TeamsEcurie Rosier: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Everything about Louis Rosier's life revolved around automobiles. Rosier had come onto the racing scene at the conclusion of World War II and he would be immediately successful. However, the man from Chapdes-Beaufort, France wasn't just a racing driver.
Rosier owned a Renault delearship in Clermont-Ferrand. It happened to be one of the largest Renault dealerships in all of France. Yet, while his dealership was one of the largest in France he wasn't just a car salesman either. Rosier was known for dealing in industrial and farming equipment, but also, in designing car prototypes.
Rosier's business acumen enabled him to take part in grand prix racing. He would end up being involved in the first year of the World Championship and would even finish 4th in the standings in 1950. In 1951, Rosier would finish 13th. Each of the first couple of years of the Formula One World Championship Rosier would drive for his own team in a Talbot-Lago T26C. The car was reliable and stable, but not the fastest car on the circuit. However, in 1952, Rosier would end up being able to purchase a car that would give him his best opportunity to date.
In 1952, the World Championship changed and would run according to Formula 2 regulations. Rosier managed to purchase a Ferrari 500. The car would undoubtedly become the strongest competitor during the season. Unfortunately for Rosier, retirements would end up keeping him out of the championship fight altogether. Heading into the 1953 season, Rosier was certainly looking for much better results.
The 1953 season would be the first time in which the World Championship would actually be a 'World' Championship. The first round of the championship would end up taking place across the Atlantic Ocean in Argentina.
South America had become a popular destination during the off-season. Since it was summer in the Southern Hemisphere many drivers and teams would head to nations like Brazil and Argentina to continue racing. This opened the door to Buenos Aires hosting what would become the first round of the World Championship in January of 1953. Unfortunately, the costs associated with traveling to South America and shipping a whole race team, even if a privateer entry, were not inconsequential. This would lead to the starting field being rather small and absent of many competitors, including Louis Rosier's Ecurie Rosier team.
Ecurie Rosier's first race, in fact, wouldn't be until early April. Louis Rosier would take his small team down the road about six hours to Pau, France for the 14th Grand Prix de Pau. The race was a three hour timed event around the tight and twisty streets of Pau.
The Grand Prix de Pau was a Formula 2 race and it would feature Scuderia Ferrari and Equipe Gordini as the two main factory efforts entered in the race. Besides Equipe Gordini and Ferrari, there would be a number of privateers and other small teams, like Ecurie Rosier, entered in the race.
Pau was an important race. The city, situated along the Gave de Pau river just north of the Pyrenees mountains, first hosted racing along its city streets right around the turn of the 20th century. In 1930, Pau would host the French Grand Prix. The first Grand Prix de Pau would end up taking place in 1933. Built along a hill overlooking the valley, Pau was once the seat of bishops and viscounts. It was even the birthplace of Henry IV of France. Pau would also become the birthplace of the oil giant Elf Aquitaine. Because of the wealth and history of the small city, Pau would become a popular tourist destination and an ideal setting for the most modern cars of the day to come and strut their stuff along the tight city streets.
Pau, because of its design and location, was certainly anything but a high-speed circuit. The narrow city streets would magnify any mistake made and some of its blind corners would certainly make it easy to make a mistake. Consisting of hairpin turn after hairpin turn, the average speeds around the circuit were kept low, but there were certainly areas of the circuit that required great bravery. The Foch corner was perhaps the area that required the most courage. Entering the chicane complex from atop a brow, the entry was blind and certainly very easy to get wrong.
None of the Scuderia Ferrari teammates would get the circuit wrong during practice. Alberto Ascari would end up being the fastest with a time of one minute and thirty-nine seconds. Giuseppe Farina would start on the front row with Ascari after he qualified 2nd with a time just one-tenth of a second slower. Mike Hawthorn would make the sweep of the front row complete when he managed to qualify 3rd. In spite of driving the exact same car, Rosier would find the going on a native track much more difficult than the large Italian team would. Rosier's best time would end up being over four and a half seconds slower than Ascari and would put Rosier down in 10th place on the fourth row of the grid.
The battles along the city streets would be tight. Passing would be most difficult. Therefore, starting well was certainly of great importance and Ascari would manage to get a great start. He would have his Ferrari teammates right there with him, but also, the Equipe Gordini drivers were all over him as well.
Many things would change in just the first few laps and first hour of the race. Jean Behra had started the race 4th for Equipe Gordini. However, after just six laps, Behra would make a mistake, something very easy to do on the tight streets. He would end up crashing his car thereby ending his race. The same fate would befall Farina at the end of the first hour. Another Gordini driver, Andre Simon, would fall out of the race due to illness. All of this drama would allow Ascari to escape with the lead of the race and would allow Rosier to move up the order from his 10th place starting spot.
Ascari was in the lead of the race and was bent upon destroying all comers. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race and would pull out what was certainly an unassailable lead. Rosier would follow Schell's run toward the front. However, while Schell would manage to keep moving forward, Rosier would become stuck behind Elie Bayol and his OSCA 20. Toward the end of the race, Rosier enjoyed a margin of more than two laps over his nearest competitor behind him, but unfortunately, was a little more than a lap behind Bayol in front.
At the finish, Ascari would enjoy a gap of at least one lap over everyone in the field. Mike Hawthorn would end up in 2nd place, but would complete one less lap. Harry Schell would manage to come all the way from 11th to finish 3rd. Louis Rosier would end up five laps down to Ascari but would finish the race 5th.
This was a nice, steady race for Rosier and a good way to start the season. He had taken the opportunity to open his season with a solid top five performance and could begin to look to the horizon from that point on. The next race on the horizon would be another race on French soil and in another popular region of France.
Almost exclusively known for its incredible wine production, Bordeaux would also host a Formula 2 grand prix race on the 3rd of May in 1953. The race was the 3rd Grand Prix de Bordeaux and it would take place around the Place des Quinconces right along the Garonne river.
Designed to commemorate the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, the usually placid and tranquil Place des Quinconces would be shattered by the sounds of Formula 2 grand prix cars circulating its borders as part of the Grand Prix de Bordeaux. All sides of the city square would be surrounded by the race which would run along the Quai des Chartrons and around the square. With the exception of the short blasts along the sides of the square and along the Garonne, the speeds around the circuit were kept rather low, and therefore, required a good handling and reliable car.
Over the past couple of seasons, Luigi Villoresi had been existing in the shadow of his good friend Ascari. However, in practice, it would be Villoresi that would get the upper-hand. One-tenth of a second would separate Villoresi's pole time and Ascari in 2nd place. Maurice Trintignant would manage to upset another Ferrari sweep of the front row when he was able to set the third-fastest time in practice. Rosier would again be off the pace of his Scuderia Ferrari cousins. The Frenchman's best time would end up being fast enough for 7th place and the third row of the starting grid.
Similar to the Grand Prix de Pau, the race at Bordeaux would be anything but short. In total, the race would be 120 laps of the 1.52 mile circuit. The race itself would start with an all-out battle at the front. Ascari would show the way while Fangio would make a great start and would be soon right behind Ascari. Following Fangio would be Farina and Villoresi.
This battle would be well involved throughout the early going of the race. Most everyone in the field was carrying on without too much trouble, with the exception of Peter Whitehead and Yves Giraud-Cabantous who would both retire due to transmission related issues. Louis Rosier was steadily circulating the track looking for opportunities to move forward. Those opportunities would come around an hour and a half into the race.
The race had just completed its 57th lap when all of a sudden Giuseppe Farina, who had been running around 3rd place, dropped out of the race with gear selector trouble. Just about every five laps after Farina's retirement there would be another retirement from the race. Maurice Trintignant would break a half shaft 62 laps into the race. Then, five laps after Trintignant's troubles Louis Chiron would end up disqualified from the race for receiving a push start. The race was beginning to take its toll, and since it was happening to some of the faster drivers Rosier was able to move further up in the order. But then, on the 75th lap of the race, it was Rosier's turn to face attrition. Troubles started to appear for Rosier's blue Ferrari, but then, the gear selector would totally go thereby ending the Frenchman's day.
The retirements really meant very little to Ascari at the front of the field. His pace was such that not even the great Juan Manuel Fangio could stay with him. Coming to the final couple of laps, Ascari enjoyed a comfortable lead and was in prime position to take yet another victory for himself and the Ferrari 500.
Just shy of two hours and fifty-nine minutes, Ascari would cross the line for the 120th time to take the victory. He would enjoy a lead of nearly fifty seconds over his Ferrari teammate and friend Luigi Villoresi. Juan Manuel Fangio just could not keep up with the pace, despite driving a Maserati A6GCM, and would settle for finishing the race what would be four laps down in 3rd place.
Despite having the same equipment, Rosier showed his Ferrari 500 just could not quite turn the pace, nor maintain the reliability of the larger Ferrari factory effort. He had the tool and he had the talent. He just needed them to come together and he could truly be successful. He needed that right place. One week after Bordeaux, Rosier would be across the English Channel trying to see what he could find in old England.
After Bordeaux, Ecurie Rosier would pack and would head to the harbor and across the English Channel to England. On the 9th of May, Silverstone would host the 5th BRDC International Trophy race. This was one of the more important races, except of course the British Grand Prix, held on English soil. Therefore, the race would draw a number of international (i.e. continental) drivers and teams to the race.
While not a big draw for the big factory efforts like Maserati or Ferrari, the field would still be littered with international drivers and cars. But, with the addition of Mike Hawthorn to Ferrari, there would be one Scuderia Ferrari entered in the field.
Ever since its first impromptu race held in 1947, Silverstone had become a center for racing not only in England but in all of Europe during the later part of the 1940s and early 1950s. Surely, Silverstone had become the home of British motor racing and an important stop for any serious racer.
Starting out by using some of the runways from the old Silverstone Royal Air Force bomber base it had served as during World War II, the circuit would end up changing to use the 2.88 mile perimeter road. Generally flat and wide open, the circuit was totally exposed to the elements. The wind and the rain could howl through the circuit and become truly oppressive. For the driver, Silverstone offered a little bit of everything, which made it very popular. It offered high-speed straights; fast, sweeping corners and a couple of slower bends. This mixture would be one of the reasons why Silverstone would be one of the few airbases turned motor racing venues that would not only make it, but thrive.
Silverstone, because of its rapidly growing popularity, would come to host two important races during the grand prix season. The most important was the British Grand Prix. The second was the International Trophy race. Both races were held to different formats. The British Grand Prix was a straight-forward race made up of a certain number of laps to reach a mileage. The International Trophy race would also consist of laps, but it would have heats and a final. The entire entry field would be split up between two 15 lap heats. The finishers of the heat races would then line up to take part in the 35 lap final.
Thirty-six cars would be split into the two heats. Louis Rosier would be in the first heat. He would end up doing battle against the likes of Stirling Moss, Emmanuel de Graffenried, and Tony Rolt. The starting grid for each heat would be determined by the best times posted in practice. In the first heat race's practice, de Graffenried would go on to post the fastest lap time. His time around the circuit would be one minute and fifty-one seconds. Bob Gerard, Tony Rolt and Kenneth McAlpine would go on to share the front row with de Graffenried. Rosier, against despite having the powerful Ferrari 500, would not be able to match the pace of the front row. In fact, Rosier's best time around the circuit would end up being some seven seconds slower and would only enable him to start the race from the third row in the 10th position.
The first heat race would get underway. Emmanuel de Graffenried was up at the front. Bob Gerard had also made a great jump at the very start, but it would be later determined that he had jumped the start. Therefore, at the finish, Gerard would have 60 seconds added to his time. One driver who did manage to make a great, and legitimate, start was Stirling Moss. Even Rosier would make a good start and would be looking to move forward early on.
Stirling Moss would manage to make his way up past McAlpine and Rolt and was soon sitting behind de Graffenried in 2nd place. Gerard, though he would be penalized for the false start, continued to run up near the front. With Moss not too far behind, de Graffenried would pick up his pace. He would turn in a fast lap time of one minute and fifty-four seconds. Even though de Graffenried would try and pick up his pace he could not escape Moss as Stirling would match the same lap time just a little later on.
Besides de Graffenried and Moss there were very few battles throughout the rest of the field. The only obvious exception would be Louis Rosier and his battle with Kenneth McAlpine. Throughout the majority of the race, and especially in the closing stages, the two drivers were never separated by anything more than a second. The two would battle nose-to-tail each and every lap. McAlpine held the advantage while Rosier would desperately look for a way to get by.
In spite of the pressure applied by Moss de Graffenried would hold sway. En route to the victory, Emmanuel would take just a little less than twenty-nine minutes to complete the 15 laps. He would end up five seconds in front of Moss at the finish. The Thai Prince Birabongse would end up finishing in 3rd.
The best battle during the closing stages of the race would be the best battle almost throughout the whole of the race. Kenneth McAlpine continued to hold off Louis Rosier in his Ferrari 500, but the margin was very close. If Rosier could use his talent and experience to cause McAlpine to make a mistake he would manage to get by and take 5th place. However, McAlpine would seem unflappable as he would power his way to 5th place just one second in front of Rosier.
The second heat would see the young British driver, Mike Hawthorn, taking on drivers like Maurice Trintignant, Ken Wharton, Peter Collins and Louis Chiron. And although he was in the most dominant car of the time, Hawthorn would end up having to settle for 2nd on the starting grid. The pole would end up going to Ken Wharton in his Cooper-Bristol T23. The rest of the front row starters would include Louis Chiron and Maurice Trintignant.
The second heat would see battles up and down the field. One of the battles would exist right up at the front of the field. Wharton had started on the pole, but in the race, Hawthorn was looking faster and more threatening. The two would end up in a great struggle throughout the course of the 15 laps. Hawthorn would go on to set the fastest lap of the heat and would take over the lead, but just barely. Yet even though Wharton was holding on to Hawthorn it still seemed Wharton was on the verge of falling apart at any moment.
The other battle down through the field would end up being a titanic struggle between Bobbie Baird, Harry Schell and Peter Collins. Once joined, the three would never be separated by anything more than a second. Schell and Collins seemed to run side-by-side throughout the majority of the heat.
Coming to the finish, Wharton continued to desperately hang onto Hawthorn and was still in position to take the victory. However, coming around Woodcote for the final time, Hawthorn would put the power down and would drive his way to the win by a mere second over Wharton. Quietly, Roy Salvadori dispatched all of his challengers and would come across the line 3rd. The battle between Baird, Schell and Collins would come right down to the wire. Coming around Woodcote, Baird would get on the power a little better and would manage to pull out an advantage over Schell. Schell would seem to struggle around the corner and would have Collins bearing down on him. Across the line, Baird would finish one second ahead in 6th. Schell would manage to hold off Collins by just two-tenths of a second to take 7th.
The pace of the second heat had been a torrent. Hawthorn's finishing time had ended up being thirty-six seconds faster than de Graffenried's. Therefore, Hawthorn would start the 35 lap final from the pole. Wharton's time was also better than de Graffenried's, and therefore, he would also start on the front row in 2nd. Emmanuel de Graffenried would end up starting the race 3rd, but still on the front row. Stirling Moss would end up rounding-out the front row with a 4th place start. Rosier's time would end up pushing him down toward the middle of the grid. Though steady in his run, Rosier's time would end up placing him all the way down in 14th and on the fourth row of the grid.
A couple of years prior, the International Trophy race would be called early due to incredible torrential rains that ended up flooding the circuit. No such event would occur this day. The only torrent that would be witnessed this day would come from the front row of the grid.
The field would pull away at the start of the race. Immediately, Hawthorn was on the pace and de Graffenried was right there with him. Wharton was nothing like what he had been in the second heat. Even Moss wouldn't manage to turn the same pace. Rosier was mired down in the field battling with Collins, Duncan Hamilton and Trintignant.
Emmanuel de Graffenried was giving Hawthorn chase and was certainly fast in his pursuit. The Swiss baron would go on to set the fastest lap of the race while chasing after Hawthorn. However, Hawthorn would match de Graffenried blow for blow as he too would set the exact same lap time. Behind them, trouble was beginning to strike the field. Four drivers, including Trintignant and Chiron, would be out of the race before the halfway mark. On the same lap as Chiron's departure from the race, de Graffenried would surprise many as he would withdraw his car from the race. This left Hawthorn up at the front mostly by himself.
Louis Rosier had managed to make his way past Hamilton and Collins, and even Bobbie Baird in his Ferrari 500, and was trying to move up inside the top ten. Moss' struggles brought him within the sights of Rosier. Moss was sitting in 9th and both drivers were a lap down to Hawthorn, but it would take a lot to get by the talented British driver.
With Roy Salvadori following along behind some twelve seconds back, Hawthorn would cruise to the victory. He had been Scuderia Ferrari's only bullet in the gun, and yet, he proved to be more than enough in the Ferrari 500. Salvadori would finish 2nd ahead of Tony Rolt by thirty seconds.
Rosier was driving the same chassis type as the victor. And while Hawthorn managed to pull away at the front of the field, Rosier would hit a wall at 10th place. Rosier had managed to make his way up from his 14th starting position but just could not track down Moss to finish inside the top ten.
Rosier had managed to put together a solid performance and had gone on to finish the race, but the pace was lacking. Being a small team, Ecurie Rosier needed consecutive finishes in order to have the confidence to go faster. Rosier had come back from the retirement at Bordeaux and had a solid performance. Now he needed to increase the pace as the third round of the World Championship was fast approaching.
After the BRDC International Trophy race, the single-car effort of Ecurie Rosier headed back across the English Channel and would take a couple of weeks off before heading to its next race. Upon heading to the next race, Ecurie Rosier would bring two cars, but of two different types. Both of the cars were Ferraris, and one was the Ferrari 500 F2. However, the second was a powder-blue Ferrari 375 Formula One car. The Ecurie Rosier was headed back in the same direction as Pau but would stop just about four hours down the road in Albi, France for the 15th Grand Prix de l'Albigeois.
Just as in 1952, there were a number of races in which the organizers would allow the old Formula One cars to come out and play just once more. Albi was just one of those races, but there was a twist. The Grand Prix de l'Albigeois would be another race that would consist of heats and a final. However, the heats would be broken down into Formula 2 and Formula One heats. The final would then consist of the blending of the two formulas.
If there was one circuit in which it was perfect for the former glory of the Formula One car to be put on full display it would be Albi. Essentially a large triangle, the Albi circuit, with the exception of the run from St. Antoine down to the hairpin at St. Juery, consisted of rather straight stretches of public roads that allowed the Formula One cars to show off their incredible power and speed. The Formula 2 cars didn't struggle for top-end speed either, and would use the winding road between St. Antoine and St. Juery to their advantage. At 5.55 miles in length, the straights between the hairpins at St. Juery and Montplaisir and from Montplaisir to the final corner enabled average speeds to exceed 102 mph in the Formula 2 cars and 115 mph in the aged Formula One cars.
Louis Rosier would show up with his two cars and would end up having a busy weekend. He would start out with his Ferrari 500 in the Formula 2 heat. The heat was going to be 10 laps of the 5.55 mile circuit. Starting position for the heat was determined by lap times set during practice.
One advantage Rosier would have in the Formula 2 category would be the fact that most of the elite drivers and teams would only bring cars for the Formula One heat. Therefore, Rosier's main competition in the Formula 2 heat would come from Harry Schell, Elie Bayol, Charles de Tornaco and a rather unknown Argentinean driver Roberto Mieres.
In practice, Bayol would set the pace with his new OSCA 20. The Maserati brother's new venture turned out a solid car that was also quite fast and this would enable Bayol to earn the pole for the 10 lap heat. Starting alongside of him on the front row would be Schell and then Rosier in 3rd.
In spite of Bayol's advantage in practice, which was nearly three seconds, it would be Rosier that would get the jump at the start of the race. Harry Schell would be there but would quickly fade with some kind of issue. Peter Whitehead and Mieres were also right there with the front-runners during the early part of the race.
Roberto Mieres proved his speed and ability in the race as he would go on to set the fastest lap of the heat and would be all over Whitehead for 3rd. Only about a second would separate the two throughout the running of the race.
Rosier would begin to pull away from the rest of the field. At the same that Rosier was beginning to pull away at the front, Schell's race was coming to an end. An ignition problem of some sort was sorely robbing Schell's car of power and would end up causing him to retire after only 8 laps.
Rosier showed the pace everyone expected with the Ferrari 500 and would go on to win the Formula 2 heat by forty-six seconds over Bayol. The battle for 3rd would come right down to the line. Coming around the final right-hander and powering toward the line, it would be Whitehead that would manage to hold off Mieres for 3rd place. Just a little over a second would separate the two.
With the Formula 2 heat out of the way, it was time for the Formula One heat to get started. Rosier would climb behind the wheel of his Ferrari 375 and would line up on the last row of the grid in 10th position overall. Qualifying had been a difficult proposition for Rosier despite having a Ferrari 375. BRM would bring their howling P15s to the race and would have the talents of Juan Manuel Fangio, Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Ken Wharton behind the wheel. The BRM crew would end up qualifying 1st, 3rd and 4th. Fangio would end up being fastest. He would end up posting a lap time of two minutes and fifty-two seconds, which would end up being three seconds faster than his nearest competitor. Fangio's nearest competitor on the starting grid would be the Ferrari 375 of Alberto Ascari. He and Giuseppe Farina would make up the Scuderia Ferrari contingent in the race and would occupy the front of the grid along with the BRMs.
Albi, known for its art and architecture, would be witness an artist of a different kind racing around its streets to the west of the city's center. Fangio would get a great jump at the start of the race and would wield the mighty 16-cylinder P15 along the streets of Albi. Such a performance in the big car made Fangio's nickname of 'El Maestro' very appropriate.
Usually, Fangio would be locked in a battle with the Ferrari of Ascari. However, just 3 laps into the race the gearbox would fail on Ascari's Ferrari thereby bringing his race to an end. Not even Farina would be able to take the challenge as engine would expire after halfway. This left only one Ferrari 375 left in the field, and Louis Rosier would respond.
Despite starting dead-last, Rosier would lean upon his Ferrari and would quickly make his way up through the field. He would get past Gonzalez and Trintignant and would find himself chasing the two BRMs of Fangio and Wharton.
Rosier may have been on the hunt but he would not catch the wily Argentinean. Fangio would crack off the fastest lap of the heat with a time that was actually faster than his qualifying effort and would go on to take the victory by more than two minutes over his BRM teammate. In spite of having Trintignant following by around four seconds, Rosier would climb all the way from 10th on the starting grid to finish the heat 3rd.
Heading into the 18 lap final, Ecurie Rosier had a distinct advantage over those that had taken part in the Formula 2 heat. Starting position for the final was to be determined by finishing position in each heat. The first-four positions of the starting grid would be reserved for the top four finishers in the Formula One heat. The following four places on the starting grid would be occupied by the top four from the Formula 2 heat. By finishing both heats, Rosier had an advantage of being able to choose which starting position he wanted. Since he finished the Formula One heat in 3rd it was of little surprise that he would abandon his Formula 2 result in favor of starting the final from the 3rd starting position on the grid. He would join Wharton and Fangio on the front row.
Rosier was surely sandwiched between talented drivers. There were fast drivers, like Fangio, in which he would have to do his best to hang on to and others starting behind him that would be just ready to pounce if given the opportunity. Yet, in spite of the pressure, Rosier would have one huge advantage. He was driving a Ferrari 375. Fangio and Wharton would be driving the troubled BRM.
At the start, it was not looking good for Rosier. The BRMs exploded off the line and were powering through St. Antoine en route to St. Juery. Very soon, the P15s were pulling away using their incredible power to stretch the gap over the rest of the field. However, the BRM's had one huge problem. Their reliability was terrible. Though fast, they were just as quick to retire from a race.
Sure enough, on the 9th lap of the race, Fangio would retire from the race due to brake problems. Then, after running 11 laps, Wharton would retire from the race with a crash. With the two BRMs out of the race it was up to Rosier to hold everything together, not make any mistakes of his own and hold off a charging Gonzalez in the other BRM in order to take the victory for himself.
Coming down to the last couple of laps of the race, Rosier continued to lead and had a lead of at least a lap over all but the 2nd and 3rd place running cars. Thankfully for Rosier, the Ferrari 375 didn't lack any power. Therefore, he could maintain a good top speed down the long straights. But one advantage the 375 had over the P15 was handling. This certainly came in handy around the tight hairpin corners and the sweeping esses along the first portion of the circuit. This helped to neutralize outright power of Gonzalez's P15.
After looking rather tentative throughout the first couple of races of the season, Rosier would take his Ferrari 375 and would drive home to the victory. He would end the race with over a thirty second advantage on Gonzalez in 2nd. Maurice Trintignant would be the only remaining car on the lead lap with Rosier and he would finish 3rd almost two minutes behind.
Rosier had looked like a strong competitor throughout the event on the 31st of May. This was the confidence builder Rosier was looking for before heading into the World Championship for the first time, which would follow just one week later.
The first round of the World Championship had already taken place all the way back in January in Argentina. Well over three months would pass before the second round of the World Championship, which was the Indianapolis 500, would take place toward the end of May. But after Indianapolis, the rounds of the World Championship would happen in rather quick succession. Just two weeks after Indianapolis, the Zandvoort circuit in the Netherlands would play host to the third round of the World Championship.
Positioned amongst dunes overlooking the North Sea, Zandvoort first hosted motor races before the outbreak of World War II. The Zandvoort Park Circuit wouldn't; however, be built until after the war and would open in August of 1948. Two years later, the circuit would become the home of the Dutch Grand Prix. The Dutch Grand Prix would be a non-championship race for the first couple of years. However, the popularity of the Zandvoort circuit was growing. With such fast corners as 'Tarzanbocht' and 'Tunnel Oost', the 2.64 mile circuit just couldn't be denied a place in the World Championship. And in 1952, Zandvoort would host the Dutch Grand Prix for the first time as part of the World Championship.
Although this was the first round of the World Championship in which Ecurie Rosier would take part in 1953, Rosier had already competed against the majority of the field in other non-championship races. Therefore, he knew the kind of pace to be expected coming into the race.
Almost as expected, Alberto Ascari would end up proving to be fastest. It would end up being champion's row as Juan Manuel Fangio would qualify second-fastest and Giuseppe Farina would line up 3rd.
Unlike most of the non-championship races in which Rosier had competed, he would find himself up amongst the Ferraris and Maseratis during practice. Rosier's time of one minute and fifty-nine seconds, although over eight seconds slower than Ascari, would be good enough for Rosier to start the race from the third row in 8th place. What's more, Rosier's effort would make it five Ferrari 500s inside the top eight.
Being right next to the usually windy North Sea, the circuit, on the day of the race, was in tough shape. Many portions of the circuit, including the front straightaway, had sand dunes used for seating overlooking the circuit. Unfortunately, the wind had a tendency of blowing sand onto the circuit making handling very difficult. This would be the case on the day of the race. This would make the event much tougher as the line between adhesion and not was already very small. The best finisher would therefore be not so much the fastest, but the ones that were able to handle the tough conditions for all of the 90 laps.
The tough conditions would become apparent at the start of the race as a large cloud of sand would billow up as the cars powered their way toward the banked first turn. Ascari would have position going into the corner and would hold on coming out. The handling of the Ferraris was certainly better than that of the Maseratis as it would be Ferraris one, two and three into the first turn. Rosier would get boxed out somewhat and would follow Stirling Moss, who made a great start, into the first turn.
As things would begin to settle down, Ascari would begin to pick up his pace. Ascari was certainly having a better going of things being up at the front of the field. Behind him, Fangio was gripped in a battle with Farina and Villoresi.
The conditions were extremely tough. Despite starting quite well, Stirling Moss would struggle in his Connaught. He would slip back down the running, which enabled Rosier to move up. However, Rosier would quickly be joined in battle by the Gordini of Maurice Trintignant. Just as it seemed Rosier would be lost in the middle of the pack as he had been at some of the other non-championship races during the early part of the season, trouble started to strike the front-runners. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would have the rear axle on his Maserati fail after just 22 laps. Although Gonzalez's car was out of the race Gonzalez wasn't. He would end up taking over Felice Bonetto's car and was charging hard after the leaders. While a boost for Rosier, Gonzalez's taking over of Bonetto's car would actually be a point of frustration particularly because Bonetto had been running behind Rosier until Gonzalez took over the car. Another failed rear axle on the Maserati A6SSG of Fangio would take the former World Champion right out of the running.
It seemed the only cars in the running were the Scuderia Ferraris of Ascari, Farina, Villoresi and Hawthorn. Even the normally docile Villoresi was looking incredibly fast as he would manage to go on to set the fastest lap of the race toward the end. Of course it may have been the result of a stuck throttle for just a few laps later he would retire from the race due to throttle related issues.
This left just Ascari up front with Farina following about ten seconds behind. Gonzalez had recovered as was breathing down Mike Hawthorn's next one lap back. Trintignant had managed to break away from Rosier but was more than one lap behind Ascari. Rosier was running well inside the top ten but would need some help to get into the points.
Ascari would go on to lead every single one of the 90 laps and would go on to take yet another victory. He would finish almost eleven seconds in front of his teammate Farina. In the last few laps of the race, Gonzalez would manage to get by Hawthorn for 3rd.
Rosier just wasn't able to match the pace of the Scuderia Ferraris. He wouldn't even manage to hold on against Trintignant. At the finish, Rosier would be four laps down to Ascari and one lap behind Trintignant. However, Rosier's 7th place was secured as he was two laps ahead of his nearest challenger Peter Collins.
Rosier had put together another solid, yet somewhat sedated, run. Despite having the right car, Rosier wouldn't be able to challenge for even 5th in the results. The World Championship was beginning to pick up its pace by this point in the season. Rosier would certainly need to pick up his in order to be truly competitive and not just a bystander.
Two weeks would pace between World Championship rounds. There would also be no non-championship races in between. Therefore, Ecurie Rosier would have some time to prepare before the fourth round of the World Championship, the Belgian Grand Prix.
The dates for some of the rounds would be truly frustrating. Going from the third and fourth rounds would be one of those frustrating moments in the season. Though only about three hours down the road from Zandvoort, there would be two weeks before the Belgian Grand Prix. Therefore, many teams, like Ecurie Rosier, would have to decide whether to head all the way back home just to backtrack to Spa a couple of weeks later. No matter, Ecurie Rosier would be in Spa, Belgium on the 21st of June making final preparations for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Spa-Francorchamps was run of the truest road courses in the world. Made up of public roads, the circuit would rise and fall with the terrain and would present drivers with many natural challenges. Fast and not the least bit scary, especially in the rain, the 8.77 mile circuit required great courage to be fast. Located in the Ardennes forest, the circuit boasted of great elevation changes and fast, sweeping turns, many of which had blind entries. Popular with both drivers and spectators for its speed, the circuit also presented drivers with a very tough technical challenge, that if gotten wrong, could really do some damage.
It is believed about Spa-Francorchamps that the only certainty is the uncertainty of the weather. The previous year's race would be played out in the rain. And despite some early difficulty, Ascari would rise to the top and take the victory. The 1953 edition of the race would be quite different.
The differences between 1952 and 1953 would become abundantly clear during practice. The new Maserati A6SSG was reportedly capable of producing more than 190 bhp, and along the long and fast Spa-Francorchamps circuit that translated into outright speed. Fangio would demonstrate just how fast during practice. Fangio would be the fastest driver in practice and would post a lap time of four minutes and thirty seconds. This meant an average speed around the circuit greater than 117 mph. Alberto Ascari would be second-quickest. However, his best lap time would end up being two seconds slower than Fangio's. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would prove the Maserati's strength when he would manage to set the third-fastest time and would complete the front row.
What this all meant was the Ferrari 500, like that which Louis Rosier drove, was certainly going to be at a disadvantage. In all, there would be five Maseratis starting the race from inside the top ten. The presence of the fast Maseratis would only push Rosier further down the starting order. Rosier's best time in practice would be twenty-six seconds slower and would be only good enough for the fifth row of the grid and 13th overall.
Another difference between 1953 and 1952 would be the weather on race day. There would be sunny skies and dry conditions greeting the drivers and the spectators on the day of the race. This meant the new Maserati 'Interim' chassis could really strut its stuff during the race, and it clearly would.
Fangio knew he had an advantage and as the field roared away toward the climbing right-hander at Eau Rouge for the first time he would signal to Gonzalez to go ahead. Gonzalez would oblige and would set sail into the distance. Gonzalez would fulfill the role of the rabbit almost to perfection. On the 2nd lap of the race, Gonzalez would already be at peak performance and would set what would end up being the fastest lap of the race. He would match the time on the very next lap, as well as, on the 9th and 11th laps of the race. The intention of this incredible pace was very simple: to break the competition. This would work in some ways. A number of cars, including Peter Collins and Jean Behra, would be out of the race before 10 laps due to mechanical problems of some kind. The strategy was to also serve yet another purpose. The incredible pace would sift out the true challengers and leave behind those that may have appeared to be challengers. This would happen to Rosier. Even though the French driver was making his way up the running order, and despite having a Ferrari 500 underneath him, Rosier couldn't match the pace of the front runners and would end up becoming stuck just inside the top ten.
Knowing Gonzalez as he did, Fangio had already determined to use his teammate for his purposes as well. Gonzalez was known as a hard-charging driver. Therefore, the wave-by at the start was certainly strategic. While he would serve perfectly as a rabbit to break the competition, his incredible pace would also end up breaking him. One lap after matching, for the fourth time, the fastest lap of the race Gonzalez's race would come to an end when his accelerator pedal would give him trouble. He had been enjoying a lead of about a minute at the time. Instead, Fangio would inherit the lead and would enjoy a thirty second lead over Ascari and the rest of the Ferraris and Maseratis.
The pace, right from the start of the race, was meant to destroy all comers, especially Ferrari. Fangio's intention of letting Gonzalez break the field, and then take the lead from Gonzalez, had worked well. However, the pace wouldn't end up breaking Ferrari, although Farina would retire with an engine failure. Instead, just two laps after Gonzalez's retirement, Fangio would also face a walk back to the paddock after his engine would expire. Fangio couldn't let this be the end after being so dominant. And, despite it being the Belgian Grand Prix, Fangio would take over the Belgian, Johnny Claes' Maserati in hopes of chasing down Ascari and the lead of the race.
Fangio was pushing hard and was certainly chasing the leaders down. However, out front were the Ferraris of Ascari and Villoresi. Fangio's taking over of Claes' Maserati continued to keep Rosier right where he had been. Rosier had Harry Schell as his next closest competition. However, Schell was another of the hard-charging drivers in the field and catching the American-Parisian was going to be anything but easy.
Coming to the last couple of laps of the 36 lap race, Fangio was still pursuing the leaders and was actually getting closer. Everyone else was at least a lap down. In the case of Rosier, who was still chasing Schell, he was three laps behind.
Before the race started many people believed Fangio would take the victory without much effort. However, going into the last lap of the race, Fangio was giving it every bit of his energy trying to catch up. Such pressure makes mistakes easier to come by. And sure enough, on the last lap of the race, Fangio would make a mistake and would crash his car damaging its steering. This would be the second car to fail to finish on him in a single day. This would be a source of relief for Ascari and a source of help for Rosier.
Ascari's competent drive would net him the victory despite being outclassed in outright speed by the Maseratis. Heading into the race, it seemed the Maseratis would throttle the Ferraris. However, Ascari and Villoresi, who would finish in 2nd, would throttle the two Maseratis of Onofre Marimon and Emmanuel de Graffenried who would finish 3rd and 4th. Rosier would benefit from Fangio's mistake and would move up one place. He had the opportunity to move up even one more place if he could catch and get by Schell. However, Rosier would quietly follow Schell across the line to finish the race 8th.
Although Rosier's two World Championship races had been something of sedated performances they were still vast improvements from the previous season. Out of four rounds contested, Rosier had only managed to finish one. Therefore, 1953 already had been an improvement and it all offered confidence going into the remaining rounds of the championship.
After the Belgian Grand Prix on the 21st of June, Rosier would have the opportunity to pull out his Ferrari 375 Formula One car once again. The Ecurie Rosier team would leave Spa-Francorchamps and would travel the four hours west to Rouen and the Rouen-les-Essarts circuit for the 3rd Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts on the 28th of June.
One year before, Rouen-les-Essarts had the opportunity of playing host for the French Grand Prix. In 1953, Rouen would lose the French Grand Prix back to Reims, but it would host a very important race. The 3rd Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts wasn't just one of the few remaining Formula One races. It served as a glimpse of the future at the same time it was a playground for the aged.
By this time of the season the new Formula One regulations had become known and teams had been busying creating their new cars to conform to these new regulations. The Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts would serve as the first time the new Formula One cars would get to turn a wheel in anger. And the new cars would have the opportunity to competing against the old guard, the old standard of Formula One. This would be the first glimpse people would have to measure the performance differences of the old Formula One and the new Formula One.
In all actuality, the race would be an amalgamation of the old Formula One, the future of Formula One and the current Formula 2 cars. Giuseppe Farina would take his Ferrari 625, which was nothing but a Formula One version of the Formula 2 Ferrari 500 chassis, and would end up being the fastest of the whole field. Not all that surprising, Hawthorn would be second-fastest. Maurice Trintignant, in a 6-cylinder Gordini T16, would finish off the front row. Louis Rosier would take the aged Ferrari 375 and would end up being about three seconds slower than Farina around the 3.16 mile circuit. As a result, Rosier would start the race from 4th and in the first position on the second row.
The Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts was a good place to test the performance of the new Formula One cars to that of the old and the current Formula 2 machines. Situated in a small valley in the Foret du Rouvray, the Rouen-les-Essarts circuit threw just about everything imaginable at the car and driver. Consisting of sweeping fast turns, the tight Nouveau Monde hairpin, sharp corners with blind entries and a long straight enabling top end speeds to be reached, the Rouen-les-Essarts circuit was the perfect site to test the handling characteristics and high-speed performances of the new car regulations against the current and the past.
Although Enzo Ferrari had announced his intention to withdraw at the end of the season, the new 625 certainly looked more than capable. Farina and Hawthorn would lead the way and would quickly pull away. This escape would be aided by Hawthorn's fastest lap time and Behra's steering ailments that would lead to his retirement after 19 laps. Trintignant looked good in the T16 and continued to threaten the two Ferraris, but even he was fighting just to cling to the leaders. Rosier, despite driving the powerful Ferrari 375, would slip back and would even end up being passed by much older Talbot-Lago T26Cs.
The pace of Farina and Hawthorn was incredible. Soon, they would be the only cars on the lead lap. Then with Trintignant's departure from the race after 30 laps, there would be an even larger gap between the two Ferrari pilots and the rest of the field.
The new Ferrari 625 would end up looking just as dominant as the Ferrari 500 F2 it was set to replace. Even though there were larger engines in some of the other Formula One cars, the 625 would power its way to an absolutely dominant performance. Not even Rosier would manage to keep pace as he had in Albi.
Farina would cruise to victory in the 60 lap race. Less than a second and a half would separate him from Hawthorn in 2nd place. However, a gap of three laps would separate Farina and Hawthorn from Philippe Etancelin in 3rd place. A gap of four laps would separate Farina and Hawthorn from Rosier in his Ferrari 375. Rosier would take the once all-powerful 375 and would finish a rather sheepish 7th.
Rosier would end up playing the part of an extra in the Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts. One week later, he would seem to play an even smaller role that he would almost be forgotten about. But he wouldn't be alone.
Only a matter of a few hours drive east from Rouen, and on the other side of Paris, is Reims. For the first two years of the World Championship, Reims had been the site of the French Grand Prix. In 1952, Reims would lost its hosting duties to Rouen. However, one year later, Reims was back hosting the World Championship and the French Grand Prix and was back with a new circuit layout.
All twenty-five entries would arrive at an evolved Reims-Gueux circuit. The circuit would retain the Courbe de Gueux that had been introduced the season before in a non-championship grand prix. However, the circuit would be extended and would consist of a new system of corners and straights. The 'Bretelle Sud' would be extended and would turn into a fast sweeping right-hander called 'Annie Bousquet'. The circuit would then wind its way to a very sharp hairpin known as 'Muizon'. The extension of the circuit to include Muizon hairpin would end up extending the already long Route Nationale 31 straight that led to the Thillois hairpin.
The gently rolling countryside, and the new layout of the circuit, meant one important thing for drivers, teams, cars and spectators: speed. The straight public roads from which the circuit was comprised made it possible for spectators and drivers to witness the absolute top speeds of the cars. The incredibly long straights and few corners enabled speeds around the circuit to reach speeds equal to that of Spa.
Fully aware of the speeds the Maserati team was able to reach lapping Spa, Scuderia Ferrari would make some revisions to the nose of its Ferrari 500 in order to foster greater top end speeds. Rosier would not make such revisions and would just bring his Ferrari as it already existed.
In practice for the race, the revisions would make an obvious impact to the speed of the Ferraris. And whereas Fangio would dominate at Spa, Ascari would go on to take the honors as fastest in the field and start from the pole. At Spa, it had been two Maseratis that sandwiched Ascari on the front row of the grid. In Reims, it would be the Maserati of Felice Bonetto that would be squeezed between Ascari and Villoresi, who would qualify his Ferrari 3rd. Over eight seconds would again separate Rosier's best time in practice from the pole-sitter. In spite of the difference in time, Rosier would start the race up near the front in the 10th position, which was on the outside of the fourth row.
The day of the race was beautiful but hot. However, the air temperature would feel cool compared to the action that would be witnessed during the 60 lap French Grand Prix. By the time it was over, people had forgotten all about the heat and were bathed in the sweat of one incredible grand prix; a grand prix that would be considered one of the greatest races of all time.
The incredible throng of spectators would watch as the field roared away at the start. Gonzalez had started the race with half-full fuel tanks and was quickly up front and pulling away from Ascari and the rest of the first couple of rows.
Very quickly, the scene would turn to Gonzalez streaking away out front followed by the Ferraris of Ascari, Hawthorn and Villoresi running side-by-side down the long straights in front of Fangio and Bonetto. It was an incredible sight to behold as these world-class drivers would race each other wheel-to-wheel not just each and every lap, but each and every corner.
Rosier was not amongst the front-runners and the craziness. He was back just slightly chasing after Emmanuel de Graffenried for what possibly would be considered 'Best of the Rest' honors.
Lap after lap the scene at the front remained the same. The crowd would witness incredibly tight action that would have them on their feet all throughout the race. It was quickly becoming a race amongst the best drivers and cars in the world. The rest were practically forgotten about.
Each and every lap the pace seemed to pick up. This served as a sifter for the rest of the field. Eight entries would be out of the race before the halfway mark but only the strictly patriotic Frenchman would have noticed they didn't have a team, driver or car amongst the front-runners. In fact, many would not even realize that Louis Rosier continued to get lapped; so intense and distracting was the action up front.
After Gonzalez's stop for fuel, things really heated up. Gonzalez would drop down to 5th and would be fighting with cars carrying about as much fuel as he. However, he would still be on a charge. Two other men on a charge were Mike Hawthorn and Juan Manuel Fangio.
Almost the whole of the remaining 30 laps of the race would consist of a wheel-to-wheel battle between the Brit and the Argentinean. Practically every single lap and every single straight the two would pull alongside of each other and would actually give each other up. The two could have carried on a conversion amongst themselves they spent so much time running beside each other. And in a way, they were. And although the battle at the front was tight, it wasn't any looser behind them. Ascari, Gonzalez, Farina and Villoresi would continue to run side-by-side often, sometimes even interlocking wheels. What was more amazing to watch was the fact of these incredibly talented drivers running this way through corners. The level of talent and trust amongst them was so very easy to witness and appreciate.
It is almost impossible to convey the action that was incessant from the drop of the green flag. So intense, so wild was the racing at the front (and it included every driver at the front) that only the fact that the other slower drivers on the circuit, drivers like Rosier that would end up many laps down, that they would actually slow down to witness the incredible sight is the only possible means of explaining the truly amazing spectacle that was happening during the course of the 1953 French Grand Prix.
By the time the finish neared, the crowd and the announcers were hoarse because of the excitement; and it wasn't over yet. The best drivers in the world were putting on a demonstration. They were showing everyone what the best drivers in the world were capable of when put altogether. Actually, it would make every other performance at any of the other grand prix races to seem as if the race meant very little while and that the driver really didn't care. Coming down to the last couple of laps, it was obvious the two who cared the most were Hawthorn and Fangio.
The two had been at the front for all of the second half of the race and every lap they kept pulling alongside of each other sizing the other up. Fangio had been leading with just a few laps remaining. Hawthorn; however, continued to try and figure out a way by. There really seemed to be no clear leader. The race would come down to who got the best run out of the last corner. Disappearing onto the last lap it would be anyone's guess as to who that may have been since they were still at it side-by-side. Right behind them, lurking, was Gonzalez.
Hawthorn would lead through the sweeping corners leading to Muizon hairpin. They both would get good runs coming out of the hairpin. However, Fangio would be able to slipstream and would pull alongside Hawthorn heading into the final hairpin at Thillois. Fangio was right beside Hawthorn. Neither was giving an inch. It was going to come down to who broke last and was able to hold it through the turn.
From the grandstands on the start/finish straight, the spectators were screaming and yelling, waiting to see who would come through the final corner first. And then there they were. Fangio and bravely stayed right beside Hawthorn going into the corner. However, he would get onto the brakes a little too late and would lose position to Hawthorn. He would then come under threat from Gonzalez. From off in the distance, Hawthorn would be seen for perhaps the first time throughout the whole of the race powering his way with an advantage over Fangio. Crossing the line to a chorus of screaming spectators, Hawthorn would earn his first World Championship victory. Fangio would narrowly hold off Gonzalez for 2nd. In all, just a little more than a second would cover 1st through 3rd! The crowd would erupt totally unaware of the rest of the field still needing to cross the line to finish the race. So one-sided was the focus of the race that barely anyone would notice that Louis Rosier, the best French finisher in the race, would end up crossing the line in 8th place.
The moment would truly belong to Mike Hawthorn. Like many other smaller teams and privateer entries, Rosier would pack up his equipment and his car and would practically be forgotten as having even been in the French Grand Prix in 1953. In the memory of most who would witness the race, it would seem that only six cars had entered the race. Of course against the battle between Hawthorn and Fangio, not even those who scored championship points really mattered.
From the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of June through to the middle of September there would be a flurry of World Championship grand prix. Just two weeks after the French Grand Prix the World Championship would head across the English Channel to Silverstone, England for the British Grand Prix. There would be a couple of other non-championship races that would span the gap between the two rounds. However, Ecurie Rosier would head back home to prepare before it would pack everything back up and head across to the British Isles.
Silverstone had become the official home of British motor racing after the war and actually had been the first ever World Championship race when it was the first round of the 1950 season. Silverstone was just one of a large number of World War II airbases that would become host to motor racing. But unlike former bases like Charterhall, Boreham and even Snetterton, Silverstone would become synonymous with British motor racing.
The last time Louis Rosier had been at Silverstone he would finish a rather distant 10th in the BRDC International trophy race against only a couple of privateer Maseratis and one Scuderia Ferrari entry. Of course that one Scuderia Ferrari entry, the one driven by Mike Hawthorn, would go on to win the race. This was the same Mike Hawthorn that had just earned an incredible victory at the French Grand Prix only two weeks prior. To say that Rosier would be overlooked and almost unnoticed would be an understatement. He wouldn't help his recognition with the spectators through his effort in practice either.
Despite driving the same chassis as that being used by the Scuderia Ferrari team, Louis Rosier would get nowhere near the same performance out of the car around the 2.88 mile circuit. Rosier's best time in practice would end up being two minutes and seven seconds. It would become apparent very quickly that his time was taking him down the wrong end of the starting grid. By the end of practice, Alberto Ascari would have the pole. His time around the circuit would end up being one minute and forty-eight seconds. All of a sudden, it was painfully obvious where Rosier's place on the starting grid was. He would find that he would start the race 24th and from the second-to-last row. Six rows in front of Rosier, Ascari would start from the pole with Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Mike Hawthorn and Juan Manuel Fangio alongside on the front row.
As usual, the 90 lap race would come under the threat of rain but would start under overcast skies. Fangio would make an incredible start to the race but would go into the first turn too hot. As a result, Ascari would get by and would have the lead of the race. Fangio would recover and would slot in behind Ascari. Leading the rest of the field were the World Champions for the last three years. With this kind of talent at the head of the field, it was little wonder they would begin to pull away.
Rosier may have had a poor starting position, but from the drop of the green flag, he would be on the march up through the field. Rosier's march would be aided by a number of retirements early on in the race. Four of the twenty-eight starters would end up dropping out of the race before having completed 10 laps. Two of those four wouldn't even complete a lap. Just about every ten laps, or so, there would be another couple of retirements that would further aid Rosier's push toward the top.
In the dry conditions early on in the race, Ascari would be fast. He would turn the fastest lap of the race and would stretch out his margin over Fangio and especially the rest of the field. British hopes for a repeat of the French Grand Prix would end up going off course with Hawthorn when he would spin off the circuit when the rain began to fall. He would recover but would find himself mired down around 5th.
The British Grand Prix was turning into an attrition-filled race. Even the top teams wouldn't be immune from the torture the circuit imposed. Even though the circuit was not anywhere near as fast as Reims or Spa, Silverstone presented a different struggle to drivers and teams. The medium-speed corners caused drivers to be really hard on the clutch, driveshafts and transmissions. In addition, the medium and faster-speed corners put enormous strain on the suspension and wishbone components on the car. Of the seventeen that would end up retiring from the race before the end, only about eight were for reasons that didn't involve the transmission or suspension systems.
Of course the seventeen out of the race wouldn't be helped by the pace of Ascari out front. Rosier had managed to use almost every one of the retirements to his advantage and was running around the top ten. However, just as was indicated by his lap time in practice, Rosier was nowhere near the pace of Ascari. Although he was still running coming down to the final laps of the race, Louis was over eleven laps behind Ascari and was coming under threat to go one more lap down with just a few laps remaining in the race.
Ascari would cross the finish line for the final time in exactly two hours and fifty minutes. Exactly one minute behind Ascari would come Fangio in 2nd place. If Fangio's finish was a sign of Ascari thoroughly dominant performance then Giuseppe Farina, who would finish just twelve seconds behind Fangio, could clear up any misunderstanding. Though he would finish the race 3rd, Farina would end up two laps down to Ascari at the end.
Not that it mattered all that much, but Rosier would unfortunately go down that extra lap before the end of the race. At the line, Rosier would finish 10th. However, when added up, the twelve laps behind Ascari that Rosier actually was meant he would finish the race around twenty-five minutes behind Ascari.
Once again, Rosier would go on to finish a race. Yet, in spite of the reliability, the Frenchman still had no points to show for his efforts. In reality, he could not hope of scoring any points if he couldn't increase his pace some way.
Pace at Ecurie Rosier's next race wouldn't be anywhere near as important as reliability. This; therefore, would play to the strength's of how Rosier's season had gone to that point. The reason the pace wouldn't be all that important was because the site of the next race on Ecurie Rosier's calendar would be too tight and short to allow any car to really stretch its legs. On July 26th, Rosier would be in Aix-les-Bains for the 5th Circuit du Lac; a non-championship race around a public road course along the shores of Lake Bourget.
The Circuit du Lac was certainly a different race and venue than the last couple of World Championship races. Not only was the circuit a short 1.49 mile layout that was tight and full of tight corners, but unlike Reims and Silverstone, which were situated amongst the rolling countryside of eastern France and the middle of England, Aix-les-Bains was positioned right along the shores of Lake Bourget in amidst the foothills of the French Alps. Surrounded by steep hills, Aix-les-Bains had been a popular place for rest and relaxation almost since the beginning of recorded history. Though it sported a less than ideal circuit layout, the sleepy tourist town was the perfect location for the wealthy to enjoy a rich man's sport.
The format of the race would also be different than the last couple of races. The event would consist of two 50 lap heat races and aggregate scoring. So instead of the entire field being split into heat races, all of the entries would take part in each heat race and the aggregate time for the competitor over the course of the two heats would determine the results.
Starting positions for the first heat would be determined by qualifying times posted in practice. The tight circuit seemed to suit the Gordini cars the best and Harry Schell would go on to grab the pole with a time of one minute and twenty seconds. Proving that the Maserati was more than adequate to take on the Gordini challenge, Onofre Marimon would set the second-fastest time. He would only be three-tenths slower and would start in the middle of the front row. Maurice Trintignant, driving another Gordini T16, would end up starting the race from 3rd. Louis Rosier would start the race from the very middle of the pack. His time would have him start the race 7th overall and in the middle of the third row.
The first 50 lap heat would start just as it had qualified. Schell was up at the front setting a quick pace almost from the very start. Marimon and Trintignant were pushing hard from behind. Everything seemed to indicate that the front row would absolutely dominate.
The domination by the front row of the grid would be further enhanced as Schell would turn the fastest lap of the heat. However, almost as soon as he would turn the fastest lap, Schell would begin to fade. It was obvious his car wasn't able to produce all the power it was capable turning out. The rest of the front row would be swept out of the way on the very same lap. Trintignant was pushing hard in his Gordini. He was showing great speed behind the wheel. However, his car was also showing something from underneath the engine cowling; a faint flicker. Then it became obvious. His car was on fire. About the same time Trintignant's car erupted in flames Marimon would make an error and would crash his Maserati out of the race. This would leave the door open to the rest of the field.
Although two of the Gordini chassis had run fowl of trouble, there had been three chassis entered. Jean Behra, driving another Gordini T16, would come from his 6th place starting position to assume control of the race. A Maserati by another name (OSCA), driven by Elie Bayol, would end up taking over 2nd place. And Louis Rosier would take the Ecurie Rosier Ferrari up into 3rd.
At the end of the 50 lap heat, Behra had managed to lap everyone except 2nd and 3rd. Lance Macklin, who was sitting in 4th place, would end up two laps down at the end of the race. Behra would average a little more than 62 mph en route to the victory. He would beat Bayol by a margin of twenty-three seconds. Louis Rosier would come from 7th place to finish the first heat in 3rd place. He would end up almost a minute behind Behra.
Starting positions for the second heat were to be determined by finishing position from the first. Therefore, Rosier would start the final heat in the 3rd position on the front row. He would share the front with Bayol in 2nd place and Behra on pole.
The second heat would start out much the same as the first. The front row would be dominant. Jean Behra would be quickly on the pace and would even go on to turn the fastest lap of the heat. His time in the second heat race would end up being even faster than his own qualifying effort for the first.
Some entrants just absolutely struggled throughout. Emmanuel de Graffenried would drop out of the running in the first heat due to an oil pump failure. However, he would not be deterred. He would take part in the second heat despite being well out of the running. Unfortunately, the second heat wouldn't fair any better. Ignition troubles would ail him right from the start of the second heat and he would be out of the running after completing just 3 laps. Peter Collins, despite starting 5th, would also be out of the final heat early. Clutch troubles would take him out of the running after just 5 laps.
Behra continued to run up at the front of the field. He would be chased by the rest of the front row. Bayol and Rosier were running as they had started and enjoyed a large margin over the rest of the field themselves. Rosier would then be handed a great opportunity for another win when Behra would drop out of the race due to his rear axle failing him after 20 laps. All he needed to do was catch Bayol.
Unfortunately for Rosier, he wouldn't be able to catch Bayol. Bayol would go on to complete the second heat over a minute faster than what he had completed the first. The faster pace in the second heat would translate into a thirty second advantage over Rosier and a two lap advantage over the rest of the field. As with the first heat, Lance Macklin would follow Bayol and Rosier across the line. However, he would finish 3rd in the second heat.
When the times were added together, Bayol would come out to be the winner of the race. He would end up completing the distance with a time two minutes faster than Rosier in 2nd place. Four laps would separate Bayol and Macklin in 3rd.
Solid driving had kept Rosier out of trouble throughout the race and would end up leading to a fine 2nd place result. Though still lacking outright speed, handling and making no mistakes in the next race would be of greater paramount for Rosier.
Louis Rosier would take his team and would head to West Germany in early August. His destination was a monster of a circuit situated in the dark and mysterious forests of the Eifel mountains. His opponent wouldn't be the rest of the competitors as much as it would be a 14 mile long notorious circuit called Nordschleife.
Built during the 1920s, the Nurburgring was one of the first purpose-built circuits in the world. It would also be one of the longest. Measuring more than 14 miles in length, the Nurburgring's Nordschleife boasts a mind-blogging 170 corners and a constant array of elevation changes and blind corners that make its trip seem like an eternity spent in a 'Green Hell'. Only a very few would ever be considered a Ringmeister. However, over the past couple of seasons, nobody had proven to be any better than Alberto Ascari.
In 1953, Ascari would prove to be even tougher around the infamous circuit. In practice, Ascari would go on to post a time all within just a few seconds of his own time in a Ferrari 375 Formula One from 1951. His time of nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds would end up being almost four seconds faster than the time posted by Fangio. Scuderia Ferrari would look particularly tough as the results for practice come through. Starting right beside Fangio in the 3rd place position would be the 1950 World Champion and former teammate of Fangio, Giuseppe Farina. The new man on the block, Mike Hawthorn, would put together an impressive performance in practice and would end up starting 4th.
In Rosier's case, he would have ended up practice hoping he could have brought his Ferrari 375 for he would be in need of the extra power. Compared to the Ferrari 500s of Scuderia Ferrari, Rosier was well off the pace. Rosier's best lap in practice would end up being just eleven minutes and twenty-seven seconds. This would position the Frenchman on the seventh row of the grid in the 24th starting position.
Sunny skies and dry conditions would greet the drivers and the multitude of spectators that would line the long, long circuit. One year before, the quarter of a million spectators would see Ascari pull away at the start of the race and would put together one of the most impressive performances ever seen. One year later, it would be Fangio that would take advantage going into the first turn. However, within just a few of the 170 corners, Ascari was in the lead and setting sail into the distance. Starting in the later-half of the grid, Rosier needed to be clean and patient throughout the early going. Mired toward the back as he was, Rosier would also need to be careful and use attrition to his advantage. The strategy would work.
A number of cars, five in all, would end up falling out of the race before having completed even 2 of the 18 laps. By the time the race had completed 10 laps there would be thirteen of the thirty-four starters out of the race. There almost was one more added to that list earlier on.
Ascari was out front and was rapidly pulling away from the rest of the field. However, after just four laps in the lead, one of the wheels would come off of his car. Ascari would hold his car together and would amazingly make it back to the pits. Tire changes at that time took a while to complete and he had already lost quite a bit of time. Therefore, Villoresi would come in and give his car to Ascari for the remainder of the race. Villoresi would wait for Ascari's lost wheel to be replaced and he would also be back on his way. Back in the race, Ascari would put together an even better performance than what he had the year before.
Louis Rosier would benefit from all of the troubles, and without too much increase in pace, would increase his position in the running order. Soon, he would find clear of most of the German entries and would again be chasing Ferraris and Maseratis. This would not be an easy task on the Nurburgring as the length of the circuit would quickly spread most all of the competitors out a good deal.
The tightest battle would be found at the front of the field. Ascari's departure would hand the lead to Hawthorn and Farina. Fangio would also be right there battling with the Ferrari stablemates. Hawthorn had had a spell in the lead but would end up losing the position to Farina. This was very important as it had championship implications. Fully aware of this, Ascari was on an absolute charge in Villoresi's machine. On the 12th lap of the race, Ascari would turn the fastest lap of the race with a time over three seconds faster than his pole time from practice. It would also be with a few tenths of his pole effort in a Formula One car back in 1951.
Such pace had its price, however. Unfortunately, attrition would come to collect before the end of the race. With just a couple of laps left to go, the engine in Villoresi's car would expire on Ascari thereby ending his incredible bid to retake the lead and earn the victory. This would be the final retirement Rosier would need to make it to the top ten.
Giuseppe Farina would go on to win the race. His effort, and good fortune, would end up making him the oldest driver to win a World Championship race all by himself. His margin of victory would end up being more than a minute over Fangio. Fangio had been in a battle with Hawthorn over the course of the last few laps of the race and would end up being able to gain his vengeance for Reims. Hawthorn would end up finishing some forty seconds behind Fangio in 3rd. The results, being what they were, meant that Ascari would actually go on to win the World Drivers' Championship for the second-straight year despite failing to make it to the finish. Louis Rosier would end up benefiting from Ascari not making it to the finish. Rosier had been sitting one lap behind in 11th. However, Ascari's retirement would end up bumping him up to a 10th place finish.
Although not the fastest car on the circuit, Rosier had a perfect record in the World Championship to that point in the season. In every single World Championship race in which Rosier had entered he had managed to finish. Unfortunately, his best finishing position had been in his first round of the season back in early June. Over the course of the four races after the Dutch Grand Prix, Rosier's race results were beginning to trend in the wrong direction. He would hope that it would reverse direction and would end up in the points somewhere.
The eighth round of the World Championship was schedule for August 23rd. However, beforehand there would be a bit of a break in the schedule. This break in the World Championship schedule would end up being filled by a few non-championship races. One of those races would be the 3rd Grand Prix de Sables d'Olonne.
Sables d'Olonne rests on the west coast of France, about an hour almost directly south of Nantes. Filled with a history of warfare, the port city would often be besieged during the days of the French Revolution and would even come to be occupied by the German army during the Second World War. In fact, in the years between the end of the war and the city coming to host grand prix races the port would have to be rebuilt as it would be mined and destroyed before the German army abandoned the town.
Just to the southeast of the port lay the Lac de Tanche and the Boulevard de l'Atlantique that passes along the shores of the Bay of Biscay. The boulevard would end up serving as the back-straight of a 1.85 mile circuit that would play host to the Grand Prix de Sables d'Olonne. The pie-shaped circuit would boast of mostly hairpin turns and just one S-bend between Route de Tour and along the Avenue du Lac.
The Grand Prix de Sables d'Olonne would be another race that would feature a race format that would include a couple of heat races and aggregate scoring. No matter the format, the race presented another great opportunity for Ecurie Rosier. Rosier's Ferrari would be the only Ferrari in the field and there would only be one Maserati in the field. This meant the performance edge certainly swung in Rosier's favor, and along the Boulevard de l'Atlantique, Rosier would have the chance to make the performance advantage work for him.
Although the field would be minus Scuderia Ferrari and the factory Maserati team the field would still include a number of talented privateers and small teams. One of the major teams to enter the race would be Equipe Gordini, and in practice, the team's cars would be dominant. Harry Schell would take the pole for the first 45 lap heat. He would be joined on the front row by his teammates. Trintignant would start 2nd while Behra would sit 3rd. For some reason, Rosier would not be able to find the pace and would end up starting the race 6th from the third row of the grid.
Although the Gordini team cars had been in practice, the race would see everything get thrown into air. Equipe Gordini looked good throughout the early stages of the race, but Trintignant would end up retiring from the race after 20 laps due to transmission troubles and Harry Schell's once dominant pace in practice would evaporate during the race and he would fall back down the order. The team still had Behra, however.
Louis Chiron and Louis Rosier had come from the third row to challenge Behra at the head of the field. While only a few seconds would separate Chiron and Rosier, they would trail Behra by almost thirty seconds.
Behra would prove more than capable of flying Gordini's flag as he would hold on to finish the heat victorious. Twenty-eight seconds behind, Chiron would finish in 2nd. As Chiron was nearing the line, Rosier would appear streaking down the Avenue Rhin et Danube. Rosier would finish behind Chiron by about five seconds in 3rd. Everyone behind Rosier had come to be lapped during the course of the first heat and would have to pray for problems in the second heat to have a chance.
The starting grid for the second would, as usual, be arranged according to finishing order from the first heat. Therefore, Behra would start from the pole with Chiron and Rosier joining him on the front row.
Heading into the final heat, pretty much all that Behra would have to do was remain on track, keep out of trouble and make no mistakes and the victory would be his. The field would roar away with Behra up at the front with Chiron and Rosier following close behind. Maurice Trintignant, who had failed to finish the first heat, was on an absolute tear in the second and would be pushing his way up towards the front.
A couple of early contestants for the victory, Schell and Bayol, would end up out of the race very early on. Rosier was certainly looking to be on pace and was battling with Chiron for 2nd on the circuit and in the final results. Trintignant was marching quickly up through the field and would be inside the top three in just a matter of a handful of laps.
Although it seemed the race was well in hand there still was a problem. In many ways, being on the hunt is easier to maintain focus then being the one hunted. This would be Behra's problem. Jean was en route to victory. However, with just 10 laps remaining in the race, Jean would lose his concentration for a moment and would make a mistake. He would end up crashing his car and would be forced to retire from the race and the lead.
Trintignant had come back with a vengeance and would be unstoppable. But it wouldn't be necessary to battle with him. The real battle was behind Trintignant. The battle was between Rosier and Chiron. Chiron had the advantage because he had finished the first heat with a better time. However, in the second heat, Rosier was in front of Chiron and threatened to snatch the victory away.
Trintignant would put together an impressive performance and would go on to win the second heat. Following behind Trintignant, by about six seconds, would be Rosier. The important thing was how far behind Rosier, Chiron would be. The seconds would tick by. One-by-one, Rosier would be closer to victory. Chiron appeared in the distance streaking toward the line. However, by the time he had come into view the results were known. Chiron would follow Rosier by thirty-two seconds. This would give Rosier the over victory by twenty-seven seconds! Other than Chiron, Rosier's steady performance would be absolutely dominant. Stirling Moss would end up being the 3rd place finisher, but he would end up three laps down in the scoring.
For perhaps the first time all season, Rosier's steady pace would pay off over outright speed. His absolute stubbornness to focus on finishing a race would be rewarded. Although his patient and steady run had been rewarded, Rosier knew he would need to be a little more aggressive going into his next race.
Rosier would depart France heading toward Switzerland looking for retribution. The first round of the World Championship the year before had been the Swizz Grand Prix. Despite starting from the back of the field, Rosier knew he had the car to turn things around during the race. However, he wouldn't even really get into the race as he would have an accident after just two laps. Therefore, in 1953, Rosier was looking to set things right, or, at least have them go better than they had the year before.
Difficulty was part of Bremgarten's existence. Situated in the heavily wooded forests along the Wohlensee river just to the northwest of Berne, the 4.52 mile road course had a reputation for danger, especially in the wet. However, as the World Championship arrived at the end of August, the weather would turn sunny and incredibly hot. Despite being flanked by the Alps to the south and Lake Neuchatel to the west, the temperatures across the valley were so hot as to make the race about endurance of the car and driver as much as handling and performance.
Consisting of almost no straight portions of public roads at all, Bremgarten was an unusual combination requiring speed and handling. Cobblestone paving in the corners would make it imperative drivers held the correct line through a corner. At the same time, the driver would be working the throttle as the car danced on the limits of adhesion. Such a circuit obviously required talented drivers. But it demanded those drivers that were masters of control while being on the edge. Giuseppe Farina was certainly a driver that was suited to Bremgarten. His smooth driving style made dangerous corners seem easy. Of course Alberto Ascari was another driver that made Bremgarten look tame. And then, in qualifying, Fangio would prove, as everyone already knew, that he too had the talent and control for such a circuit. Fangio would use his feel and his talent to power his way to the pole. He and Ascari would be within tenths of each other. Giuseppe Farina would make sure that it would be another World Champion's row as he would end up starting the race 3rd.
Louis Rosier was certainly a talented driver. But his talent was found in his ability to keep a cool head and a steady hand. Throughout the 1953 season, Rosier had maintained the approach of allowing the 'race to come to him'. It had worked just a couple of weeks before in Sables d'Olonne. However, it hadn't worked all that well in the World Championship mostly because he couldn't. If he wasn't willing to go after it there would be more than enough Maserati and Ferrari drivers willing to do so. And the same approach would show through in practice. Just as with many of the other races, despite the fact he was driving a Ferrari 500 just like Scuderia Ferrari, Rosier's rather sedated pace would end up being fifteen seconds slower than Fangio's effort. As a result, the Frenchman would start the 65 lap race from all the way down in the sixth row of the grid in 14th position. This would be a tough position to be in going into the race. As it would turn out, the race would prove this point very clearly.
Under bright sunny skies and incredible heat, the 1953 Swiss Grand Prix would get underway with Fangio getting a great start off the line. Farina, by contrast, would have a terrible start and would end up almost falling out of the top ten heading through the first couple of corners.
Louis Rosier had started the 1952 Swiss Grand Prix from the back of the field. And in such a position, amongst a lot of other traffic, it would be easy to make a mistake and end up out of the race. This would end up happening in 1952. Unfortunately, it would happen again one year later.
While the rest of the field would roar away to start the Swiss Grand Prix, Rosier, and the Ecurie Francorchamps driver Jacques Swaters, would each suffer crashes before even completing the first lap of the race. Not only Rosier not avenged the result from the previous year, the retirement one year later would actually come earlier. As with each of the previous World Championship rounds, Rosier's finishes had indicated a downward trend. At Bremgarten he had certainly hit the bottom. Still it was only his first retirement out of six World Championship rounds.
Although Rosier's day had come to a very quick end, it had literally just started for the rest of the field. Fangio had gotten the jump at the start; however, Ascari would actually come through to take the lead, and would hold the position for well more than half of the race. Fangio continued to press Ascari but he would find not just the Italian difficult. Just before halfway, engine troubles would hinder Fangio's car. He would retire his car, but not himself. Instead, he would take over Bonetto's car for the remainder of the race, but he would be a long way behind the rest of the front-runners.
Onofre Marimon would be the only remaining Maserati amongst the four Ferrari entries. He would have a tough battle on his hands, but at least the odds would be reduced just slightly after about 20 laps when Villoresi would begin to drop off the pace. It seemed things would be even better for the Argentinean when, just before the 40th lap, Ascari would have to pit because of a misfire. This left just Farina and Hawthorn at the front along with Marimon.
Although he would lose time in the pits because of the misfire issue, Ascari would still manage to rejoin the race and would be putting the hammer down in an effort to catch back up. In the meantime, Farina held station at the front of the field with Hawthorn running about twenty to thirty seconds behind. Fangio was still running at the time as well but was around a lap behind.
Marimon had been quite impressive at other races throughout the season and was looking quite good in this race. However, his pace wouldn't be matched by reliability as his engine would let go after 46 laps. This would leave the Ferraris one, two and three in the running. The only battle left on the circuit then was between Ascari and Farina. Supposedly there had been orders given for the drivers just to hold station to the end of the race. However, this would not sit well with Ascari. Frustrated by his troubles, Ascari would ignore the directive and would get by Hawthorn and would set sail in search of Farina. Setting the fastest lap of the race would help the repeat World Champion hunt down the inaugural World Champion. There was little Farina could do against Ascari.
Ascari would end up passing Farina for the lead of the race and would quickly begin to regain the advantage he had lost due to the issues with his car. In just a little more than three hours and one minute, Ascari would cross the line for the final time and would take the win in the Swiss Grand Prix. Ascari would be hailed as the victor while Farina would quietly cross the line a little more than a minute behind Ascari in 2nd. Mike Hawthorn would hold on to the end and would make it a Ferrari sweep of the first-three positions in the results.
In the case of Ecurie Rosier, the team had suffered the worst race of the season and needed to overcome the bad result with a positive one. Just one World Championship race remained on the season. It would be important having momentum going into the final race so the season would end on a positive note.
There would be a span of about three weeks between the eighth and the ninth (the final) round of the World Championship. During the break Ecurie Rosier would take part in only one non-championship race. The race was back on French soil. About four hours southwest of Ecurie Rosier's base in Clermont-Ferrand was a small commune in the Haute-Garonne. The commune was known as Cadours and about a mile or so to the northwest of the small village lay what was the Cadours Circuit. The circuit would host the 5th Circuit de Cadours race and it would take place on the 30th of August.
Of the same ilk as such circuits like Reims, Chimay and St. Gaudens, Cadours was something almost entirely different. Though it too would consist of public roads and would be situated out in the rolling terrain of the countryside, the layout and the pace of the circuit would be something entirely different. Though mostly farmland, the fields would be anything but square or rectangular in the layout. Therefore, while the circuit had a familiar triangle shape it would be littered with a mixture of slow and medium-speed corners and only a couple of straights that would allow cars to push their top-end speeds. In all actuality, Cadours, though not well known nor as famous a place as…say Reims, was a very technically demanding circuit and presented a huge challenge to drivers. Each and every lap the drivers would have to negotiate a circuit that had a very difficult flow to it, made so by its many esses and blind entries. It would be every easy to get things wrong and ruin what may have been a good lap time.
Like many of the French Formula 2 races held in 1953, the Circuit de Cadours race would include two heat races, but this one would also include a repechage and a final. Each of the heat races would consist of 15 laps of the 2.54 mile circuit. There would be a 10 lap repechage (second chance) and a 30 lap final.
In all, there would be sixteen entries for the race. The field would include the Equipe Gordini and HWM teams, as well as, a number of privateer BMW Specials. The first heat would include two of the Gordini cars and two of the HWMs. Ecurie Rosier would take part in the second heat.
In practice for the first heat, Maurice Trintignant would prove to be fastest as he would post a lap of one minute and fifty-seven seconds to take the pole. Starting right beside him would be Emmanuel de Graffenried in his Maserati. Charles de Tornaco, driving a Ferrari 500 for Ecurie Francorchamps, would round-out the front row.
Right from the very start, Trintignant would show the advantages of the Gordini T16 chassis on the winding Cadours circuit. He would be fast and would be chased by de Graffenried and de Tornaco. However, this pursuit would soon become beached as both de Tornaco and de Graffenried would run into mechanical troubles and would retire from the heat. Jean Behra would take up the challenge of chasing down his teammate. However, Behra had started the race from the third row of the grid and was already a good long ways behind Trintignant.
And so, it would be Trintignant taking the victory in the first heat. He would cross the line eight seconds in front of Behra. Yves Giraud-Cabantous would end up being the 3rd place finisher. He would come in a minute and twenty seconds behind Trintignant.
In the second heat, Rosier would have the likes of Harry Schell, Elie Bayol and Ken Wharton to battle against. In practice, Rosier would show good pace and would actually take the pole for the 15 lap second heat. Elie Bayol would end up a second slower and would start the heat beside Rosier on the front row. Schell would take his Gordini T16 and would end up setting a similar time to Bayol, just slightly slower.
Although Schell would be slightly slower than Rosier in practice leading up to the race; during the race, it would be an entirely different story. Schell would make a great start and would utilize the strengths of the T16 just as Trintignant had in the first heat. Rosier would run in 2nd place behind Schell and would try tremendously to keep up with the flying American-Parisian.
Schell would have none of it. He would turn in the fastest lap of the heat. His time would end up being some three seconds faster than his own qualifying effort and would enable him to pull away from Rosier. Rosier's pace would enable him to pull out a rather comfortable margin over Bayol. Ken Wharton would be the only remaining entrant that would be capable of staying on the same lap with the rest of the front-runners.
Schell would prove untouchable and would go on to win the heat. He would enjoy a twelve second margin over Rosier at the finish. Elie Bayol would end up finishing the race in 3rd place but he would trail Rosier across the line by some twenty-nine seconds.
After the 10 lap repechage, which would see Charles de Tornaco recover to take the win over John Heath and Rene Duval, the field would be set for the 30 lap final. Starting position, as usual, would be based upon finishing times of each competitor in their respective heat. This meant Schell would start from the pole after he had completed his heat in just thirty minutes and five seconds. Rosier would start beside him in 2nd. Elie Bayol's time, although he would finish the second heat 3rd, would still be faster than Maurice Trintignant's time in the first heat. Therefore, the front row would be set with the top three finishers in the second heat.
The 30 lap final would get underway with Schell making a good start and Trintignant looking good despite starting in the second row. Rosier was also right there but was facing the force of the Equipe Gordini team as all three cars were right around him in the opening stages. Bayol had looked promising in the second heat. However, transmission problems on the very first lap of the race would lead to his early retirement.
Quickly, the Gordini cars would group together and would begin pulling the train. Rosier was amongst the engines trying desperately to maintain position and touch with them. Although Trintignant's pace in the first heat would be out-shown by Schell and Rosier in the second, Maurice would have his vengeance in the final. Each and every lap Trintignant would increase the pace forcing his teammates and the rest of the field to either go with him or fall back. Schell and Behra would go with him. Rosier would default back to his steady pace looking and hoping for the same result at the Circuit du Lac to happen in the race at Cadours.
It wouldn't. Trintignant would pull the train all the way to the station and would pull in some four seconds ahead to take the victory. The in the field was amongst Schell and Behra. The two had been running within a second of each other for the vast majority of the race. At the line, it would be Schell that would hold off Behra for 2nd place. Rosier enjoyed a lead of about thirty seconds over Charles de Tornaco, and therefore, would just hold a steady pace throughout the remainder of the race. Unfortunately, the steady pace wouldn't pay off with a victory. Instead, Rosier would finish a rather quiet 4th. This was disappointing after Rosier had started the final from 2nd.
Although he had been in position, Rosier could not take advantage of the situation to earn a top three, or even the victory. Instead, it would be Rosier that would look thoroughly beaten throughout the running of the final. Instead of being on the attack, Rosier would choose to focus on finishing. Unfortunately, such a mindset would not be all that beneficiary heading into what would be the final race of the season for Ecurie Rosier.
The final race of the season for Ecurie Rosier would take place at another of the ultra-fast circuits and would not reward either a sedated mindset or pace. The race was the ninth round of the 1953 World Championship and it was, technically, the 24th Gran Premio d'Italia. Perhaps more importantly, it was the home race for Ferrari, Maserati and OSCA. And while most of the numerous spectators would be wildly cheering for the factory efforts from Ferrari and Maserati, Rosier would be treated to something of a warm reception just due to the fact he too drove a Ferrari.
Combining nature with machine, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza was built amidst the woods of the Royal Villa of Monza Park. Quiet, pastoral scenes of nature would adjoin the hectic and ear-piercing sights and sounds of grand prix racing. Built as something of a motor sports complex during the early 1920s, the design of the circuit incorporates both a steeply-banked oval and a road course. It would first host a race in 1922 and would first host the Italian Grand Prix in September of that same year. Although the two distinct circuits could, and would, be used in conjunction with one another making for a long circuit measuring over 6 miles in length, the average speeds just around the road circuit had proven to be enough to provide drivers and spectators exactly what is longed for. The circuit would be fast as the long straights and fast corners would be taken with the gas pedal barely coming off the floor. The circuit; therefore, would display the acceleration and handling of a car, of which many people appreciate, but it would also include the speed, which the vast majority truly enjoy.
Coming into the race, the World Championship was drawing to a close with it having already been something bright and celebratory. In the case of Ecurie Rosier, the season had gone far better than the previous year, but, it was something rather unfulfilling. There had been great promise but the presence of Maserati, and Rosier's own driving style, meant that much of the promise would not be realized.
Alberto Ascari was riding the high of being the first repeat World Champion. He would come to Monza riding the wave of adrenaline offered to him by the Tifosi, Scuderia Ferrari's enthusiastic supporters. He would ride that wave all throughout practice and would take the pole for the race. The Italian fans cheering for the other manufacturer from Modena would also have reason to be excited as Fangio would start right alongside Ascari on the front row in 2nd. Giuseppe Farina would provide the crowds another all-champion's row as he would round-out the front row starting in 3rd.
The speed of the 3.91 mile road course favored cars with power, which the Ferrari 500 and Maserati A6SSG certainly had. All but one of the top twelve starters on the grid would be a car other than a Ferrari and Maserati. In spite of this obvious advantage, Rosier's time in practice would not be on par with the others. His best effort would end up being almost seven seconds slower and would end up causing him to start the race from the sixth row in 17th.
The start of the race would see Fangio make a poor getaway and end up well down and under threat of dropping out of the top ten. This was an absolute open door to Ascari who would gladly take the opportunity to pull out the early lead. However, he wouldn't hold on to it for very long as Onofre Marimon would come up and snatch the lead away before the completion of the first lap. Rosier would be packed in toward the back of the thirty car field. He would need to be patient in order to make it up the running order and to really challenge the front-runners.
Fangio would overcome his bad start rather quickly and would soon join Marimon, Ascari and Farina at the front of the field. These four would then hook up and make what seemed to be a reprising of the French Grand Prix. For almost the entire 80 laps these four would slipstream off of each other down the long straights and would swap positions constantly. Very quickly these four would break away from the rest of the field leaving the rest of the competitors to circulate for the sake of pride rather than any promise of glory.
Rosier's hopeful battle at the front of the field would never materialize. Instead, the only time he would have to even catch a glimpse of the front-runners would be when they came around to put him yet another lap down. Rosier perhaps had felt like he was battling with the four of them as they would end up coming back around to lap him numerous times before the end.
Marimon was holding his own quite well but would end up being dropped from the group because of a cooling issue with his car. He would come into the pits to have the car worked on. The work would be completed and he would head back out onto the circuit right behind the threesome he had left. Just like that, everyone had been reunited and the wheel-to-wheel battle would continue between the four, although Marimon was now a number of laps down.
The rest of the field was thoroughly dominated. Coming to the last few laps of the race even the Ferrari teammates of Mike Hawthorn and Luigi Villoresi would come under attack and would end up going a lap down. However, between the two, Villoresi would do his best to hang with the crew as they came through and would end up being rewarded as a result of the effort.
If the battle at the front of the field had been something truly special to behold, then the last lap could only be described as something utterly 'wild' and 'unbelievable'. The two Ferraris were running tight together and had Fangio trailing by a couple of car lengths. The group would again slipstream down the long straights and would remain incredibly close going into the final corner. This was the Italian Grand Prix, however. To be victorious would be something indescribable. Ascari had already shown his inability to hold station at the Swiss Grand Prix, and heading into the final corner, he had made up his mind he was going to win the race. Though Farina had the inside line, Ascari would try to power by him on the outside. It was a risk. And it would backfire. Ascari's car would lose its grip. Ascari would lose control and would be narrowly missed by Farina. Ascari's pride, and Farina's evasive maneuver, would end up costing both of them the victory though it was just down the road about a half mile. Fangio's gap would end up allowing him to thread his way through and to the victory. Unfortunately for Marimon, he would have nowhere to go and would end up plowing into Ascari. As a result of the crash, Ascari would not finish the race. Since Ascari would not complete the last lap, Villoresi would be able to come through to finish the race in 3rd behind Farina.
Villoresi would continue to battle and would end up being in position to profit from Ascari's mistake. Rosier was by no means in position to take advantage of anything. Rosier's performance had been a poor representation of the talent that had seen the Frenchman become quite successful throughout the late 1940s. Rosier would cross the line a very distant 16th. More telling was the fact he would end up down over 15 laps to Fangio and Farina. The race would not have fared much worse if he had retired after the first lap. While it had been an improvement upon the retirement at the Swiss Grand Prix it really would prove to be little better.
The 1953 campaign would certainly fare much better for Ecurie Rosier than it had in 1952. Yet while he would come close to finishing in the points a couple of times, Rosier would still end the season without having scored even a single championship point. And while the season had been difficult one in which to score a point, Enzo's announcement of possible withdraw from the 1954 season would throw Rosier's future into greater uncertainty. Throughout 1952 and 1953, Ecurie Rosier had the right car. With the return of Formula One looming, it was unclear how competitive the team could expect to be. One thing was for sure: the forty-seven year old Frenchman, whose life was automobiles, would be right there looking for any opportunity to pull off a surprise. What else would one expect him to be doing?