Raymond Sommer

2021-01-31 23:00

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Raymond Sommer

Raymond Sommer was born in Mouzon, in the French Ardennes, on August 31, 1906.Raymond is the son of Roger Sommer, one of the pioneers of French aviati


Raymond Sommer was born in Mouzon, in the French Ardennes, on August 31, 1906. Raymond is the son of Roger Sommer, one of the pioneers of French aviation in which he plays the dual role of aircraft builder and pilot. It is known that in 1909 Roger broke the record for the longest flight that belonged to the Wright brothers. In addition, the Sommer family owns a very successful carpet company in France and Europe. At first the young Raymond attended the schools of a small town in Lorraine, Pont-à-Mousson where he even became a successful boxer, only to be sent by his family to Manchester to study in England.


His dream, however, is to run, and in this sense he will be able to convince his father to buy him a Chrysler Imperial. His automotive career thus began in 1931, driving a 4.7-liter Chrysler, taking part in the IV Grand Prix de Picardie, and in the same year he achieved his first career success, imposing himself in the 24 Hours of Spa. In the same year, Sommer also takes part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but will be forced to retire. The following year he will buy an Alfa Romeo 8C, and with this he will be able to establish himself at Le Mans, sharing the steering wheel with Luigi Chinetti: the Ardennes Boar, this is his nickname, will drive for twenty of the twenty-four hours scheduled, due to the indisposition of Chinetti, who was ill, and even exhausted due to the long and tiring preparation for the French race. During the French race, after a long chase, Sommer overtook the twin car of Franco Cortese, only to be two laps behind it.


Three weeks later Raymond finished third at the Nice Grand Prix, behind Louis Chiron and Renè Dreyfus, and seven days later he won the Grand Prix de Marseille in Miramas, ahead of Nuvolari and Moll. In 1933 the French driver bought a Maserati 8CM, with which he won for the second time at Le Mans paired with Nuvolari, who had been the protagonist of a great duel with Chinetti for leadership. The following year Sommer still runs with a Maserati but the car is not up to the previous year, so he decides to change cars and go to the court of the Scuderia Ferrari, which provides him with an Alfa Romeo P3 with which he wins. the French races of Comminges and Monthlery. Sommer would like to compete on equal terms in the most prestigious endurance races, but realizes that Alfa is absolutely unable to compete against the very fast Mercedes and Auto Union.


In 1936 Raymond won, paired with his longtime rival, Jean-Pierre Wimille, in the ACF Grand Prix driving a Bugatti T59, and for the second time at the 24 Hours of Spa. In 1937 the French driver switched to Talbot with the status of private driver, and on his first official exit he obtained a second place in Pau, to then win the Tunis and Marseille Grand Prix. Raymond attempts his third assault on the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Alfa, but the car betrays him ten laps after taking the lead of the race. Back at the wheel of the Talbot, the Frenchman won two fourth places at the Marne and French Grand Prix, becoming French champion. 1938 is his lui annus horribilis, since he is the victim of two retirements both at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, while he is in command of him, and at that of Spa, where he would have been largely in the lead; on both occasions, the Alfa 2900B will betray him.


During the short season of 1939, Sommer races with the Alfa 308 and is again champion of France, and in the meantime he will participate in other competitions before the interruption of the beginning of the world conflict, finishing second at the Grand Prix d'Anvers where he races with the Alfa Romeo 8C, racing privately at the fifteenth Grand Prix de Picardie with the Maserati 6CM where he finished second, and at the twelfth Grand Prix du Comminges St Gaudens with the Talbot MD90, finishing third at the finish.


Then World War II breaks out, and Raymond participates as an active member of the resistance. Once the conflict is over, the French driver returns for one last time at the wheel of his Alfa 308, obtaining a second place at the Gran Prix de Nice, before taking part in the second race of the Coupe de l'Entraide Française - Bois de Boulogne with the BMW 328, coming third; he will also be behind the wheel of the German car in the Formula 2 event, the fifth Grand Prix de Marseille, finishing it again in third place.


In 1947 Sommer returned to the wheel of a Maserati, but an illness kept him away from the racetracks for most of the year. Returning from convalescence, the French driver was called in by Ferrari in 1948, and in a Maranello car he made his debut at the Italian Grand Prix which takes place in Turin, in the setting of the Valentino Park. Raymond will remain with Ferrari until the middle of the 1949 racing season, before moving on to driving a 4.5-liter Talbot Lago; the best result of 1949 will be the victory at Monthlery.


Modern Formula 1 was born in 1950 and Raymond competed in the Monaco Grand Prix driving a Ferrari, obtaining an excellent fourth place. A few months later, on September 10, 1950, Raymond will take part in the Haute Garonne Grand Prix in Cadours but at the start of the race the steering of his car will suddenly break, causing the car to go off the road and roll over. Raymond thus loses his life, but the memory of his legendary victories still lives on today.


Simone Centonze

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