KEEPING THE SPIRIT ALIVE SINCE 1999

Carlos Menditéguy - Playboy, gambler, natually gifted sportsman, 10 goal Polo player and occasional F1 driver.

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08-May-20/historicracing.com/

Born in Buenos Aires to a wealthy family, Carlos Alberto Menditéguy was a naturally gifted sportsman. And it wasn't that he was just good at one or two sports, he excelled at everything he turned his hand to. Take golf for instance. He had a bet with a friend that he could take up golf and become a scratch player within a year. He did it within nine months! He was a top soccer player while at college and excelled at tennis, billiards, fencing, racquetball, squash, shooting and boxing.

 

However at Polo he was even better. He joined the El Trébol team in 1940, by which time he was already a 10 handicap player (The highest rank achievable in the game), and won the Argentine Open in Palermo that year and for the next three years as well. Back then there were only six 10 goal players in the world and Charlie or Don Carlos (as he was know as by his friends) was probably the best of them. Even today there there are fewer than a dozen 10 goal players. Of course combined with that ability came an egotistical nature that could easily upset those around him and he did not enjoy a particularly good relationship with the press.

 

A friend of Profirio Rubirosa, Charlie was also a playboy and inveterate gambler who reportedly had affairs with Brigitte Bardot (apparently failing to appear for either qualifying or the race at one Grand Prix in 1956, though I can't figure out which one. Perhaps it was 1957?) and Ava Gardner amongst others.

 The 1950 Playa Grande race, Charlie's first win.The 1950 Playa Grande race, Charlie's first win.

So what happened when he tried motor racing? Well he was fearless and very quick but tough on machinery so many promising races ended in retirement. Occasionally his mounts survived the course and he took his first win in 1950 driving a Ferrari 166 MM which had been temporarily imported for the Playa Grande race held on the streets of Mar del Plata. He also impressed the following year during the Peron Cup races with his performances in an Alfa Romeo. He went on to race regularly in the Argentinian Grand Prix and the Buenos Aires Libre races and occasionally made the trip to Europe on the back of the Fangio/Gonzalez bandwagon of the early 1950s, but never completed a full season.

On his way to second in the 1952 Eva Peron Grand Prix in Buenos Aires driving a Ferrari 125On his way to second in the 1952 Eva Peron Grand Prix in Buenos Aires driving a Ferrari 125

In March 1952 he was second behind Fangio in the Gran Premio Extraordinario de Eva Duarte Perón in Buenos Aires driving a Ferrari 125 and was 4th in the Gran Premio de Uruguay at Piriápolis with an Alfa Romeo 308. He made his World Championship debut in Argentina the following year driving a Gordini 16 but retiring with a broken gearbox after 24 laps. The following year he broke the engine of his Maserati A6GCM in practice and couldn't repair it in time for the race, and in 1955 he crashed out on the second lap. He entered the Italian Grand Prix driving a Maserati 250F and finished 5th and also raced in Turismo Carretera back home winning the Vuelta de Olavarria.

 

His crash at Sebring in 1956. Photo credit Craige PelouzeHis crash at Sebring in 1956. Photo credit Craige PelouzeIn 1956 Charlie led his home Grand Prix by a huge margin until, after missing a gear, he broke the car's half-shaft and slid the Maserati into a fence. Another fine drive in the Mendoza GP was hampered by low oil pressure resulting in a 4th place finish, but he did share the winning Maserati sports car with Moss in the Buenos Aires 1000 Km. At Sebring, paired with Cesare Perdisa, he went to pass the Arnolt-Bristol of Arnolt and Goldich on lap 40. However he got it all wrong, rolled the Ferrari and was thrown out. He was then clipped by Rubirosa's Ferrari as he lay in the road. He was taken off to hospital and fortunately made a full recovery. The car went on to suffer further damage when the trailer it was being transported back to the Maserati Corporation of America on was hit by a speeding truck.

Argentine Grand Prix in 1956. Photo credit the Cahier Archive.Argentine Grand Prix in 1956. Photo credit the Cahier Archive.

Finally in 1957 he did manage to keep it together and took a fine third behind Juan-Manuel Fangio and Jean Behra in his home Grand Prix, all driving Maserati 250F's. This performance persuaded Maserati to give him an opportunity to race in Europe. At Monaco he qualified a respectable 7th and worked his way up to 4th before having to pit for tyres after clipping a curb. He fought back impressively to third but then spun out at half distance. In sports cars he had some success, finishing 3rd at the Circuito de Monsanto in Portugal behind Fangio and Masten Gregory. In the French Grand Prix he retired with engine problems and in Britain it was his transmission that failed. Menditéguy complained, accusing the factory of providing him with ill prepared machinery while Maserati felt that his retirements were a result of him being too hard on the cars. Whatever the truth, he returned to Argentina mid-season in disgust.

 

Winning the 1959 Vuelta de OlavarriaWinning the 1959 Vuelta de OlavarriaIn 1958 he shared Godia's Maserati to take third place in the Buenos Aires City GP. He won the Vuelta de Olavarria again in 1959, the year he also won the Vuelta de Arrecifes.

 

In 1960, in the last Argentine Grand Prix for more than a decade, he showed his talent had not deserted him by taking a Centro Sud Cooper into fourth place. In the Turismo Carretera Gran Premio of 1963, when just 16 Km from the finish, his car broke. He handed his co-driver, 'Negro' Linares, his lighter, told him to pour a little gasoline on the car and burn it.

 

He later became a successful horse trainer.

 

Suffering from diabetes and Parkinson's disease, he died in 1973 after suffering a heart attack following an operation. Menditeguy was buried in La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires where his casket can be seen through a glass window on the North side of the family vault.


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