top of page

Juan-Manuel Fangio was kidnapped by supporters of Fidel Castro in Havana in 1958

Juan-Manuel Fangio, five-time world champion, was nicknamed "The Maestro". A reputation that makes the Argentinian a perfect target for causes seeking notoriety.

Thus in 1958, during the second Cuban Grand Prix, of which he had won the first edition the previous year, on Maserati Fangio was taken hostage by the supporters of Fidel Castro, grouped in the July 26 Movement (M26) since already two years and who tried to overthrow the regime of General Fulgencio Batista.

“By kidnapping Fangio, a world-famous runner and crowd idol, the rebels wanted to draw the world's attention to their struggle”

The kidnapping took place: "8:59 p.m., in the lobby of the Lincoln Hotel: 'No one move!', a man shouts. He puts a gun to Fangio's back and tells him: 'Come with us!'+ 9 p.m.: Fangio is pushed into a car which disappears. The police are alerted by Fangio's representative in Cuba. 11 p.m.: monster manhunt. The 24 international riders (who were to run with Fangio in the Grand Prix of the Havana) are guarded by the police.

The goal of the kidnappers was therefore twofold: to draw international attention to their struggle and to the catastrophic state of the country, and to have the Cuban Grand Prix canceled to discredit Batista.

The first objective was achieved. Fangio only remained their hostage for 26 hours, before being released in front of the Argentine embassy 26 hours later.

Castro himself (who had ordered the kidnapping) apologized to the pilot, and he claimed to have been well treated. He even said he understood the cause of his captors, developing a mini-Stockholm syndrome (at the time the expression, born in 1973, was not yet known).

The other objective of the Cuban revolutionaries, however, was not achieved. The second Cuban Grand Prix took place as planned, on Monday afternoon, in front of 150,000 people, the Frenchman Maurice Trintignant (the uncle of Jean-Louis Trintignant) replacing Fangio at the wheel of a Maserati.

But the race, won by Briton Stirling Moss on Ferrari, was marred by a serious accident. The Ferrari of Cuban racer Armando Garcia Cifuentes, skidding on a puddle of oil, rushed into the crowd and left seven dead and 40 injured. Being kidnapped by Castro's men "may have saved my life," Fangio would later say.

Fidel Castro overthrew the power of General Batista on January 1, 1959 and took power in Cuba without letting go. But that's another story...


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page