There was once a time when the stars of Formula One would escape winters in Europe by racing in South America outside of any championship and any regulations. As the temperatures start to drop here in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s easy to think about chasing the sun to the Southern Hemisphere and watching some of the world’s best drivers race for a few weeks.
Grand Prix races were held in South America prior to World War II, but they were mainly held during the racing season in Europe. This meant for a driver to participate they would have to miss a number of major events just to travel by ship to Argentina and Brazil. The fields in these races were primarily filled with local stars alongside factory B teams and mid-tier privateer racers from Europe.
The state of play would change immediately after World War II. Automóvil Club Argentino with government backing organized a series of four races at the start of the 1947 season, a pair of races in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires as well as races in Rosario and Rafaela. The entries would fall into three categories. First, the international stars in European machinery. Second, the best Argentine drivers in European seats funded by ACA. And third, local Argentine and Brazilian drivers in homebrewed race specials powered with American engines.
In later seasons, La Temporada would be confined to the pair of races in Buenos Aires. The races were respectively named after Juan Perón and his famous wife Eva Perón. The establishment of the races would also coincide with General Juan Perón being elected President of Argentina in 1946. General Perón and Evita were a fixture at the races in the capital.
General Perón was a populist and nationalist who also loved motor racing. While I assume he wanted to see an international race in his hometown, he had other motives. Perón hoped to elevate Argentina’s standing on the world stage by hosting Grand Prix races. He also wanted Argentine drivers see success in international motorsport. Argentina’s best drivers were not only able to acquire La Temporada seats, but also Formula One seats with state funding through the ACA and YPF, Argentina’s state-owned oil company. Five-time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio was the most successful driver to have his career backed by the Argentine government.
While there were no championship points on offer, the events gave Formula One teams and drivers the opportunity to prepare for the European season. The most extreme example of this was when Mercedes-Benz ventured to Argentina in 1951 with three of their dominant pre-war cars, their first competitive outing after the blanket five-year ban on German competitors in international motorsport ended. According to Motor Sport, the three-time 1930s European champion Rudolf Caracciola refused a post-war return to racing so Mercedes had to find a replacement. Mercedes initially planned to race the inaugural Formula One world champion Giuseppe Farina, but the ACA allegedly took the seat away for Fangio, according to Farina.
Fangio was Farina’s F1 teammate at Alfa Romeo and finished second in the championship. Neither Fangio or Mercedes were able to win either race as the over decade-old Grand Prix cars were hampered by mechanical issues. Both races were won by José Froilán González for Scuderia Ferrari in an ACA-funded ride. González would continue on at Ferrari to win the team’s first World Championship Grand Prix at SIlverstone that season as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1954.
La Temporada also gave manufacturers a chance to promote their brands on another continent. A continent full of European immigrants and their descendants who had a love of motorsport. Juan Manuel Fangio, the grandson of an Italian immigrant, had opened a Mercedes dealership before his Temporada stint with Mercedes. Fangio would famously join the German team when they returned to Formula One, winning championships at Mercedes in 1954 and 1955.
The height of Fangio’s success would also be the height of La Temporada. Starting in 1953, the centerpiece event of the series would be the Argentine Grand Prix, the January season opener of the Formula One World Championship. The prestige of La Temporada began to fade with Fangio’s retirement after the 1958 season and the removal of the Argentine Grand Prix for the F1 schedule after the 1960 season. The series continued on through the 1960s as an attraction for the continental European stars of the junior categories, but even that couldn’t prevent this unique series of exhibition races from fading into obscurity.