Who Was Daniel Urrutia? How Did He Die?

As a documentary profiling the life of the man often referred to as the Formula One King, Netflix’s ‘A Life of Speed: The Juan Manuel Fangio Story’ can only be described as perfectly intriguing. That’s because it incorporates not just extensive archival footage but also first-hand accounts of individuals close to the matter to really let the reality behind Juan’s experiences shine through. It thus comes as no surprise the death of Daniel Urrutia is covered in this Francisco Macri-directed original as well — so now, if you wish to learn more about the same, we’ve got you covered.

Daniel Urrutia: A Passionate Mechanic and Racing Enthusiast

Although born in Mendoza, Argentina, on September 6, 1913, Daniel was actually residing in the wonderous city of San José de Balcarce (or simply Balcarce) by the time 1948 rolled around. The truth is the mechanic was wholly dedicated to providing for his family while also pursuing his racing passions, which is why he had become Juan Manuel Fangio’s “acompañante” a year prior. He had a loving, pregnant wife and two daughters to care for, yet everything unfortunately turned upside down during the 1948 Grand Prix of South America — from Buenos Aires to Caracas.

Daniel Urrutia Died From Fatal Injuries Sustained in a Racing Accident

According to Juan’s own accounts, per the Netflix production, he and his co-driver Daniel had been facing several issues with both their vehicle as well as the tournament’s rules from the get-go. On the one hand, some regulations specified “the starting position of each stage of the race would vary depending upon general classification” despite how the driving teams finished prior. On the other, “the pinions and crown gear [of our vehicle] were worn away, and that cost us a lot of time… I had to drive on dirt roads and pass over the other cars and it was hard on our car.”

Therefore, following every long stint, Juan and Daniel spent quite some time working on their vehicle before heading off to relax, meaning they weren’t as comfortable as they would’ve liked. But things truly changed for the worse on the evening of October 28, 1948, when they were summoned by tournament officials with important news just as they were about to head to bed. They were told the next stage of the race would begin at 10 pm the same evening rather than at 5 in the morning owing to signs of a resolution attack, so they were essentially sleep deprived.

Juan was driving right at the forefront as he left Lima with Daniel sitting right by his side, and then he maintained this placing by going fast despite it being near pitch black due to dense fog. He hence lost control of the car while attempting to pass through a left-hand bend near the village of Huanchaco at 87 miles per hour (140 kilometers per hour), leading to them tumbling down an embankment. Two fellow competitors thankfully stopped immediately to help the duo, especially as it was evident Daniel was thrown out through the windscreen while even Juan suffered injuries.

The race car driver fortunately survived after getting the necessary treatment for his neck wounds, yet Daniel ended up succumbing to his multiple cervical and basal skull fractures the same day. In other words, he passed away at 35 from the injuries sustained during the accidental crash on October 29, 1948, leaving behind a wife, two daughters, and a son born on December 4, the same year.

“I took the curve faster than I should [have] so I didn’t faint [fall asleep],” Juan later said, per the documentary film. “While the car was spinning and falling, I felt like it was a huge disaster; as if we were falling off a cliff, especially because my co-driver was thrown off the car along with the car door. That was my first accident. I thought I would never race again. Urrutia’s death… I caused that accident.” Nevertheless, he ultimately began working on getting out of his saddened state and was soon back on the road again, keeping Daniel alive through his races.

Read More: Juan Manuel Fangio II: Where is Juan Fangio’s Nephew Now?