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24 Hours of Le Mans: The incredible feat of Louis Rosier

Legend has it that he drove 23 and a half hours in a row, but something that no one doubts is his tenacity to win after overcoming various adversities: mechanical breakdown that cost him the loss of his seven laps lead, the collision with an owl, broken windshield ...


No one knows for sure what percentage of glory corresponded to the father and how much to the son in that edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1950, the only thing that was really clear is that the success of the duo formed by Louis rosier y Jean-Louis Rosier it was a triumph of the resistance and the perseverance of a single man ...

Louis Rosier was the owner of a fairly successful Renault dealership in the Clermont-Ferrand area. He possessed a mentality of steel forged in his fight alongside the resistance, which helped him greatly as he traveled across Europe to free his wife and daughter from a concentration camp.

Buying a Talbot In 1946 it was a new dawn for him (despite its outdated technology, driving one at Le Mans in 1938 had been one of the memories that relied most on during the war).

Louis Rosier Le Mans 1950
The Rosiers, father and son, with their Talbot-Lago.

Looking understandably older than his 40-year-olds deserved, his wildest days - he piloted damaged Harleys through gravel mountain trails in his youth - were long gone. He knew his limits and drove according to them: kilometers per liter had become as important or more important than kilometers per hour.

His meticulous style not only made him champion on several occasions, it changed the course of the competition. Your unexpected victory without stopping to refuel in the 1949 Belgian Grand Prix, made consider Ferrari if your turbocharger was a waste of strength. However, the 1950 Le Mans edition was going to be different ...

Rosier had no intention of being the hare, but he couldn't play the tortoise either. His controversial participation was with a car equipped with a few relatively few spoilers, a handful of headlights and a designation Grand Sport. His Talbot-Lago looked like an old tractor compared to Ferrari's brand new high-revving V12s., but his more than 200 horses made him a favorite even before the start. This time, Rosier was in the spotlight.

His uncontrollable compatriot Raymon Sommer (his career was the antithesis of Rosier's despite being a year younger) set the pace in the Ferrari 195S Berlinetta who co-piloted with the motorcycling ace Dorino Serafini. But the Talbot-Lago equipped with tires DunlopAfter a slow escape, he climbed positions during the chaotic and supposedly programmed pit stop of his main rivals.

Pushing further and further away, Rosier seemed immovable, alone and accompanied only by his thoughts, as his co-pilot remained restless in the boxwondering when or even if his chance would ever come.

Louis Rosier Jr. (sometimes called Jean-Louis in an attempt to avoid confusion) had been named his father's teammate in 1949, but an overheating caused by a broken fan belt caused him to drop out after 21 laps. .

Start of the 24 1950 Hours of Le Mans.

The contribution of the 25-year-old in 1950 is something that, due to the destruction of the official documents of the time and the contradictory versions of the contemporary specialized media, continues to be debated ...

Disagreement appeared even within the family. The son claimed a 3-hour period, with two additional laps during the 13th hour to allow his father to regain his strength, after 45 minutes wasted replacing a broken rocker shaft. He said that all the confusion was caused by the sharing of names and by the public address system. This version of events was reaffirmed by her mother, who did not consider her husband capable enough to drive during 23 and a half hours in a row ...

The father, however, insisted that Junior's quota was no more than 30 minutes, the most uncomfortable for him of the entire race. Satisfied with allowing him to co-drive (in 1949 they achieved victory at Monte in a Renault 4CV), Senior never had any qualms about pulling the bar and commenting on the dangerous inexperience of his offspring in the matter. "It is too slow, if it continues like this it will end up killing itself". That Junior drove a 4CV again in 1951, while his father shared a Talbot-Lago with nothing more and nothing less than Juan Manuel Fangio, said it all.

Rosier was an experienced mechanic, with such skill with set-ups and such precise consistency at the wheel that he infuriated his rivals and wore down their spirits and mechanics in equal measure. Result? The five Ferraris present in 1950 at Le Mans withdrew.

Louis Rosier Le Mans 1950
Louis Rosier (5) in action at the La Sarthe circuit.

His performance had it all: achieved the first lap record at La Sarthe at over 160 km / h and during the night he collided with an owl, which caused the windshield and his glasses to break, as well as multiple cuts to his face. And after a mechanical breakdown that cost him the loss of his seven laps lead, he spent the next four hours regaining his lead, with a crowd cheering in excitement with each lap.

His brave feat made Rosier a hero and, after Sommer's fatal accident in September of that same year, he became the best driver in France. However, he knew how to recognize his limits and his place. His team marked the origin of a new generation of French talent and became the visible face of a campaign to create a circuit in Clermont-Ferrand, a circuit that, unfortunately, would be named in his memory and honor.

The death of Rosier in October 1956, three weeks after suffering an accident at the controls of a Ferrari 750 Monza in Motlhéry, was mourned by the whole country. For France, Le Mans is their most important competition and theirs was the greatest display of strength ever seen on their track.

BY PAUL FEARNLEY

 

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Automundo

Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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