Roberto Mieres, one of the last of the early Formula 1 racers, has died at the age of 87.
Born into a wealthy family in Mar del Plata, Mieres grew up in privileged circumstances. He was a natural athlete and a great competitor. He played rugby, rowed, was a skilled yachtsman and a very good tennis player. His father had raced a Peugeot as early as 1910 but he fell upon automobile racing almost by accident, when in 1947 some of his friends who owned MGs decided to hold a race at the San Justo Speedway.
Mieres, known as “Bitito”, was a little surprised when he won the event. They had had so much fun that they then decided to start their own car club and raced whatever cars they could find. These included pre-war Grand Prix machines such as the Bugatti Type 35 and even a Mercedes SSK. There was also an old 2.3-litre supercharged Alfa Romeo and Mieres took this to Rosario where he took part in a race supporting the Grand Prix.
The car was seen by Giuseppe Farina and Alberto Ascari and curious to know more they went to find the driver and in the end recommended that he try his hand at racing in Europe. At the same time the Argentine government was paying for drivers to go to Europe and so Mieres ended up with some cash and competed in a number of races with a Gordini and a Ferrari. He was sixth in Aix-les-Bains, but really made an impression when he finished fourth in the Grand Prix des Nations in Geneva. The government money stopped and so Mieres returned home and competed in local events again, although in 1953 he went to the United States and raced a Jaguar at Bridgehampton on one occasion.
Finally he went to Europe on his own and, thanks to his friendship with Harry Schell, did a deal to become the reserve driver of Gordini, where Schell was teamed with Maurice Trintignant, Jean Behra and Robert Manzon. While waiting for his chance he went to Italy and talked his way into a test with Lancia and went faster than the regular drivers. Unfortunately he was unable to work out a deal with Gianni Lancia because Mieres needed to earn a salary to live. He returned to Gordini and finally got his chance to race a car in Bordeaux. He also raced sportscars and at the end of the year he received an offer to drive for Maserati in 1954 and made his debut in Buenos Aires and was able to take on the dominant Ferraris of Ascari and Farina, although when they got back to Europe it soon emerged that Mercedes was impossible to beat. Mieres then suffered nasty burns when an engine blew up and he was sprayed with burning fuel, but three weeks later he was back racing again, clad in bandages. That year he scored several good placings including fourth in Spain and at the Swiss GP and added another fourth place in Holland in 1955.
At the end of 1955 he dropped from the Formula 1 scene, but continued to race whenever he could and drove Porsches at Sebring and Daytona and an Osca in the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. After that he began a relationship with Volvo which saw him racing at home in Argentina and in other odd places such as Puerto Rico.
By then his interest had switched towards yachting and in 1960 he went to the Olympic Games in Rome representing Argentina in the Star Class. He finished 17th.
Mieres returned to racing in 2003, trying a J2 Allard at the Monaco Historic event, at the grand old age of 79.