by promising to drive for Maserati in Europe this year if he won the race.
Wealthy Fangio, who shrewdly pyramided his racing winnings during the Per�n era into a lucrative garage and sales agency ( Mercedes Benz and General Motors), didn't really need the money, but he needed the victory. His business, like many which thrived under Per�n, is under government control. So far the government has continued to let him run things, build a new garage and showroom and acquire the Vespa motor scooter agency. But he is still awaiting a decision on the possible confiscation of his assets and needs favorable publicity.
Victory might also help him toward Indianapolis which he has called "the only race I want to win.... If I don't race in Indianapolis in 1957 I never will, because after that I will be too old," says Fangio who will be 46 on June 24.