TeamsEcurie Rosier: 1955 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Each and every person has a role to play, in times of peace and in war. During World War II, Louis Rosier would play a part in the clandestine French Resistance. Working relatively anonymous, Rosier would be a somewhat elusive figure helping downed pilots flee from captivity and general harassment of the enemy. Upon war's end, Rosier would step out of the shadows and would become a prominent player in the post-World War II motor racing scene. A champion at Le Mans with his son, victories in Formula One would end up being as elusive as he had been. However, his team name, Ecurie Rosier, would continue to be a fixture in the World Championship well into the mid-1950s.
Despite pushing 50 years of age, Louis Rosier continued to be a presence in both grand prix and sports car racing. By the late 1940s he would win the French Championship, a title he would have a stranglehold on for more than a couple of years, and would also take an overall victory in the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans with his son.
Rosier's consistency and talents as a driver would lead to Louis garnering enough money to start his own racing team known as Ecurie Rosier. And though the team was relatively small compared to the likes of Scuderia Ferrari and Maserati, he would still manage to procure the best equipment and cars of a particular period.
After earning a number of top ten results driving a Ferrari 500 during the 1953 World Championship, Ecurie Rosier would be faced, just like everyone else, with the upcoming change in regulations debuting in 1954. After a two year period of Formula 2 regulations, Formula One would be back in 1954, and with it would come an increase in engine size up to 2.5-liters.
The switch to 2.5-liters didn't really seem like that big of a change but it would make the Formula 2 cars practically obsolete at every circuit other than the slow, tight circuits, of which there were practically none on the calendar at the time. Realizing the need to change to remain competitive, Rosier would keep his Formula 2 Ferrari 500 but would also gain usage of an updated Ferrari 625 with a 2.5-liter engine.
Realizing his age and reduced skills, Rosier would normally give the Ferrari 625 to other drivers like Robert Manzon or Maurice Trintignant while he would take part in races with the older 500.
The first part of the 1954 season would be absolutely terrible with retirement after retirement. Realizing the Ferrari 500 was no longer competitive and that his cars were struggling to finish anyway, Rosier would end up purchasing a Maserati 250F toward the later-half of the season.
Chassis 2506 would initially be driven by Onofre Marimon in the Grand Prix of Argentina and had been entered for Luigi Villoresi when Marimon perished in an accident during practice for the German Grand Prix in early August. Toward the end of its period in the hands of the factory Maserati team, 2506 would go on to win a couple of race and another top ten result. Louis Rosier would drive under the Maserati factory team name in the Italian Grand Prix and would finish the race in 8th place. Afterward, he would agree to purchase the car to add it to his stable of grand prix cars.
Whereas the beginning of the 1954 season would be horrible for Ecurie Rosier, the tail-end of the season would actually be quite competitive with the Maserati 250F and the Ferrari 625. Still, there would be a number of changes that would leave Ecurie Rosier with just one car and one driver heading into the 1955 season.
Maurice Trintignant had found his opportunity and would take it when Mike Hawthorn suffered terrible burns after an accident in a race at Syracuse early on in 1954. Therefore, Trintignant would depart Ecurie Rosier to drive for Scuderia Ferrari. This opened a door for another Frenchman, Robert Manzon.
Manzon had been drifting around after leaving Equipe Gordini a couple of years prior. Tired of the Gordinis that seemed totally inept and unable to complete an entire race distance, the talented Manzon would depart the team looking for better opportunities. However, those better opportunities never really panned out, at least not consistently. However, with Trintignant's departure to Ferrari, Manzon would have one of his best opportunities to compete with top level equipment. Manzon would remain with Ecurie Rosier throughout much of the 1954 season. However, amazingly, during the off-season Manzon would make the decision to return to Equipe Gordini. Gordini had boasted of a new car and this certainly helped to lure Manzon back to the team. And with Andre Simon driving and entering races under his own name, it meant that all that was left was just the 49 year old Louis Rosier.
Despite his age, Louis Rosier was not ready to take it easy. In fact, despite being well into his forties at the time, it would be his thirst and desire for motor racing that would lead to Juan Manuel Fangio partnering to drive with him in the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans. But though he was well respected in the motor racing community, larger factory teams were beginning to dominate the world of Formula One. However, despite pushing 50 years of age, Rosier wasn't about to see his racing team fold. Therefore, he would prepare for a full season of grand prix racing and would be ready to go by the middle of April.
Although the Formula One World Championship for 1955 would get underway in January with the Argentine Grand Prix, the grand prix season would not get underway for Rosier until the 11th of April with the 16th Grand Prix de Pau.
Had Maurice Trintignant remained with Ecurie Rosier at the time of the Pau Grand Prix the year previous, it would have been a brilliant battle between one of Ecurie Rosier's Ferraris and Jean Behra in a Gordini T16. Instead, Robert Manzon would fail to finish the race and Rosier would complete the race five laps behind in 6th place.
One year later, it would be just Louis Rosier that would arrive in Pau, France for the 110 lap event around the 1.71 Pau street circuit. It would be just him that would be going up against three Scuderia Lancia, Equipe Gordini and Officine Alfieri Maserati entries along with a number of other privateers.
Though not the original circuit by any means, the city of Pau would serve as the home for the first grand prix race in history. When the venue changed from a race conducted over miles and miles of French countryside in the valleys and foothills near the Pyrenees and became a race just around the tight terraced streets of the city, the Pau Grand Prix could not have become any more of polar opposites. Still, the race would remain a popular event with incredible crowds assembling along the heights overlooking portions of the circuit.
Driving the new D50 that made its debut in the later-part of the 1954 season, Alberto Ascari would go on to earn pole for the 188 mile race. Jean Behra, the previous year's champion, would start alongside Ascari on the two-wide front row with a time just nine-tenths of a second between the two.
Pushing 50 years of age and his best years obviously behind him, Louis Rosier would struggle to match the pace of the front-runners around the tight circuit. Rosier's best time of 1:40.2 would end up being more than 6 seconds slower than the time posted by Ascari. As a result, Rosier would end up on the fifth row of the grid in the 10th position. This would place Rosier right around the middle of the 16-car field.
Having pulled off a stunning victory the season before in the aged T16, Behra would have to be considered a good bet to repeat given that he was now driving a Maserati 250F. However, he would be facing off against the likes of Ascari, Villoresi and Castellotti in Lancias.
Right from the start of the race, Ascari would be quick around the tight Pau streets. Chased by Behra and others, Ascari would turn in the fastest lap of the race with a time just eight-tenths slower than his own qualifying effort. This would put tremendous amounts of pressure on the remainder of the field. And at 110 laps, the pressure and the nature of the circuit would begin to claim its victims.
Mario Alborghetti would suffer an accident in an older Maserati 4CLT/48 driving for Scuderia Volpini. This highly updated chassis would crash heavily and would end up taking Alboghetti's life just 20 laps into the race. Luigi Musso would fall out of contention right along with Elie Bayol and Rosier's driver of the previous season, Robert Manzon.
Rosier, ever the consistent and steady driver, would remain in the race and would be running rather well even late into the race. The same would be true of Ascari. After running strongly during the early portions of the race, Ascari would begin to fade and the lead of the race would be handed over to Jean Behra in his Maserati 250F. Eugenio Castellotti would pick up the chase of Behra but would be left behind over the remainder of the race.
Rosier would be left behind as well. Running a number of laps behind, Rosier would still at least be in the running and would be following along a lap behind Andre Simon. Steady throughout, Rosier would finish the race a little more than 6 laps behind but would still complete the race in 7th place.
Rosier's performance would be that of steady, no risks, driving and it would result in a pleasant top ten result. Behra, on the other hand, would take risks and would be on the limit throughout the whole of the three hour event. In spite of Ascari's fastest lap time, Behra would be the most consistently fast driver over the course of the 110 lap race. Averaging a little more than 62 mph, Behra would take an easy victory compared to the previous year. Crossing the line after a little more than three hours and two minutes, Behra would finish the race with a little more than a full minute in hand over Castellotti in 2nd place. Roberto Mieres would finish the race in 3rd place. He would be another thirty seconds behind Castellotti.
Consistent and uneventful, Rosier would start his 1955 season with a well-earned top ten result. However, to be able to truly competitive, Rosier would either need to push himself to the absolute limits or would need another driver to join his stable.
Since there were just a couple of weeks between races, it was not at all surprising to see the Ecurie Rosier transporter arrive in the city of Bordeaux with just the single Maserati 250F strapped down. Similar in nature and in those present to take part in the race, the 4th Grand Prix de Bordeaux looked rather akin to a second running of the Grand Prix de Pau. The only difference appeared to be that Scuderia Lancia would call in Scuderia Ferrari to take up the challenge on its behalf.
Similar to Pau, the city of Bordeaux is situated along, or actually straddled across, the Garonne River in the southwestern part of France. Famous for its world-class wine industry, the city would also be recognized for its outstanding architecture. Combining the two great passions, Bordeaux would be, and remains, a very popular city in which to live and visit. And, the city's large esplanade, the Esplanade des Quinconces seemed like the perfect backdrop for a grand prix motor race.
First hosting motor races along the streets of Bordeaux and around the esplanade in 1951, the circuit itself would not change between 1951 and the 1955 edition of the race. However, there would be one minor difference to the race and that would actually be introduced starting in 1953. Prior to 1953, the races held on the street circuit were held in an anti-clockwise direction. However, starting in 1953, that would change and the events would be held in a clockwise manner.
Fresh off of his victory at Pau, Jean Behra would find the streets of Bordeaux somewhat similar, and therefore, would set the fastest time in practice. His lap time of 1:21.7 would end up giving him the pole with four-tenths of a second in hand over Luigi Musso, one of Behra's Maserati teammates. Stirling Moss, driving his own Maserati 250F, would complete the front row having set a time just two-tenths slower than Musso.
As he had around Pau, Rosier would struggle to match the pace of the front-runners. As a result, Rosier would prepare to start the 123 lap, 188 mile, race from 12th on the grid—dead-last. Still, a steady drive similar to that which he pulled off at Pau would give the man a fair shot at another top ten result; or even better.
Stirling Moss would be quick right from the stat of the race. He would challenge Behra for outright pace. But Behra would remain equal to the task and would remain up at the front of the field. Luigi Musso and Roberto Mieres would be all over Behra's tail as well as an incredible battle of about four or five cars would ensue right from the very beginning of the race.
Rosier, starting from the tail-end of the field would have a difficult time moving forward with the front-runners so tightly packed together. Slowly and incrementally Rosier would try to mount his challenge.
At 123 laps, the race would be pushing the three hour mark, and therefore, would be a severe test of man and machine. Giuseppe Farina, the 1950 Formula One World Champion, would find his race come to an end after just 19 minutes when a crack in his Ferrari's gearbox casing would bring about the end of his day. Farina would then take over Maurice Trintignant's Ferrari in order to come away with a solid result. However, his second chance would come to naught after 70 laps with brake issues.
Stirling Moss would set the fastest lap of the race and Jean Behra would be swallowed up in an intense battle with Musso, Mieres and others. Moss would fade over time but would still be in good condition for a top five result. The attrition would also help Rosier look good for a top result as well. However, after having completed 81 laps the gear selector in Rosier's Maserati would begin to fail and he would be forced out of the event.
Rosier's departure from the race would hardly be noticed considering the intense battle that raged at the front of the field throughout the whole of the event. Though Behra had won on a similar circuit just a matter of days earlier, he just could not shake free from a couple of others in Bordeaux. It would be an incredible epic battle that wouldn't just come down to the final lap. It would come down to the final few yards.
Though Stirling Moss would set the fastest lap of the race, he would find himself a lap down and running firmly in 4th place. While 4th through 6th would be separated by a matter of laps, the front-three on the course would be separated by a matter of feet and that was about it.
Behra would cling to the lead but Musso and Mieres would be all over his backside. Rounding the tight hairpin and powering down the straight toward the finish line, Behra would be only slightly ahead. Luigi Musso would be just a half a car length back and just a matter of a couple of car lengths would be the difference between Behra and Mieres in 3rd place. Proceeding through the final left-hand kink toward the line, the crowd tightened with expectation. The French crowd would be urging Behra across the line to victory.
Just two-tenths of a second would be the difference as Jean Behra would claim his second victory in a row. Luigi Musso would be the upset bridesmaid while Roberto Mieres would make it one of the closest finishes for the top three. Mieres would finish the race just seven-tenths of a second behind.
Steady running would not reward Rosier this day. The short nature of the circuit, the numerous gear changes had taken their toll on Rosier's Maserati, especially coming just a couple of weeks after another bruising race at Pau where gear changes per lap were many.
It was already proving to be a difficult season with just a one car entry for the team. While operating costs were less, so too was the prize money if the car happened to fail in a race; as it had in Bordeaux. Still, Rosier would not give up and he would soldier on to the next race on his calendar.
For Ecurie Rosier's next race, the team would need to leave the European continent and travel across the English Channel to Britain. Once on English soil, the team would travel north of London to an area straddling both Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire. That area had been known as RAF Silverstone during the Second World War. However, since the conclusion of the war, the base's 2.88 miles of perimeter road would become home to British Motor Racing. And, on the 7th of May, Silverstone would prepare to host one of the more popular non-championship races on the calendar, the 7th BRDC International Trophy race.
After serving as a bomber training base during the Second World War, RAF Silverstone would not lie dormant very long before it would become a prominent site for motor races. The first would be held in 1947. Then, in 1948, the British Grand Prix would be held there for the first time. However, when the BRDC International Trophy race came to be held at the circuit in 1949 the familiar Silverstone layout would be used for the very first time. That same layout would be set to host the International Trophy race in 1955, but the format would be different.
Previous editions of the race included a couple of heat races and a final. The entire field would be split up into two heats. The finishing times of each individual in their heat race would determine the grid positions for the final race.
1954 would see some controversy surrounding the race. Gonzalez had been fastest in his heat but would have started the final from much further down in the field precisely because of the fact the second heat race would be held under dryer conditions, and therefore, would lead to faster times being posted. Apparently, right after the finish, the engine on Gonzalez's Ferrari would seize. Therefore, he would take over Trintignant's car for the final. As a result, Gonzalez would start the final from the pole instead of much further down as he should have. Not wanting to have to deal with controversy again, organizers of the race would change its format to a much more traditional event. Instead of a couple of heat races and a final, the latest edition of the race would be just a 60 lap race that would cover more than 172 miles.
In the previous couple of non-championship races there were two Frenchmen entering under their own team names. Such decisions against stronger factory teams was not entirely the most effective approach as it would leave two teams with just one chance for success. Recognizing this fact, Rosier would come to an agreement with Andre Simon and he would enter his Maserati right alongside the Maserati of Rosier under the Ecurie Rosier team banner. This would now give one team two chances at success. And shared parts and preparations would enable both to benefit.
In practice for the event, Rosier, who would be 50 years of age come November, would be a little ways off the pace of the rest of the field. His best effort in practice would be a lap time of 2:01. Compared to Roy Salvadori's pole time of 1:48, Rosier's effort would pale in comparison and would lead to him starting from the fifth row of the grid in 18th overall. Andre Simon, who had been much more successful in sportscars, would also be a little bit off the pace. His best time in practice would be a full ten seconds slower. Therefore, he too would start from the fifth row of the grid but at least would start in the 16th position overall.
Besides Roy Salvadori on pole, the rest of the front row would include Mike Hawthorn driving a Vanwall in 2nd place. Stirling Moss would be in 3rd place on the front row in his own Maserati. And, Jack Fairman would complete the four-wide front row being behind the wheel of a B-Type Connaught. With the Scuderia Ferrari cars not ready, and therefore not present, it would be one of the rare times in which it would be an all-British front row.
Races at Silverstone had always been filled with high attrition and the International Trophy race would be no different. While Peter Collins would make a fantastic start and would be challenging with Salvadori for the lead, a number of individuals would find their races come to a very early end. Before the 20th lap of the race would even begin there would be no fewer than seven that would be out of the race. And among those seven, two would be front-row starters.
Moss' and Hawthorn's retirements would only help Simon and Rosier who were running strong, but conservative, races. Silverstone was notoriously tough on cars. Therefore, drivers had a couple of choices to make: either they could go as hard as possible and stay near the front and pray for the car to stay together over the whole of the race, or, a driver could back off slightly and look after the car in order to help ensure it would carry on to the finish. Simon and Rosier would not entirely back off but their pace would certainly be slower than that of Collins and Salvadori battling for the lead. Nonetheless, the conservative approach was enabling the two Ecurie Rosier drivers to move up the running order.
Despite moving up the order neither Simon nor Rosier would even be close to matching the pace being set by Collins and Salvadori at the head of the pack. These two would trade fastest lap times and would eventually match each other with a lap time actually faster than Salvadori's own pole time. This pace would cause everyone else to lose a lap. And in the case of Simon and Rosier, they would be more than a lap or two behind heading into the final moments of the 60 lap race.
As usual, the attrition rate in the race would be rather high. Favorites like Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn, Ken Wharton, Robert Manzon and Jack Fairman would all be out of the running when the race was coming down to the last lap. However, neither Simon nor Rosier would run into trouble at any time during the race. Both would go from starting outside of the top-15 to running inside the top ten. Running on the same lap, Simon and Rosier would keep their focus on bringing home an incredible result for the team.
There really wasn't much else Simon and Rosier could do. Salvadori and Collins would be battling it out but would end up as the only two on the lead lap. And by the last third of the race, the battle between Collins and Salvadori would break up a good deal. As a result, Collins would cruise to the victory having built up a forty second lead over Salvadori by the end. Prince Bira would be all by himself one lap down in 3rd place.
The conservative and consistent pace of the two Ecurie Rosier cars would cost the two a chance for the podium. But after the failures at the previous race, to have two cars finishing in a tough race like the International Trophy race would certain be no small victory for the team. What's more, the consistent and steady drive by both drivers would translate into a 4th and 5th place finish. Though both would be three laps behind by the end, it would still be an incredible and encouraging result for a team that started down on the fifth row of the grid.
The top five finishes at Silverstone would be very welcome results for the Ecurie Rosier team as the days clicked by. The team would need all the confidence it could gain before it headed back across the Channel and made its way down to the Mediterranean coast. For, awaiting the team on the 22nd of May would be the second round of the Formula One World Championship for 1955. It would be the first round of the World Championship for Ecurie Rosier for 1955 and it would take place at a very special venue.
The last time Monaco had been on the World Championship calendar was back in the inaugural season of the Formula One World Championship. In that 1950 race, it was Juan Manuel Fangio who would win the race driving the dominant Alfa Romeo 158. Five years later, it would be Fangio who would be one of the favorites coming into the race driving for the dominant Mercedes-Benz factory team.
The vast majority of the attention would be on the large factory teams and the larger-than-life drivers like Fangio, Moss and Ascari. One of those that would be amongst the star lineup of drivers with Mercedes-Benz would be Rosier's partner at Silverstone, Andre Simon. Simon had taken part in sportscar races with the Mercedes team in the past and surely would not have missed an opportunity to drive the most dominant car of the time in the most prestigious race on the Formula One calendar. Actually, what happened was that Hans Herrmann had arrived with the Mercedes team, but, during practice he would crash rather heavily and would be injured as a result. Needing a replacement driver, Mercedes' team boss would turn to Simon and would offer him the opportunity. This meant Ecurie Rosier, would enter just one car for Louis Rosier although Andre Simon did bring his Maserati to the event as well.
Though officially its own principality, Monaco finds itself situated along what is widely known as the French Riviera. The most densely populated country in the world, Monaco, in 1955, was already a popular destination for the wealthy and affluent. It seemed the perfect setting for the most modern and advanced motor racing cars in the world. Thus, amongst the reverberating sounds of grand prix engines some of the most private and influential of the world could be found.
The last time Monaco had been a part of the Formula One World Championship Louis Rosier would finish in 10th place just seven and a half seconds back. Monaco's motto is 'with God's help', and Rosier would need every bit of God's help if he had any aspirations of just being able to match his previous 10th place result.
The top factory teams would be present en masse. Scuderia Ferrari would have five entries. Scuderia Lancia would bring four cars right along with the factory Maserati team and Mercedes-Benz. With a handful of cars from Equipe Gordini and Vandervell, along with a number of privateer entries, the field for the Monaco Grand Prix would be full with twenty-five cars.
Juan Manuel Fangio, not surprisingly, would be the quickest around the 1.95 mile circuit. His time would be 1:41.1 and would be just mere hundredths of a second faster than the time posted by Alberto Ascari in the Lancia D50. Just a total on one-tenth of a second would separate the entire front row as Stirling Moss would capture the 3rd place starting position in another Mercedes.
Times being as tight as they were for those on the front row, it wouldn't take too much to be relegated to the tail-end of the field. And, unfortunately, Rosier would find that out. Rosier's best effort in practice would end up just about five and a half seconds slower than Fangio. However, those five and a half seconds would translate into a seventh row starting position and a 17th placement overall.
The day of the race would be hot and dry and 100 laps awaited the best drivers and cars. The streets of the tiny principality would be, as usual, lined with eager race fans ready to watch the action. As the engines came to life and strained just prior to being let loose, the highly anticipated start would cause the crowd to rise to its feet straining in their own way to catch a glimpse.
At the start, the entire front row would break off the line together. It would be a drag race to the tight first corner. Rosier, starting well back in the pack, would actually get a good start off the line heading up the outside and would manage to leap forward a number of positions before the first corner.
The cars would jumble together trying to make their way through the tight corners of Monaco. Castellotti would make a great start from the second row and would manage to unseat Ascari and Moss heading toward the end of the first lap. Fangio would lead with Castellotti in 2nd place followed by Moss and Ascari.
Rosier's charge up the order at the start of the race would be stalled due to the nature of the circuit. Therefore, at the end of the first lap, Rosier would be running in 15th place behind Mike Hawthorn and followed by Elie Bayol.
Fangio would continue to lead the way. Moss would be fighting with Castellotti and would finally manage to take over the position behind his Mercedes teammate on the 5th lap of the race. This would bring Ascari forward to begin his challenge of Castellotti for position on the track. At the same time, Rosier would begin to run into trouble. He would make contact and would lose a few places as a result. Rosier would then try to continue on but the damage would be too severe and would force Rosier, ultimately, to retire from the race.
While Rosier's race may have come to an early end, the race itself was just really beginning. After Moss made his way around Castellotti, Fangio and Moss would begin to pull away from the field. Essentially, the first halfway of the race would be a Fangio and Moss runaway. Behind the two Mercedes, Ascari, Jean Behra and Castellotti would continue to battle it out for 3rd through 5th.
Simon's race would come to an end after 24 laps due to a blown engine. Mike Hawthorn's day would come to an end with a broken throttle linkage. It seemed like Fangio and Moss would run away with the race. However, on the 50th lap of the race the first major wave of attrition would hit. Fangio's transmission would fail on his Mercedes and he would be forced out of the race. The lead would be handed over to Moss. Robert Mieres and Harry Schell would all fall out of contention about 15 laps later.
Chased by Ascari, Moss had a clear advantage and continued to lap the circuit without issue. Mercedes began to adjust to the notion of Moss earning his first World Championship victory. However, just as the team was preparing for Moss' triumphant day his Silver Arrow would begin to slow, smoke seen pouring out from under the hood of the car.
It seemed that Ascari would inherit the lead and a possible victory. However, at the same time Moss pitted to have the problem checked, all chaos would break out along the harbor-front as Ascari would dramatically and famously plunge into the harbor. Immediately, rescue teams would set about rescuing Ascari. He would emerge from under the water and would swim to the rocks.
Heading into the race, it seemed Scuderia Ferrari would be on the outside looking in and that the real battle would be between Mercedes and Lancia. However, on the 81st lap of the race it would be Maurice Trintignant in the lead. Utterly amazed by the turn of events, the crowd would fail to recognize, at least immediately, that it was the Frenchman in the lead of the race.
Less than 20 laps from the end, Trintignant would maintain a comfortable lead over Castellotti. On a day filled with such incredible drama nothing seemed like a sure thing. But, with the steady Trintignant at the wheel it was about the surest thing possible on this day. Just needing to hold on through the final laps, Trintignant would be under no pressure from Castellotti, and therefore, just needed to focus on saying away from the hay bales and off the walls, and even out of the harbor.
Trintignant would do just that. Having been found all the way down in 9th place during the early stages of the race, Trintignant's steady performance would be rewarded. Flying past the crowded grandstands and across the line, Maurice Trintignant would take a surprise victory, one of his greatest achievements. Finishing some twenty seconds behind would be Eugenio Castellotti in one of the Lancia D50s. Cesare Perdisa, who had taken over Jean Behra's Maserati, would complete the podium finishing in 3rd place one lap down. It would be an incredible sight as the Frenchman would be cheered on by the appreciative fans after what had been an exciting day of motor racing.
In one of the most memorable Monaco Grand Prix in its history, Louis Rosier and Ecurie Rosier would end up playing bit parts. Always unforgiving, Monaco would claim Rosier as one of its victims this day and the team would lose out on a tremendous opportunity to use the misfortune of others to move up the running order. Instead, the team would be forced to pack everything up and look forward to brighter days.
Leaving Monaco bitterly disappointed, Ecurie Rosier would look for an opportunity to rebound from its terrible performance. Leaving the principality, the team would head directly west a few hundred miles. The team would make its way to Albi, France to take part in the 17th Grand Prix d'Albi held on the 29th of May, just one week after Monaco.
The tight city streets of Monaco would boast of a mixture of both modern and old. Albi, on the other hand, would be a study in the old, but it would be one of the most fascinating studies one could undertake. First settled centuries before Christ, Albi's history would reflect its many centuries of existence including Roman architecture, the influence of Christianity, exquisite examples of Gothic and Renaissance design. Filled with beautiful architecture and artwork, the ancient city of Albi remains a modern favorite. Dominated by the Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile and other incredible churches, Albi's skyline remains one of the most beautiful and remarkable sights to behold in all the world.
In a city filled with ancient and priceless architecture and art history, it seemed like a fitting venue for the artistry of the mechanical arts, the rolling collection of Formula One motor racing. However, by the mid-1950s, Albi's prominence amongst the Formula One elite sites had begun to wane. Initially a location not to be missed, the mid-1950s would see fields of relatively small sizes. What would be worse would be the circuit itself. Famous for its incredible high speeds, the triangular-shaped circuit would change in 1954 and would become a faint image of its former self. Unfortunately, there were no restoration efforts underway. It seemed Albi would be destined to be lost to the pages of motor racing history.
However, in 1955, there would still be a race held on the streets just outside of downtown Albi. Measuring just 1.85 miles, the circuit could not boast of the once incredible speeds that became synonymous with Albi. But, at 195 miles, the 17th Grand Prix d'Albi would be anything but an easy test.
Having lost his on and off again ride with Mercedes, Simon would enter his Maserati right alongside Rosier's. Ecurie Rosier, therefore, would have two cars to enter in the race and would present one of the larger teams to enter the race. Only Equipe Gordini would be larger with its three entries. Amazingly, one of the privateer entries would be Pierre Levegh driving a Ferrari 625. This would be one of the last races in which he would be seen taking part before his terrible accident at Le Mans in which he would perish along with more than 80 spectators.
Though Equipe Gordini had brought more cars, Ecurie Rosier had entered better ones. And, during practice for the race, it would be Andre Simon that would set the fastest time and would grab the pole. Simon would edge out Robert Manzon by a mere tenth of a second. However, when Louis Rosier managed to claim the final spot on the three-wide front row it was clear Ecurie Rosier would be in a much stronger position than Gordini heading into the race.
105 laps would be the race distance around the 1.85 mile circuit. Right from the start of the race, Simon would be on the pace and would be exerting a fair amount of pressure on Manzon and Rosier. Simon would continue to keep his pace up and Rosier and Manzon would begin to lose ground.
Lance Macklin would suffer from a broken water hose on Stirling Moss' Maserati and would be forced to retire after 36 laps. Then, just shy of the halfway point in the race, Manzon would be forced to retire from the race due to transmission failure. Manzon had once left Gordini because of unreliability issues. One year earlier he had been driving part-time for Ecurie Rosier. On this day, he could have been driving for Ecurie Rosier and enjoying a position at the head of the field. Instead, he would find himself out of the race, again, a Gordini chassis would let him down.
There would be little chase for Manzon anyway. Simon would be fast all throughout the race. He would be so fast that he would not only set the fastest lap of the race, but would also beat his own qualifying effort by a full second.
Though also driving a Maserati for the very same team, Simon's pace would leave Rosier behind as well. Lap after lap, Rosier would lose more and more ground to Simon. Rosier would continue to lose ground to the point that he would find Simon filling his mirrors preparing to pass him and put him a lap down.
Simon would be untouchable in Albi. In a little more than two hours and twenty-three minutes Simon would cross the line and take the well-earned victory. Louis Rosier would complete Ecurie Rosier's comeback after the debacle at Monaco. Rosier would cross the line a lap behind but in a resounding 2nd place. What's more, Rosier would enjoy more than a lap advantage over Horace Gould who would finish in 3rd place.
It would be a resounding success, Ecurie Rosier's trip west to Albi. After the complete debacle on the streets of Monaco, the streets of Albi would produce an absolute runaway for the team. The team was also managing to off-set its setbacks with successes and this would help to keep the team encouraged as it prepared for the heaviest part of the grand prix season.
The early part of June would see Ecurie Rosier making a trip into the Low Countries with just a single car. The final destination of the team would be another of the ultra-fast circuits in the world, Spa-Francorchamps. At 8.77 miles, Spa would routinely generate some of the highest average speeds of any circuit on the calendar. And, in 1955, it would serve as the site for the Belgian Grand Prix, the fourth round of the Formula One World Championship.
Situated in the heart of the Ardennes forest, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit would become known for two things: incredible high speeds and unpredictable weather. Perhaps nothing would be scarier than to be hurtling around the circuit, with its incredible high speeds, fast bends and numerous elevation changes then to be greeted by a sudden downpour which was very possible at just about any moment around the area.
Thankfully, as the teams began to arrive and unload their cars in preparation for practice and the race, the threat of rain was minimal to none at all. To top it all off, the temperatures were nice and mild. This combination of mild temperatures and dry weather meant the circuit would serve up some truly incredible lap times.
Alberto Ascari's protégé, Eugenio Castellotti would serve up the best lap time around the circuit. Averaging a little more than 122 mph, Castellotti would take the pole with a lap of 4:18.1. Amazingly, this incredible lap would be half a second faster than Juan Manuel Fangio's best in the Mercedes. Stirling Moss would make it two Mercedes on the front row setting a time just over a second slower than Castellotti.
Fast lap times around Spa would come down to perfect driving, or, all-out crazy passion. Castellotti would be the later, all-out and brave around every single bend. Fangio's time, however, would come down to courage, but, his usual blend of perfection and car control. Louis Rosier was pushing 50 years of age, and so, the youthful, exuberant and fearless driving had long since departed. Rosier was a consistent driver, but unfortunately, not anywhere near as perfect around a circuit as Fangio. Therefore, these two lacking characteristics would come to show themselves in Rosier's lap times around the circuit. His best, a lap of 4:55.4, would be a little more than thirty-seven seconds slower than the pole-sitter. Therefore, Rosier would start the race from 12th on the grid, the middle of the fifth, and last, row of the grid.
The start of the race would see Fangio get the better jump at the start and would lead Castellotti and Moss through the sweeping turns at Eau Rouge. Rosier would make a terrible getaway from the line and would end up last by the time he was sweeping up the hill for the first time.
Though Castellotti would earn the pole with an incredible performance, in the race, he would be out-shone by the Mercedes pair of Fangio and Moss. Fangio would lead the way from the start while Moss would quickly overtake Castellotti before the end of the first lap. Once the two were at the head of the field, Fangio and Moss would begin to disappear into the distance just as they had at Monaco about a week earlier.
The best battle up and down the field would be for 4th place as a fight between Giuseppe Farina, Jean Behra, Karl Kling and Belgian Paul Frere would consume the better part of the 36 lap race. Rosier, on the other hand, would not be in any battle of his own, the exception perhaps being a fight against attrition.
The death of Alberto Ascari while testing one of Castellotti's sportscars meant that just one of the Lancias would arrive in Spa for the race. And then, on the 16th lap, Castellotti's D50 would suffer gearbox failure and would bring the Lancia threat to an end. Jean Behra would crash his Maserati heavily after just 3 laps. The damage to the car would be severe but Behra would emerge safe. Unhurt by the accident, Behra would go on to claim Roberto Mieres' drive and would take off after Farina, Frere and the others. The incredible fight that was to be had for 3rd and 4th place continued to come unraveling apart when Kling's Mercedes pulled up lame with a broken oil pipe. Just like that, it was Fangio and Moss miles ahead of the field and Louis Rosier bringing up the tail-end of it.
Clicking off fast lap after fast lap, Fangio's pace would make it impossible for Rosier to remain on the lead lap. While Louis would continue to circulate, he would quickly find himself miles upon miles behind. Still, at an ultra-fast circuit like Spa, where mistakes have dire consequences and attrition is high, a strong race finish would be a welcome sight for just about anyone.
Fangio would edge out a comfortable margin over Moss. In turn, Moss would have absolutely no competition from behind. Therefore, the two Silver Arrows would just continue putting on a truly clinical performance. In two hours, thirty-nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds Juan Manuel Fangio would come across the line to take his second victory of the season. Eight seconds later, Moss would come around the tight La Source hairpin and across the line to finish in 2nd. Giuseppe Farina would be about the only one to survive without some kind of a problem, at least amongst those that had been fighting for 3rd and 4th. He would finish a minute and forty seconds behind Fangio in 3rd place.
Louis Rosier would be the final car still running. In the end, he would finish the race a little more than three laps down in the 9th position overall. It would be a controlled and uneventful performance out of Rosier. And while the result wouldn't be all that spectacular in the results column of a newspaper, anyone familiar with the Spa circuit would know that it was still a strong showing by the aged Frenchman.
Rosier, who had become more of a fixture in sportscar racing than in single-seater grand prix, had outlasted Spa, it was as simple as that. He didn't beat the circuit as Fangio did on that day, but he did outlast it. He recognized the battle he had on his hands and focused on what he needed to do. In many ways, it seemed as if a final tune-up before the biggest, most famous endurance race scheduled for the following weekend.
A good majority of the 1955 Formula One World Championship would be affected by events that would transpire during the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance sportscar race. Held in the middle of June, a terrible accident involving Pierre Levegh driving a Mercedes 300SL would be launched toward the packed grandstands. In the aftermath of the terrible accident, a number of races would be cancelled. Some countries, like Switzerland, would ban motor races almost outright. This, then, would greatly impact the 1955 motor racing season and would lead to a number of races going missing from the calendar.
Ecurie Rosier had been at Le Mans and entered a Talbot Sport T26GS. Like Rosier, the T26GS was an aged piece of machinery and was the very chassis Louis and his son had driven to win the 1950 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, by 1955, the car was out-gunned. Therefore, Rosier would not start the race. As a result of the terrible accident two hours into the race a number of races, like the French and Swiss Grand Prix, would not start as well.
In spite of the terrible events that happened at Le Mans, the fifth round of the Formula One World Championship would remain on the calendar. Not to be deterred, just like the race's organizers, Ecurie Rosier would try to start the Dutch Grand Prix held at Zandvoort on the 19th of June.
Overlooking the North Sea, about the only thing that could blow down the straight at Zandvoort any faster than a grand prix car would be the incredible stiff winds blowing in off the North Sea. The winds, however, caused trouble in more than one way. Besides making things terribly cold, the high winds had the tendency to blow sand onto the circuit. Additionally, the winds would blow through the cavernous portions of the circuit in such a way as to upset car handling in some of the faster portions of the circuit.
Ecurie Rosier would blow into Zandvoort with just its single car entry for Rosier. The rest of the teams would also be smaller in number than at some of the other events during the season. Each of the major teams would bring just three cars. And with just a couple of privateer teams on the entry list, the starting field for the race would be rather small.
Fresh from his victory at Spa, Juan Manuel Fangio would take the pole for the Dutch Grand Prix. Setting a lap time of 1:40.0 around the 2.60 mile circuit, Fangio would be four-tenths faster than Stirling Moss who would line up 2nd. Karl Kling would make it a clean sweep of the front row taking the 3rd starting spot.
Fast and flowing, Zandvoort would play out like a much faster circuit than most of the same size. At such higher-speed circuits Rosier had struggled. Not too surprisingly, Rosier lap times in practice would be found down around the lower-half of the timesheets. In the end, Rosier's best lap of 1:49.2 would end up leading him to a 13th place starting spot on the fifth row of the grid.
The weather leading up to the start of the race would be grey and rather cool. There was even the clear threat of rain at some time during the running of the 100 lap race. And as the race got underway with the roar of engines and tire smoke, it would become clear straightaway that everyone was racing to be up at the front before any rainy weather disrupted things.
Fangio would lead the way from the start. However, Luigi Musso would be impressive off the line and would push his way ahead of Moss and Kling. Roaring down the front straight at the end of the first lap, it would be Fangio leading the way ahead of Musso. Then came Moss and Kling with Jean Behra right behind. Rosier would lose out at the start and over the course of the first lap and would eventually end up down in 15th at the conclusion of the first lap.
Rosier and Claes would bring up the tail-end of the field throughout the 6 laps of the race. But then, Rosier would find his legs and would begin to power his way back up through the field. This would ultimately lead to Rosier making his way past Jacques Pollet in one of the Gordinis, who was gradually falling backward down the running order.
By the 2nd lap of the race Moss would be in a familiar position behind Fangio and the two would proceed to pull away from the field just as they had done in a number of the other races. Musso would continue to run in 3rd place trying desperately to cling to the two Silver Arrows.
Rosier would find himself up to 13th place with the retirement of Peter Walker and his pass on Pollet. Rosier would continue to hold steady in that position over the next dozen laps until Karl Kling promoted him when he spun and was left abandoned by the side of the circuit. Rosier would getting a further boost when Horace Gould spun in his Maserati and Rosier passed Hermano da Silva Ramos a few laps later.
Though the weather continued to deteriorate with time, the situation for Rosier in the race would actually continue to improve. By the halfway point in the race, the average speed of Fangio and Moss at the head of the field would be up over 90 mph. Rosier's average would be a bit less than that, but still, the Frenchman would find himself up to 9th overall having becoming embroiled in a duel with Mike Hawthorn in his Ferrari 553.
However, while Rosier would be focused on his battle with Hawthorn, da Silva Romas would be gaining ground behind him and would end up challenging him for the 9th place position by the 58th lap of the race. In fact, da Silva Ramos would come on strong in the later-half of the race. Though Hawthorn would be running in the 7th place spot with just 10 laps remaining in the race, he would have da Silva Ramos all over his backside. Were it not for a late rain shower, Hawthorn may have come under serious trouble. Instead, the Brit would power on into the distance clinging to 7th.
A late spin by Musso in 3rd place would well and truly allow Fangio and Moss to disappear into the distance with nearly a minute in hand. The incredible pace of the two Mercedes meant Rosier, who was still in the running at the end of the race, would find himself many laps down at the end.
Fangio and Moss would cruise to victory. Fangio would take yet another victory on the season beating Moss by three-tenths of a second. The late spin by Musso meant he would finish the race in the 3rd position but some fifty-seven seconds behind.
Averaging nearly 10 mph less than the two Mercedes, Rosier would end the race more than 8 laps behind. Still, the Frenchman would complete the race finishing in the 9th place position. Therefore, Rosier would score back-to-back 9th place results in a couple of tough races.
Over the last couple of races Rosier had been well off the pace of those that would finish on the podium. Still, the consistent and steady performances would turn into race finishes and top ten results. This would be good for a man bent on keeping his team going into the future.
Crossing the line to finish the Dutch Grand Prix, Ecurie Rosier and the rest of the grand prix teams would be faced with the very real issue of cancelled events. The French Grand Prix would be cancelled as would a number of other non-championship races. It would soon become abundantly clear the majority of the races that would remain on the calendar for the 1955 season would be held in England. Therefore, Rosier would make preparations to take Ecurie Rosier to England for what would be the remainder of the racing season in Europe.
Ecurie Rosier, however, would not arrive in England in time to take part in the British Grand Prix. On top of it all, Andre Simon would be contracted by the factory Maserati team for the sixth round of the World Championship. Therefore, it wouldn't be until early August when Ecurie Rosier would take part in another race.
Ecurie Rosier's next race on the schedule would come on the 6th of August more than a thousand miles away from Rosier's home in France. Upon arriving in England, the team would make it way far up to the north just over into the border region of Scotland. The team would head to a former Royal Air Force base known as Charterhall for the running of the 3rd edition of the Daily Record Trophy race.
During the Second World War, RAF Charterhall would become infamous and would be considered just as dangerous as the front lines all the way over in mainland Europe. A training base for night fighters, Charterhall would see more than its fair share of fatal accidents. And yet, despite the looming memory of the airbase, Charterhall would become a host for some non-championship grand prix races and would host a number of other motor races throughout its history.
One of those races Charterhall would come to host would be the Daily Record Trophy race. And, in 1955, the race would be a race comprised of a couple of heat races and a final. In fact, the race would be conducted in a similar manner to the International Trophy races prior to the change.
The entire field would be split into the two heats. In fact, the two heats would be split into two categories, or classes, with the first heat being comprised solely of Formula 2 cars. The second heat would include the few Formula One cars and a couple of other Formula 2 entries. Therefore, Louis Rosier would be listed in the second heat along with the only other Formula One cars in the entire field, the Maserati of Horace Gould and Bob Gerard and the Connaught B-Type driven by Leslie Marr.
The starting grid positions for either of the heat races would be unknown. However, with the start/finish straight being located along one of the old main runways, it was almost possible to fit the entire field for either heat all along the front row. But, instead, the organizers would go with a 5 by 5 arrangement.
The first heat would see four cars fail to finish the 15 lap distance. Mike Anthony, driving a Bristol-powered Lotus 10, would be the fastest of the first heat competitors. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the heat around the 2.00 mile circuit. He would be chased by Alex McMillan and Jimmy Somervail, but Anthony's fastest lap and average speed of more than 78 mph would make it impossible for the other two to catch him.
Anthony would finish the first heat in twenty-three minutes and four seconds and would take the victory over McMillan and Somervail. In total, just six cars would complete the 15 lap race.
It was time for the second heat race. This meant an intriguing battle between the Formula One cars in the field. The second heat was already promising to be the race to watch with Bob Gerard driving Stirling Moss' Maserati. The presence of Gould and Rosier with their Maseratis meant Marr would be grossly outnumbered in his lone Connaught B-Type, but it was still going to be a good race.
Gerard was known as a fighter behind the wheel, and therefore, had to be a favorite coming into the race. During the race, he would not disappoint. Gerard would set the fastest lap of the race and would turn aside a challenge Gould or Rosier could mount.
Rosier's challenge in the second heat race would come to an end after 3 laps. Fuel system problems would cause him to slow, and eventually, drop out of the heat altogether. This left Gould and Marr to try and take up the challenge against Gerard.
Gerard was not to be denied. Recording the fastest lap of the heat, Gerard would cruise to victory with fourteen seconds in hand over Gould in 2nd place. Not surprisingly, Marr would complete the podium in the second heat finishing in 3rd place exactly thirty-six seconds behind Gerard.
Although Rosier's heat race had come to an early end, the day was not by any means over. Rosier would make the necessary repairs to his Maserati's fuel system and would be ready for the 20 lap final. And since finishing times in the heat races on determined starting positions for the final, Rosier would be allowed to take part in the final, just from dead-last on the grid, which was 16th overall. But, with five-wide rows, Rosier's setback would only result in a fourth row starting position. And honestly, Rosier had started further back in World Championship races. So, things were looking okay for Ecurie Rosier heading into the final.
Armed with his second chance, Rosier would make a great start off the line and would be immediately up amongst the front-runners. Gerard would show the way with Gould right there in his Maserati. But, Rosier would be making a charge from the tail-end of the field.
Rosier would be impressive at Charterhall. Though Gerard continued to hold onto the lead, and would even set the fastest lap of the race, Rosier would do his best to match Gerard's pace and would even make his way past Marr and Jack Brabham to be in the 3rd position. Rosier would continue to push and would eventually match Gerard's best lap time. Unfortunately, this would only match Gerard's pace, and Rosier's upward movement would become stalled behind Gould.
Gerard would be in a strong position at the head of the field. He would be able to control the pace and would keep Gould at bay behind himself. This, in turn, would frustrate a fast Rosier. Gerard would drive a mistake-free race throughout the second heat and final and would go on to a well-deserved victory beating Horace Gould. Rosier would recover from starting dead-last in the field and would come away with a well-deserved 3rd place.
Rosier's performance in the race showed a tremendous amount of resolve. It would have been easy after the setback in the heat race to have packed up and left or to have driven a conservative pace during the race. However, Rosier would do neither. Instead, he would push hard from the very beginning and would give the other Formula One drivers in the race some real cause for concern. This was a great performance by Rosier on behalf of the team and would be a great way to start the stretch of races on English shores.
After the race at Charterhall on the 6th, Ecurie Rosier would make the long trip back south all the way to another former World War II airbase. On the 13th of August, just one week after scoring a 3rd place in the Daily Record Trophy race, Louis Rosier would be busy preparing to take part in the 25 lap RedeX Trophy race held at Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit.
The race on the 13th of August was to be the 3rd edition of the RedeX Trophy race and would take place on a weekend filled with motor racing at Snetterton. Not just the weekend would be a popular one with teams and drivers, Snetterton itself would become a favorite and would be reason enough as to why teams like Vandervell Products, Stirling Moss Ltd, and Connaught Engineering would all have cars entered in the 68 mile race.
The Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit would come into existence until well into the 1950s. But while Snetterton would be one of the later former airbases-turned motor racing circuit, RAF Snetterton-Heath, as it would be known during the war, would play a prominent role in key events that would influence the outcome of the war. Therefore, it was rather fitting that such an important airbase would not be lost in history but would become a prominent player of another kind.
In the later part of the 1954 season Ecurie Rosier would make appearances at Goodwood and Aintree, but, the team had never attended a race at Snetterton. Therefore, as Rosier unloaded his car, he was preparing for a race at a circuit he had never visited before. Therefore, success would be determined by how quickly and how well Rosier became suited to the 2.70 mile circuit.
Stirling Moss' presence at the race meant little opportunity for others to take the pole. Sure enough, Moss would take the pole in his Maserati beating out Harry Schell driving a Vanwall. Horace Gould would take up position on the front in the 3rd position. Then it would be Ken Wharton completing the front row starting in 4th in a second Vanwall.
In spite of more than half of the field consisting of Formula One machines, Louis Rosier would be impressive in practice around the circuit and would end up just missing out on a front row starting position. Instead, he would take his Maserati and would start on the second row of the grid in the 5th position.
At just 25 laps, the race was going to be mostly a sprint and that did not favor Rosier's style despite being behind the wheel of the Formula One car. His only hope would be to fight for the lead and to control the pace of the field from the front. Unfortunately, Moss and Schell were starting from the front row.
And as the flag waved to start the race, it would be Schell that would make a great start and would be up front. Rosier would not be able to jump up like he would need to and would have to rely on some help.
Really, about the only one that would be helped over the course of the race would be the two Vanwall drivers of Schell and Wharton. Moss would be fast. In fact, he would go on to set the fastest lap of the race. However, the pace could not last and Moss would end up falling down the running order. Horace Gould's race would come to an end after just 2 laps. This meant Harry Schell would have the lead with Ken Wharton following along behind in 2nd.
Although Moss would lose out and would fall down the running order, he would not fall far enough for Rosier. Rosier, over the course of the race, would not be able to match the pace of the two Vanwalls, and that of other competitors, and would fall down outside of the top five. Moss, on the other hand, would fall to 3rd place but would be able to stay right there.
One of the most impressive performances would come from Jack Brabham in the Cooper T40. Though he would start 11th on the grid, Brabham would make a great start and would push hard all throughout the race. Heading into the final couple of laps, Brabham would be all the way up to 4th place.
Schell, free from the threat of Moss, would be able to leave Wharton behind. In the end, Schell would take the victory. Averaging nearly 81 mph, Schell would complete the 68 miles in just over fifty minutes and would come across the line eleven seconds ahead of Wharton in 2nd place. Stirling Moss, the race's pole-sitter, would suffer a disappointing result. He would hold on to finish in 3rd place, some nineteen seconds behind Schell.
Steady and consistent would not translate well at such a race. Therefore, Rosier would go from starting the race on the second row of the grid in the 5th position to finishing in 7th place. Still, Rosier would at least be fast enough to remain on the lead lap with Schell.
Steady would not translate into impressive. As such, Rosier would lost ground over the course of the race and would finish further down than where he started. Still, Rosier could come away from the race with a bit of confidence. The reason for that was simple—at least it didn't end in an early retirement.
Considering much of the racing schedule during the summer months on the European mainland would be cancelled, Ecurie Rosier would remain in England to take part in more of the regional Formula One races. Unfortunately, the next event, another non-championship race, would not take place for another three weeks. Still, on the 3rd of September, Ecurie Rosier would be in Liverpool at the famous Aintree Racecourse preparing to take part in the 2nd Daily Telegraph Trophy race.
Although Rosier would not make it to Aintree to take part in the British Grand Prix, the 3.0 mile Aintree Circuit was not unknown to Rosier. In fact, with the first running of the Daily Telegraph Trophy race in 1954, Ecurie Rosier would be present. In that race, Rosier would come through to finish in the 6th place spot behind Andre Pilette. Stirling Moss would be the race's victor.
At 17 laps, the Daily Telegraph Trophy race would pale in comparison to the British Grand Prix held at Aintree just a couple of months prior. But, the race would still attract a decent-sized field of most English competitors and teams.
It would not be at all surprising when the defending champion of the race, Stirling Moss, would take the pole with a lap time of 2:06.4. Roy Salvadori would start in the middle of the front row while Horace Gould would complete the front row in the 3rd position. This meant Maserati 250Fs would sweep the entire front row of the grid.
Rosier, driving the only other Maserati 250F, would not make it a clean sweep of the first four positions. Instead, Rosier's best effort of 2:11.0 would lead to the Frenchman starting from the third row of the grid in the 6th position. In all, seventeen cars would line up on the grid for the start of the 51 mile race.
Right from the start of the race, Salvadori would look impressive. He would remain right up near the front of the field. But the main attraction at the start of the race would be found behind the front-runners. Jimmy Somervail would crash out of the race on the very first lap and would not complete even a single lap. Jack Fairman, driving one of the new Connaught B-Types, would end up also crashing out of the race after just 2 laps of running.
Despite having three weeks between races, Rosier's Maserati would not be able to find some reliability to bring to the race. Therefore, on the 9th lap of the race, it would all come undone for Rosier when the clutch would fail on the Maserati leaving him without adequate drive.
Roy Salvadori continued to be impressive around the circuit. He would go on to turn the fastest lap of the race and would put tremendous pressure on all of the competitors. One of those that would struggle with the pressure would be the defending champion of the race. Stirling Moss' race would last until the 14th lap when smoke pouring from the engine signaled his race was done.
Salvadori's fastest lap meant he would have a comfortable lead heading into the final couple of laps. Bob Gerard would be at the wheel of his updated Cooper-Bristol T23 and would be unable to do anything to reel in Salvadori. Enjoying a comfortable margin himself over Gould, Gerard would seem content to stay right there in 2nd place.
Salvadori would be fast all throughout the race. Averaging nearly 84 mph, Salvadori would take the victory with fifteen seconds in hand over Gerard in 2nd place. A further ten seconds would be the difference back to Horace Gould in 3rd place.
Needing to push from the very beginning, Rosier would push the components of his Maserati to their absolute limits, and with the numerous gear changes, it would prove too much. This would be a disappointing setback for the team heading into what were to be the final couple of races of the team's season.
The clutch failure would be a frustrating setback. Rosier would have to take the time to make the necessary repairs. This would delay the team and would prevent them from being able to part in other races. One of those the team would not take part in would be the final round of the 1955 Formula One World Championship, the Italian Grand Prix. A bit more local, the non-championship International Gold Cup race held at Oulton Park would also be out of the question. But, given the nature of the Oulton Park Circuit, this was probably a good thing.
Repairs to the Maserati would finally be completed and the team would be ready to resume its schedule by the end of September. Unfortunately, this meant there were just a couple of non-championship races remaining on the European schedule.
One of those races still remaining on the calendar would take place on the 1st of October at the quick Castle Combe circuit near Bristol. The race would be the 1st Avon Trophy race and it would be a 55 lap contest covering a total of 101 miles.
Up until 1955, Castle Combe had been much more of a host for regional races. However, with the few remaining races on the calendar and some rather grand promises, the race's organizers were rumored to be in negotiations to have a couple of Scuderia Ferrari cars on the entry list. Then the subject of starting money would be discussed. Ferrari would pretty much scoff at the amount and would not send even a single car to the event. Therefore, Ecurie Rosier would end up being the only foreign entry in the field as the cars prepared to take to the circuit for practice.
While the circuit itself seemed relatively straight-forward, Castle Combe was not a circuit to be trifled with. Fast in just about every sector, quick lap times came down to a great deal of bravery on behalf of the pilots.
Fittingly, Harry Schell would prove fastest around the circuit in one of the Vanwalls. Known for his fearlessness and willingness to wrestle with a car for a whole race, Schell would muscle the Vanwall around the 1.85 mile circuit to post a time of 1:14.4. Six-tenths of a second slower would be Horace Gould in his ex-Bira Maserati. Gould would barely edge out Bob Gerard and his Cooper-Bristol T23 for 2nd place. Tony Brooks, driving a Formula 2 Connaught A-Type, would surprise many taking the final spot on the front row.
Practice times would make it clear Schell was quite comfortable in the Vanwall around the Castle Combe circuit. Therefore, heading into the race, Schell knew he just had to keep his head about him and he would be in a good position to take the victory by the end. Still, he would have some strong competitors around him that would make things difficult.
Rosier would find himself toward the tail-end of the Formula One entries in the race. However, he would still need to keep one eye on his mirrors as the circuit did suit Formula 2 cars and drivers brave enough to push them to their absolute limits. In addition, Peter Collins would be starting toward the very back of the field and certain seemed destined to move up having abandoned the new BRM 25 in favor of the tried and tested Maserati for Owen Racing Organization.
Schell would leave nothing to chance. Right from the start of the race, he would be up at the front of the field pushing hard. This would put tremendous pressure on the rather inexperienced Horace Gould running in 2nd place. Gould's garage was located in Bristol, not too far away from the circuit. Therefore, Gould was familiar with Castle Combe. And on this day, it was about the only thing keeping him in any kind of contact with Schell.
Collins would be trying his very best to climb up from the back of the field. Unfortunately for Owen Racing, this drive would come to an end after 10 laps when the rear end failed on the Maserati. This seemed to ease some of the pressure Rosier would be feeling from his backside. However, there was still a lot of racing left to go and Rosier would have to be fast and careful at the same time.
Schell would be throwing all caution to the wind. It seemed with each and every lap Schell was increasing his pace. Finally, he would turn the fastest lap of the race. It would be an incredible time. Already well clear of Gould, Schell would crack off a lap of 1:13.6. Averaging 90 mph exactly, Schell would best his own qualifying effort by eight-tenths of a second and would only increase his advantage over Gould.
Schell's advantage over Rosier would be of no importance by the 20th lap of the race. Rosier had brought his team to England to continue to take part in grand prix races when many others would be cancelled because of the Le Mans tragedy. However, the trip to England was truly beginning to cost more than it was actually turning a profit. After completing the 19th lap of the race, Rosier would discover his Maserati had real problems. He would pull into the pits and would quickly discover a broken shock absorber. Although he knew what the problem was, it was not an easy, quick fix. Therefore, the race was over for Rosier. This would be his second-straight early retirement.
Schell, on the other hand, could not be stopped. Gould would try desperately to hang on to Schell, but when the American was able to average a little better than 86 mph, it would become practically impossible. And by the later portions of the race there would be more than few seconds between the top two drivers.
Schell would go on to victory, securing the win with exactly twenty seconds in hand over Gould. It would be a good performance by Gould at home despite not being able to take the win. He would take his Maserati and would pull out an advantage of his own over Bob Gerard and his Cooper-Bristol T23 in 3rd place.
The trip to England had proven to be something of a disappointment for Rosier. Despite being one of a small number with a Formula One car, unreliability would cause any advantage Rosier would have to be lost. And with the broken shock absorber, Rosier would end the run of races in England. There would be just one more opportunity for a strong showing left for a Formula One race in all of Europe.
The trip to England had been only relatively successful and, in many cases, a bust. Rosier would take his team and would leave England almost devoid of any of the confidence he had enjoyed before arriving on English shores. His invasion of Britain had come a cropper just like of the Germans in 1940. Therefore, Ecurie Rosier would return to France and would look after its southern borders to find the necessary relief.
Only one Formula One race remained on the European continent for all of 1955. One year previous it would be the first race of the European Formula One season, but in 1955, it would be the last. The race would take place on the island nation of Sicily. It was the 5th Gran Premio di Siracusa and it would conclude the season taking place on the 23rd of October.
The 1955 edition of the Gran Premio di Siracusa, at least as the organizers were concerned, hopefully would end up a much better contest than the previous year. The 1954 edition of the race would prove quite competitive and intriguing during the early portions of the race. However, it would later turn ugly. Onofre Marimon, the Argentinean driver who would lose his life in practice at the Nurburgring later on in 1954, would be in the lead of the race with Mike Hawthorn holding station behind him in his Ferrari. The racing would be clean and without issue. But, one time through a portion of circuit with hay bales lining the circuit, Marimon would get a little too wide and would kick up some stray hay. The hay would fly right into Hawthorn's face temporarily obstructing his forward view. Partially blinded, Hawthorn would crash heavily into one of the retaining walls along a portion of the circuit sunken down below the level of the earth around it. Though the crash would be a hard hit, Hawthorn seemed fine. That is, until the car would erupt into flames.
Hawthorn would be slightly trapped inside the Ferrari unable to fully extricate himself from the car. He was beginning to be burned by the flames. Hawthorn's Ferrari teammate, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, would stop his car to provide aid to Hawthorn. Gonzalez would help Hawthorn get out of the car, but then, Gonzalez's car would suddenly erupt into flames. Just like that, Scuderia Ferrari would lose two cars that had been running up near the front of the race.
Ecurie Rosier would not be present at the 1954 edition of the Gran Premio di Siracusa, Scuderia Ferrari, however, would be. One year later, and likely because of the memories of the previous year, Scuderia Ferrari would not dispatch a single car to Syracuse for the race. But, Ecurie Rosier would be present.
Unlike the year previous, the field for the final race of the grand prix season in Europe would be of decent size. A total of 15 cars would take part in practice and would ready for the start of the race.
Starting from on the pole would be Luigi Musso driving for the Maserati factory team. He would be joined on the front row by the late Alberto Ascari's mentor Luigi Villoresi. A margin of just over a second would separate the fastest times of the two men. Tony Brooks would capture the attention of many people when he would manage to put the new Connaught B-Type on the front row. Connaught had been considered something of a lesser factory team by many of the spectators and those in and out of the paddock. But, Brooks' performance would cause many to take notice.
Entering just its single Maserati, Rosier would do anything but capture the attention of the crowds gathered. Rosier's best time of 2:10.9 would land him practically in the middle of the field. What's more, Rosier's best around the 3.48 mile circuit would still be a little more than seven seconds slower than Musso's effort. Rosier would start the race from the third row of the grid in the 8th position.
Heading into the race, it seemed destined one of the numerous Maseratis would take the victory. Very little, to no attention, was being paid to the British team that would barely make it in time to set a time for qualifying. What was more, even less attention was given to the one driver who had been a dental student at Manchester Dental Hospital. However, all of that would change when the race would get underway.
During practice, Musso and Villoresi had been averaging speeds of nearly 100 mph. They seemed untouchable. However, right from the very beginning of the race, Brooks would pester the Maseratis looking as if he was not at all bothered by their pace. Though Brooks would lose out at the start of the race, he would quickly recover and would be pasted to the back-end of Villoresi's Maserati.
It wouldn't be too long before Brooks would make his move by Villoresi into 2nd place behind Musso. This move would surprise the experienced Villoresi and seemed almost impossible to just about everyone else as well.
While the crowd would be perplexed and intrigued by the incredible performance being put together by Brooks and the Connaught, very little attention would be paid a little further back down the field. Rosier would get underway on what would be his last race of the season and would be hard-pressed to find the pace of Musso, Brooks and Villoresi, who, were rapidly reaching average speeds around 100 mph.
Such speeds, and on a bumpy road course like Syracuse, meant disaster and attrition could be expected amongst the competitors in the field. The first to fall by the wayside would be the new Gordini driven by Jacques Pollet. His race would last just 9 laps before the rear axle would fail leaving him out of the running. Then, after 15 laps, the fuel tank on Roy Salvadori's Maserati would split, thereby ending his day as well.
The race distance was 70 laps, or, 243 miles and there would already a couple of retirements before the race reached 20 laps. Unfortunately, Rosier would be another that would be added to that list of early retirements. Rosier would complete 17 laps before problems would develop with the drag link on the car's suspension. Once again, the bumpy road course and the high average speeds were really beginning to take a toll. By the 25th lap of the race, six cars would exit the scene.
Brooks, incredibly, would make his way past Musso for the lead. However, Musso would not relent and would harass the Brit for a number of laps. Musso's incessant pushing would cause Brooks to increase his pace. It was believed the Connaught, with the tiny four-cylinder Alta engine, could not last the 70 laps, especially while pushing average speeds of 100 mph. So Musso would push and would push. Brooks would respond and the average speeds of some of the laps would crack the 100 mph mark. In total, the lap record would be smashed some three times over the course of the race.
Musso was convinced he could break Brooks just as the circuit had broken others like Rosier and Salvadori. However, it was becoming abundantly clear to just about everyone that it seemed it was Brooks that was just toying with Musso. Touching speeds in excess of 150 mph, Musso would have to be amazed the Connaught remained in the lead, unable to be broken.
Finally, Brooks would stop playing games and would draw away from Musso. But even when Brooks had managed to open up a lead of more than forty seconds, he would not slow down. With about 15 laps remaining in the race, Brooks would crack off the fastest lap of the race, a new lap record. What would be amazing about the time would be not so much that it broke the lap record. What would be amazing would be the difference between the time Brooks set during the race and the qualifying effort Musso had put together to take the pole. Brooks' time of 2:00.2 would end up more than three and a half seconds faster than Musso's best in practice!
Musso's day would be thrown into a tailspin. Even though he would gain some time back against Brooks, Tony would respond and would only widen his advantage. In the end, Brooks would cross the line a little more than fifty seconds ahead of the heavily-favored Musso. Luigi Villoresi, the other favorite heading into the race, would end the day in 3rd place but more than two laps down, an amazing 7 miles behind.
While there would be jubilation at Connaught and bewilderment at Maserati, Ecurie Rosier would already be packed and ready to depart for home. It had been a bitterly disappointing race and it had been a disappointing last half to the season. All throughout the first half of the season, Ecurie Rosier had suffered a difficult result, but would come right back to achieve a competitive result. However, in the later part of the season the team would not be able to get back up after having had a heavy blow landed upon its chin. While the Connaught of Brooks would seem fresh and on the hunt throughout the 70 lap race, the departure of Rosier after just 17 laps seemed to signal a tired former champion hanging on to former memories of one's self.
The following month would see Rosier turn 50 years of age. He had been a champion and had earned a number of successes in his life, including a memorable victory with his son at Le Mans. But it was clear to any on-looker watching as Ecurie Rosier left Syracuse and headed for home that they were seeing a team tired and worn out. Age had caught up. Such a popular and well-respected figure, it seemed almost wrong to ask, but the question had to be asked, 'How much longer would Rosier go on racing?' The answer to that question would come, tragically, the following season.