By: Jeremy McMullen
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By: Jeremy McMullen
|Rushes of adrenaline can be addicting. Soon, adventure and speed become such a way of life, such an addiction, that it can become a generational experience. The norm just isn't exciting when raised in an environment of adventure. And if raised in a home with means, addictions, such as grand prix racing, can become an outlet that feeds the addiction.
Raymond Sommer was born into a wealthy family from Sudan, France in 1906. Raymond likely developed his need for speed and adventure from his father, who in 1909, broke the Wright brothers record for the longest flight. However, Raymond waited until he was twenty-five before he let his adrenaline addiction overtake him.
In 1931, Sommer began entering motoraces. He started out using a Chrysler Imperial. But this wasn't just some kid with money deciding to go racing. Instead, he proved his talent and determination the very next year.
In his second year of motoracing, he entered and won the 24 hours of Le Mans. This victory was an achievement in and of itself. However, the fact the victory came as a result of Sommer having to drive over 20 of the hours solo because his driving partner became ill only demonstrated his desire, his will to win. Raymond was just one of many 'gentlemen racers'. But, because of his desire, Sommer would achieve the next level. Even despite winning the 24 hours of Le Mans it would be easy to pass this guy off, but the fact this 'rich kid' would win it again the very next year only cemented Sommer's reputation as a legitimate racer.
To say Sommer was a legitimate racer though is a bit of an understatement. Raymond would go on to lead every 24 hours of Le Mans up until 1938. Sommer was a dominant force in the 24 hour race despite only winning twice. The records are really a poor indicator of Raymond's dominance. One year in particular, the records show that Raymond did not win, and this is what most people go by—results. What might be overlooked was the fact that until his car broke he had a lead of over 12 laps—that's dominance.
If one were to consider racing to be an art then Sommer would have qualified as a freelance artist, especially when it came to grand prix racing. Raymond did race quite a few grand prix races for the likes of Ferrari and Talbot-Lago's factory team. Yet, despite having the talent to drive for some of the major teams of the day, Raymond often decided to run in privately entered cars. This choice would do more to hurt Sommer's chances in grand prix racing then it would to help.
Much of Sommer's pre-World War II career was spent racing sports cars, where he excelled winning such races as the 24 hours of Le Mans and Spa. When the war broke out Raymond did not sit on the sidelines and wait for it all to be over. Instead, Raymond was active in the French Resistance.