Jose Froilan Gonzalez
5/10/1922 - 15/6/2013
Gonzalez made his Formula One debut in the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix. He raced 26 Grands Prix in 9 seasons (1950-1957 and 1960). He won twice, came second 7 times, third 4 times, set 3 pole positions and 6 fastest laps. He won the 1951 Coppa Acerbo, in 1954 the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Maurice Trintignant. Jose Froilan Gonzalez died 8 years ago, he was 91 , He would have been 99.
Gonzalez was the son of a Chevrolet dealer in a provincial town about three hours' drive from Buenos Aires, he was a chubby baby who grew into a chubby man. Suprisingly, he was a keen athlete from an early age, a first- rate swimmer, a crack shot, a cyclist, a fair soccer player and a production car road racer just like Fangio.
Tagged 'the Bull of the Pampas' by the press, the name perfectly described the vast bulk of this unlikely looking racing driver. Enzo Ferrari once expressed a degree of wonderment as to how Gonzalez drove racing cars so effectively, considering the sweat into which the chubby Argentinean driver seemed to work himself. Affectionately called 'El Cabezon' ('Fat Head') by his compatriots, he was called Pepe by his friends, who knew him as a kind-hearted, good-natured soul, despite his sometimes fearsome facade.
His father set him up in the trucking business, and by 1949 he was ready to join Fangio on their first European tour together with a Maserati that Fangio had found for him. However results were rather thin on the ground, though he take second place in the Albi GP.
His breakthrough came in 1951 when Mercedes resurrected a trio of pre-war two-stage supercharged W163 cars and shipped them to Argentina for a couple of prestigious formule libre races. Gonzalez defeated them in both races at Buenos Aires in a Ferrari 166, and he began his proper Grand Prix career as a works driver for Ferrari. His style, hunched over the wheel, hard on the throttle, sliding the car to the limits of the track - and beyond on many occasions - was far from pretty, but no one could argue with his speed, and he soon gained immortality by defeating the works Alfa Romeos in the 1951 British GP, becoming the first driver to win a World Championship Grand Prix for the Scuderia.
Gonzalez also won the non-title Pescara GP before signing for Maserati for 1952, a season which saw him race in only one Grand Prix, although he also handled the brutish BRM V16, winning the Goodwood Trophy, and Vandervell's Thinwall Ferrari, in which he took the Richmond Trophy. He continued with Maserati as Fangio's team-mate in 1953, but was in the shadow of his great friend and rival before a crash in practice for a sports car race at Lisbon sidelined him for three months with a fractured vertebra.
Signed by Ferrari for 1954, Gonzalez enjoyed his finest season, taking his 625 to another glorious win for the team over the might of Mercedes, as well as claiming wins in the non-title International Trophy and Bari and Bordeaux GPs. His year also saw four wins in sports cars, including Le Mans, where he shared the winning Ferrari with Trintignant, before a practice crash in the Tourist Trophy left him with an injured arm. He returned home to Argentina and, apart from a visit to his beloved Silverstone to race the Vanwall in 1956 which ended with driveshaft failure at the start, mainly restricted his racing to home territory. His guest appearances in his home Grands Prix showed there was still considerable fire in his belly and he duelled with Ascari's Lancia for the lead in 1955 before finishing second, but after the 1957 race he was content just to take part in his Chevrolet-engined Ferrari, turning his attention more to his motor business.
(c) 'Who is Who' by Steve Small, 2000 with additions