Enrique Díaz Sánez Valiente

26/2/1918 - 14/2/1958

Record updated 13-Mar-23

Enrique Valiente was an Argentine sportsman. A keen shot, pilot and racing driver. He won a silver medal in pistol shooting (25 meters) at the 1948 Olympic Games in London and the Argentine Sports Car Championship in 1954 and 1955.

Enrique Díaz Sánez Valiente
Carlos Enrique Diaz Saenz Valiente. Argentine racing driver, pilot, Olympian and World Champion pistol shot.

Pictured here with Jose Maria Iban, Valiente looking typically miserable!

By all accounts, he wore a permanently morose and sad expression on his face. He was both introverted and shy. However he also had a very strong will, a keen sense of discipline, amazing concentration and excellent reflexes.

Born in Mar del Plata, Argentina in 1918, he started racing in the mid 1930s under the non de Volant of 'Patorozú' (A popular comic character at the time). Together with his friend Ernesto Petrini, who raced under the name of 'Tony', they entered the Gran Premio Internacional del Sur, a round of the new Turismo Carretera series, in 1937 driving a 1935 Ford coupé. It was a spectacular debut as they set the fastest time on the first leg setting a new record. However the use of different names was for a purpose as neither wanted their respective families to know about their racing. At the the finish of that first leg, Valente saw photographers approaching and hid, leaving Petrini, who had a mustache (like the character Patorozú) alone in the car. The reporters came to the conclusion that the driver was Valiente. Valiente, on being told that word had spread to his mother who was most distressed, decided not to appear for the second stage.

He continued to race sporadically until 1941 when he stopped to concentrate on his flying and shooting. The onset of WWII brought a halt to racing anyway a year later.

At the first World Shooting Championships after the war, held in 1947 in Stockholm, Sweden, he won the .22 caliber rapid fire pistol competition with a world record score of 570 points. The following year he went to the Olympics held in London where he took silver, nine points behind the Hungarian, Károly Takáks. While Takáks was serving as a sergeant in the army, a defective grenade exploded in his right hand, his shooting hand, shattering it completely. He then secretly taught himself to shoot with his left hand. Apparently when they arrived in London Valiente asked Takáks why he was there. Takáks told him it was to learn. On the podium, with Takáks on the top step, Valiente is reported to have said, "I think you have learned enough!"

A keen aviator, he tried to be the first to fly from Melbourne to Río Gallegos, the capital of the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina, via South Pole.

He went to the Olympics again in 1952. In another close competition Takáks once again took gold with fellow Hungarian Szilárd Kun tied with Romanian Gheorghe Lichiardopol. Valente missed a medal by one point.

When racing resumed in Argentine, Valiente returned, driving a Cadillac-Arauz Special in 1953. He finished 9th in Buenos Aires in January and, after a number of DNFs, won there in August. He won the Corsa Sport de Ciudad de Buenos Aires at the end of September and finished 4th in the Primo Primavera, Mar del Plata in December.

He was due to start 1954 with the Cadillac-Arauz at the Buenos Aires 1000 Kilometres driving with Jorge Camaño but they withdrew. About that time Juan Perón gave special tax exemption to some imported sports cars. He wanted to promote Argentine drivers and for this he believed they needed up to date machinery. Valiente took advantage of this and first purchased a 4.5-litre Ferrari 375MM (0374AM) and later a 5-litre 375 Plus (0398TF).

Now armed with the 375MM, he took five wins and a second in the seven rounds, winning the Club de Automóviles Sport Sports Car Championship.

Valiente chasing Trintignant during the Buenos Aires 1000ks in 1955

In December 1954 he had switched to the 5-litre 375 Plus and the following year he won the championship again, with six wins and a second place in the seven rounds. He also won the Buenos Aires 1000 Km a round of the FIA World Championship. There were only four works entries, two Ferraris and two Gordinis. Driving with José Maria Ibanez, Valiente took the lead after the Ferrari 375MM of Carlos Najurieta and Oscar Rivero Ferrari hit a dog 18 laps from the finish.

A rare shot of a smiling Valiente. here he is with José María Ibánez after wiinning the Buenos Aires 1000ks in 1955.

Both the works Ferraris were disqualified: the 118 LM of Froilan Gonzales and Maurice Trintignant when Gonzales took a shortcut to the pits after suffering fuel pump problems and the 750 Spider of Umberto Maglioli and Clemar Bucci after being pushed by spectators.

1955 was a good year for not only did he retain his Argentine Sports Car Championship but he also won gold at the Pan American Games in Mexico, winning the rapid fire pistol competition with a world record score of 589 points. He also won silver in the team competition.

When Juan Peron was overthrown in September 1955 the new military regime went to great lengths to destroy both the President's and Eva Perón's reputation. In December of that year they arrested 50 Peron supporters and Valiente found himself on a list of people being investigated for benefitting from corruption under the Peron Government. Also implicated were Fangio, who had his assets in Argentina frozen, and Jose Froilan Gonzalez.

Valiente had been approached by Ferrari to drive a works entered car in the Sebring 12 Hour race 1956. Unfortunately a few weeks earlier, on February 14, his plane got into trouble after crossing the Champaqui, a mountain in the west of Argentina, and crashed in Atos Pampa (Cordoba). He was attempting to land in a field when one of the wheels struck a rock and the plane skidded into a ravine killing Valiente and his two passengers.

Legend has it that Enzo Ferrari sent a personal letter of condolence.neral.