TeamsEcurie Rosier: 1956 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Louis Rosier was practically an institution in motor racing in the years immediately following the end of the Second World War. Still famous for his win with his son in the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rosier would show the same fight that had served him well all throughout his years in the Resistance. Always on the go, even at the age of 50, Rosier's presence in European motor races would still be felt.
While Rosier went on to score an overall victory in the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans driving with his son Jean-Louis Rosier, Louis' Formula One career would be slightly less fruitful. Despite a couple of 4th place finishes in the first two years of the Formula One World Championship, Rosier would struggle along with many others to pick up the scraps left over by the Alfa Romeo and Scuderia Ferrari teams. Still, his ability to score top 10 results was proof of his talent as a racing driver.
Competing under his team name, Ecurie Rosier, Louis would have his share of special moments throughout his Formula One career. Of course the best moment for his team would have to be the 1954 French Grand Prix when late fuel problems with Prince Bira's car enabled Robert Manzon to sneak through to a 3rd place finish, the first-ever podium for the team in Formula One.
Heading into the 1955 season things were rapidly changing for Louis. He was pushing 50 years of age and the finances made it difficult to make an all-out World Championship effort. On top of everything else, the tragedy at Le Mans would dramatically shorten the season in 1955. So, in the end, the best Rosier would manage to accomplish would be two 9th place finishes in the Belgian and Netherlands grand prix.
Given his November birthday, Rosier would definitely be 50 by the start of the 1956 season. Still, this son of a wine merchant and truck driver just could not give up racing. And so, the aged Frenchman would make preparations for yet another season of motor racing.
There really was no reason for Rosier to give up on Formula One, not since he had a competitive car at his disposal. Maserati 250F, chassis 2506, had started out its life in 1954 as a factory Maserati team car. Its greatest moment in the 1954 World Championship would come at the British Grand Prix when the late Onofre Marimon not only set the fastest lap of the race, but also, managed to finish the race in 3rd position, ahead of Juan Manuel Fangio in the Mercedes W196.
After a couple of victories in non-championship events with Stirling Moss at the wheel, Louis Rosier would come to own the car and would enter a few final non-championship events before the end of the '54 season.
In spite of the Le Mans tragedy that greatly affected the racing calendar throughout the 1955 season, Rosier would go on to earn numerous top ten results. However, perhaps the greatest moment for the team and himself would come at the Grand Prix d'Albi when Andre Simon, also driving under the Ecurie Rosier banner, and Louis finished a clear one-two.
It was certainly clear 2506 was capable of producing some quality results. Honestly, it was more likely that Rosier's age was the biggest hindrance to the car and the team in any given race. But Ecurie Rosier was Louis' own team. If he wanted to drive there was nobody that was going to stop him, at least no man or woman.
Though one of the much more established privateer teams in the Formula One paddock, Rosier's team would not make the trip across the South Atlantic to take part in the first round of the Formula One World Championship, the Argentine Grand Prix. Being up there in age, Rosier would prefer to wait for the Formula One season to come to Europe.
He would have to wait a handful of months following the Argentine Grand Prix before Europe began to gear up for its own season. However, Ecurie Rosier would be in England for the first event of the season on the 2nd of April.
One of the first annual motor racing events in Europe, and especially in England, would be the Easter Monday races held at the Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit. Truly a celebration of speed, the Easter Monday races would include a collection of shorter events meant to demonstrate the many different classes of motor racing that existed at the time. One of those races would be the Glover Trophy race. This event, in 1956, would total 32 laps of the 2.39 mile Goodwood circuit and therefore would cover a total of about 77 miles.
Goodwood had become a very popular destination for racing teams and fans alike following the end of the Second World War. Initially built as an auxiliary fighter base attached to RAF Tangmere, RAF Westhampnett, as Goodwood would be known during the war, would serve faithfully until decommissioned in 1946. Frederick Gordon-Lennox was an avid motor racing fan and it seemed to make sense the 2.39 miles of perimeter road would make for a perfect motor racing circuit.
Blindingly quick, the Goodwood Circuit certainly would seem perfectly suited as a home for motor racing. Many of the top teams and drivers of that time period could be seen racing around its fast bends.
British drivers and teams were on the rise by 1956. Therefore, the field for the Glover Trophy race would include Connaught, Owen Racing, Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn and R.R.C. Walker Racing. Hence, Ecurie Rosier would certainly arrive amongst a very competitive field.
If there was any doubt to the quality of the British teams and drivers prior to practice, the arguments would be put to rest following. Stirling Moss would be the fastest in practice taking the pole with a time of 1:32.0. Archie Scott-Brown would take 2nd with a time just six-tenths slower. The rest of the front row would include two more British drivers. Hawthorn would be in 3rd place while Bob Gerard would complete the front row in 4th.
The first foreign driver on the starting grid would be found down on the third row of the grid. Though he had earned the spectacular 3rd place for Rosier back in '54, Robert Manzon would be back with Equipe Gordini and would be 8th on the grid in one of the new T32s. Right beside Manzon would be his fellow Frenchman and Ecurie Rosier's namesake. Louis' best lap in practice would be exactly 10 seconds slower than Moss' and this would lead to him starting from 9th on the grid. The final spot on the third row would go to another Ecurie Rosier entrant. Ken Wharton would be at the wheel of a Formula 2 Ferrari 500 and would prove to be more than 20 seconds off of Moss' pace.
The start of the race would see Mike Hawthorn rise amongst the top. Sunlight beaming down all over the circuit, Hawthorn would be one of the quickest cars on the circuit. Ken Wharton, however, would be one of the slowest with his Ferrari 500.
It wouldn't really matter much for Wharton who would find himself out of the race after just a single lap because of a failed engine. Tony Brooks would also retire from the race after 9 laps due to falling oil pressure. Louis Rosier, however, remained in the race but was well off the pace of the rest.
Stirling Moss would be the quickest taking his Maserati and turning the fastest lap of the race with a time nearly two seconds faster than his own pole-winning time. Another that would be flying would be Roy Salvadori in the Gilby Engineering Maserati 250F. Archie Scott-Brown would be fast early on but would fall out of contention after 17 laps as a result of a blown engine.
The most dramatic retirement of the 32 lap race would come with just 9 laps remaining. Hawthorn had been running well all throughout the race. But, on the 24th lap, Mike would suffer a mechanical failure that would send him through the in-field grass. His BRM would end up catching and would end up flipping end over end. Mike would be thrown out of the car suffering just minor bruising. But the BRM was far from bruised.
This retirement left just Roy Salvadori to take up the chase of a dominant Moss. Rosier certainly wasn't going to be able to mount a challenge of Moss as he would be well behind the Brit. But at least he was still in the race.
Averaging a little more than 94 mph en route, Moss would take the victory by a little more than three seconds over Salvadori. Half a minute would be the gap back to 3rd place finisher Les Leston in the first of the Connaught B-Types.
Rosier would make it all the way to the finish but he would end up more than a couple of laps behind in the 7th position. Therefore, the first race of the season would be nothing spectacular for Rosier. In fact, it would be rather disappointing just how far behind he completed the race. But, a finish is still a finish, and so, Ecurie Rosier had something to build upon.
Seeing that the Glover Trophy race took place during the Easter Monday races, there would be a little less than three weeks in between races for Ecurie Rosier. And, unfortunately, both would take place on English soil.
Nevertheless, on the 21st of April, Ecurie Rosier would be back on English soil and at the site of the famed Grand National for the 11th BARC Aintree 200 motor race. Taking place on the 3.0 mile Aintree Circuit, the BARC Aintree 200 provided Louis Rosier an opportunity to return to Aintree.
The last time Ecurie Rosier had been at Aintree it had been in early October of 1954 for the 1st Daily Telegraph Trophy race. After starting that 17 lap race from 10th on the grid, Louis would manage to come up through the field to finish the race in 6th place. Therefore, it had been a fruitful trip to Merseyside.
Being the site of the Grand National, Aintree seemed like a perfect location for a slightly different kind of horsepower. Unlike most of the other grand prix circuits dotting the English landscape, Aintree would be a purpose-built circuit, and therefore, would boast of some tighter turns and slower average speeds. Still, the venue would make for a very popular host of a grand prix race.
The field for the BARC Aintree would be very similar to the Glover Trophy race just a couple of weeks prior. The only proposed difference for the two races was that Vandervell Products was to take part in the 67 lap race. However, this would not come to fruition as a result of the car not being ready. Therefore, Ecurie Rosier would be competing against the likes of Moss, Salvadori, Hawthorn and others all over again.
In fact, the front row of the grid would look rather similar in that it would include Scott-Brown, Hawthorn and Moss. However, Scott-Brown would have the pole while Mike Hawthorn would be in 2nd. Desmond Titterington would make it two Connaughts on the front row starting in 3rd place. Stirling Moss, surprisingly, would not be on pole but the final front row starting spot.
At Goodwood, Rosier had started the race from 9th on the grid. At Aintree, Rosier would still find himself on the third row of the grid. However, his starting position would be improved by a couple starting from 7th.
Although he would not start the race from the pole, Moss would not take long to push his way toward the lead. Rosier, on the other hand, would get away well but would certainly not be at the same pace as those at the front.
While Moss just got stronger and stronger as the race wore on, others would find their day become more and more difficult. One of those that would struggle would be Mike Hawthorn. The BRM 25 was still quite new and still suffering from a number of teething issues. On this day, Hawthorn's race would last just 4 laps before brake failure led to his departure. Reg Parnell and Roy Salvadori would all fall out just one lap later. Archie Scott-Brown, the race's pole-sitter, would last just 13 problems before engine troubles sidelined him. All of these struggles enabled Moss to virtually disappear into the distance.
Rosier would watch a number of cars disappear into the distance ahead of him. He would also have the opportunity to see some of them again as they came around to put him laps down. Still, the steady pace delivered by the Frenchman was keeping his car out of harm and he was able to climb up the order as a result of the misfortunes of others.
Although Moss would disappear into the distance it would be Tony Brooks that would end up turning the fastest lap of the race. But still, his pace each and every lap would not be consistently fast enough to reel in Stirling.
Heading into the final lap of the race, Moss could have slowed right down and still won. Averaging a little more than 82 mph, Moss would take an easy win having at least a lap in hand over the remainder of the field. Tony Brooks would come through to finish in 2nd place. Jack Brabham would complete the podium finishing in 3rd, but more than three laps behind.
In all, there would be just five cars still running at the end of the race. This benefited Rosier as he maintained a consistent and careful pace over the course of the 67 laps. Though he would finish 5 laps behind Moss, Rosier would still manage to come through in 4th place.
Slow and steady certainly didn't win the race for Rosier, but it did help to keep his car out of trouble. The veteran racer had certainly recognized the need for a steady hand and used his vast endurance racing experience to great effect. The result would be a strong result, albeit well off the pace.
The vast majority of the non-championship Formula One races on the calendar were held in England. This did not make things easy for a man living near the heart of France. Still, Rosier would be present at a number of British events and would even be more prevalent than some of the regional British drivers. Therefore, it was not surprising to see the Ecurie Rosier team arrive in Silverstone to take part in the 8th BRDC International Trophy race on the 5th of May, two weeks after the non-championship event in Aintree.
The first Daily Express BRDC International Trophy race would be held at Silverstone in late-August 1949. This would be an important race as it would be the first time in which the famed Silverstone layout of the former bomber training base's perimeter road would be exclusively used. That first race would see a Ferrari sweep of the podium with the late Alberto Ascari taking the victory over his teammates Giuseppe Farina and Luigi Villoresi. Louis Rosier would not be present in that inaugural event. In fact, he wouldn't appear in the International Trophy race for the first time until 1953, and even then it wouldn't be all that noteworthy as he would finish the race a quiet 10th. But even though he would not take part in the race until 1953, Rosier was not to be missed from then on. And, in 1956, he would again arrive at the Silverstone circuit ready to tackle the tough non-championship race one more time.
Silverstone, like so many other circuits throughout England, would actually get its start in World War II as a bomber training base. Situated near the village bearing its name, RAF Silverstone would be a great place for training, whether flying or racing. The gentle undulating and wide open terrain provides a lot of room and some forgiveness. And then there is the weather. Seemingly producing its own weather system, the area of Silverstone would become famous for its unpredictable weather and conflicting nature. When mixed together with higher average speeds, Silverstone certainly had a reputation as being a difficult circuit.
The International Trophy race, albeit a non-championship event, always attracted a fair share of foreign entries. This was not entirely the case in 1955 when the British Grand Prix switched to Aintree. However, the British Grand Prix would be back at Silverstone for 1956 and the field for the BRDC International Trophy race would be truly international.
Scuderia Ferrari would dispatch two of its Lancia-Ferrari D50s to be driven by Juan Manuel Fangio and Peter Collins. Equipe Gordini would be present with two cars of its own. And then there was Ecurie Rosier.
Rosier would come and would actually have two cars on the entry list. One would be for himself. The second would be for Ken Wharton once again. However, the car would not arrive with Wharton and the entry would be abandoned. Louis' entry, however, would be fulfilled and he would find himself pitted in a battle with up and coming British teams and drivers.
Stirling Moss would agree to drive for Vandervell Products for this race and would be rewarded with the fastest time in practice. Harry Schell, Moss' teammate for the race, would barely miss nipping the pole away from Moss after posting a time mere hundredths of a second slower. Still, Schell would have to settle with starting the race 2nd. Fangio would be about a second off the pace and would end up lining up 3rd right next to Mike Hawthorn in the BRM in the final front row starting spot.
Rosier's age was well and truly on display throughout practice as he would be well off the pace of those on the front row. His best effort, in fact, would be well more than a half a minute slower. This would cause the Frenchman to have to start the race from the sixth, and final, row of the grid. Starting from 19th on the grid, Rosier would have a long hard road ahead of him come time for the race on the 5th.
The race distance for the International Trophy race would be 60 laps, or, 174 miles. The cars would be lined up on the grid ready to go. One of those not present at the start would be Bruce Halford. Troubles would force him not to start the race. This meant Mike Oliver was the 20th, and last, starter in the field.
Firmly ensconced at the back of the field, it would be practically difficult for Rosier to make a giant leap forward, especially since the fast right-hander at Copse certainly made things difficult. But for those toward the front of the field, there would be a great opportunity. Aided by a poor start by Moss, Fangio would be up at the front, as would Mike Hawthorn. Reg Parnell, a former winner of the race, would be the worst loser of all at the start as his gearbox would break without having even completed a single lap. It seemed the trouble was already starting.
Rosier would maintain the same approach as that which he had at Aintree. He would take things easy at the beginning recognizing Silverstone's reputation for being a difficult circuit on cars. It wouldn't take long before this tactic would again begin to pay dividends either.
Before the halfway mark of the race was even approached some of the strongest competitors in the field would run into trouble and would be forced out of the race. Mike Hawthorn would be out after just 13 laps, Harry Schell would last 19 laps, as would Jack Fairman. Then, one lap later, one of the biggest retirements in the race would come along. Clutch issues in Fangio's D50 would sideline him until Peter Collins came in and handed his car over to the Argentinean. It wouldn't matter much as just a few laps later Fangio would be out of the running again, and again with clutch failure. All of this action helped Rosier to move up.
Conserving his energy and best pace for the race, Rosier would quickly climb the running order and would find himself well inside the top ten toward the later-half of the race. Of course, having both Ferraris out of the race, along with one of the Vanwalls, would go a long way.
Once again, it wouldn't really matter all that much who stayed in or out of the race as nobody could match the pace of Stirling Moss. After his poor start, Moss would quickly recover and would find he could get around Fangio just about any time he wanted. Even when oil fumes became present from within the cockpit, Stirling still had more than enough pace in hand that he could back off, and yet, ensure the car would make it all the way to the finish without losing the lead.
Averaging just over 100 mph over the course of the 60 lap race, Moss would cruise to an easy victory defeating Connaught's Archie Scott-Brown by more than a lap. Desmond Titterington would be more than 3 laps behind but would make it two Connaughts on the podium.
It would be a good day for Rosier as well. Despite starting the race from 19th on the grid, Rosier would manage to use attrition and a steady pace to climb all the way up into the top ten by the end of the race. And although he would finish the race some 6 laps behind, Rosier would still come through to finish in 6th place.
It seemed clear, if he could keep the same steady pace, and, have some help from attrition it was likely the Frenchman could score yet another points-paying result in a World Championship event.
Rosier's first opportunity to try this theory out would come at the second round of the 1956 Formula One World Championship, and at the crown jewel event no less. After more than three months between rounds of the World Championship, teams, drivers and fans would flock to the tiny principality of Monaco to witness the 14th Grand Prix of Monaco.
Held on the 13th of Monaco, the weather around the principality would be warm and dry. This would help to bring the race fans out by the thousands and it promised to be a very interesting and drama-filled event.
The Owen Racing team would run into trouble during practice with its BRM 25 and would be forced to withdraw both of its entries for Tony Brooks and Mike Hawthorn. The institution that is Louis Chiron would try to qualify once again but would have it all blow up in his face when the motor in his Maserati 250F let go. These would be just some of the surprises that arose from practice.
Some things were not surprising, however. The fact Juan Manuel Fangio would be on pole was anything but surprising. Lapping the 1.95 mile circuit in 1:44.0 in one of the D50s, Fangio would set the fastest lap in practice by six-tenths of a second over Stirling Moss in his factory Maserati. The final starting position on the three-wide front row would go to another Ferrari driver, Eugenio Castellotti, as he would be just nine-tenths slower than Fangio.
Ecurie Rosier would enter just a single car for Rosier and he would find himself only a handful of seconds off the pace around the tight and twisty Monaco circuit. Posting a best lap of 1:51.6, Louis would be just 7.6 seconds slower than Fangio. Still, because of the relatively small field, this time meant Rosier would start from the fifth row of the grid in the 15th position.
Situated along the French Riviera overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Monaco had become the crown jewel of motor racing from its very first moments hosting races. Combined with incredible opulence and grand architecture and scenery, the Grand Prix of Monaco certainly is a race like no other and provides the best opportunity for the fumes of volatile racing fuels to blend with some of the most exclusive and extravagant fragrances known the world over.
Following its debut as part of the Formula One World Championship during the inaugural season in 1950, the Monaco Grand Prix would not be a part of the Formula One World Championship calendar again until 1955. This would be quite the return for Formula One to Monaco as it would be filled with drama from beginning to end. Of course the most dramatic moment of the race would have to be when Alberto Ascari dumped his Lancia into the harbor when he had the opportunity to take over the lead of the race following Moss' retirement.
One year later, much would change. Ascari would be dead and gone. Mercedes-Benz would be no longer in motor racing leaving Fangio to make his way to Ferrari and Moss to become a factory Maserati driver. Yet, there would be some things that would not change, one of those being Louis Rosier at the wheel of a powder-blue single-seater.
With the crowds blanketing the sides of the hills overlooking the circuit, the race would get underway. Blasting their way toward the tight Gazometer hairpin at the start of the race it would be Moss on the outside with Fangio holding position to the inside of the corner. Squeezing into the tight hairpin presented a losing proposition to those toward the middle and tail-end of the field, like Rosier. And, as such, it would be Rosier at the tail-end going through the corner although Trintignant would get held up and would be the one left in the detestable position.
Around the circuit the field would roar. Halfway through the first lap and it would be Rosier back at the tail-end of the field trying to carefully pick his way around the tight circuit. At the end of the first lap it would be Moss with a clear advantage of about 4 seconds over Fangio and Peter Collins. Rosier would end up making his way past Trintignant once again to complete the first lap in 13th place.
The field would pretty much hold steady until the 3rd lap when Fangio, in an un-Fangio-like manner, would spin causing Harry Schell and Luigi Musso to take evasive action. Unfortunately, as a result of no fault of their own, Schell and Musso would come together and would be knocked out of the race. The culprit, Fangio, would right himself and would carry on down in 5th place.
Rosier would continue to hold off Trintignant, and therefore, would not be the final car on the circuit. Leading the field would be Moss by an ever-increasing margin over Peter Collins and Jean Behra.
One-third distance at it was still Moss leading the way. Behind him, Fangio and Collins would be embroiled in a little scrap amongst teammates for 2nd. Trintignant long since having retired with a failing engine meant Rosier would have to battle hard not to be the last car in the line. Eventually, the Frenchman would find Horace Gould and would use him to his advantage moving up to 9th place overall. This was an impressive performance for Rosier considering the fact he had earlier been in the pits with tire troubles that cost him a good deal of time.
Moss would look absolutely in control while Fangio would be looking rather uncharacteristic pushing hard around every tight bend. Still, the Argentinean would be closing the distance until his Lancia-Ferrari started to look like a bruised and beaten prize-fighter. Fangio wasn't at all worried about his usual precision; he was in pursuit of his former teammate. But it was costing him. Damaged terribly, Fangio would begin to lose time and would eventually come into the pits to hand the battered car over to Eugenio Castellotti while Fangio waited to take over Collins' car just past the halfway mark in the race.
Halfway home and Rosier would still be in the race, but would not really be in any kind of fight. Still ahead of Gould, Rosier would still be at the tail-end of the field steadily rounding the circuit hoping and praying mightily for help from attrition. Moss and Behra, the two factory Maserati drivers, would be 1st and 2nd but Fangio would again be throwing coal to the fire in pursuit of the leaders.
Some 30 laps remaining in the race and Moss would have a comfortable margin over Fangio who had taken over 2nd place from Jean Behra. Castellotti would be running in 4th place in Fangio's bruised and battered Lancia-Ferrari. Rosier would still be in the race as well, albeit well down in 9th place.
Lap after lap, Fangio would show why he was the reigning World Champion tearing off incredible lap times in pursuit of Moss. Moss was losing some of his substantial advantage but was doing a superb job caring after his tires and brakes. Rosier, after having survived nearly three-quarters of the race distance, would be in trouble. It was clear his engine was not right and this would force him out of the race after a steady 72 laps. This would allow Gould to move up despite some very long pitstops himself.
Time running out, Fangio continued to try and bear down on Moss. With only 10 laps remaining, Fangio would be well within reach of the Brit if he made even the slightest mistake around the treacherous Monaco circuit. While the Maserati team had be getting nervous, Moss continued on his way cool, calm and collected.
Moss wasn't without those heart-stopping moments as he would end up tagging his Maserati teammate Cesare Perdisa in the rear end as Perdisa's brakes locked heading into one of the tight hairpin turns. Still, the damage would be relatively light and Moss would get back to the job at hand.
Fangio would fight hard all the way to the finish turning the fastest lap of the race on the very last lap of the race. Still, it was to no avail as Moss calmly guided his Maserati across the line to take the victory some 6 seconds ahead of Fangio. Jean Behra would make it two factory Maseratis on the podium finishing a lap down in 3rd place.
For Rosier, it would be a frustrating day after he had put together a solid and careful drive around the difficult circuit. He had done everything right. He had kept his car off the walls, which in itself is extremely difficult. He had outlasted most everyone else starting halfway or further back. And yet, it would not be enough for the Frenchman. For the third time he had failed to finish the Grand Prix of Monaco.
Following the Grand Prix of Monaco there would be nearly a month before the next round of the Formula One World Championship, at least a round in which the European cars were likely to take part. This meant Ecurie Rosier could switch its focus back to non-championship events held throughout the European mainland and in England. The next event on the calendar would come on the 20th of May in the city of Turin, Italy. The race was the 7th Gran Premio del Valentino and would take place on a 2.61 mile circuit devised amongst the Valentino Park roads situated right along the Po River.
Headquarters to such companies as FIAT, Lancia and Alfa Romeo, Turin seemed like the perfect place to hold a grand prix and one had been held in the city, on and off, for a number of years. Scuderia Ferrari and the factory Maserati teams would both have more than a couple entries for the 90 lap race. However, late decisions following the Monaco Grand Prix would lead to Scuderia Ferrari and Officine Alfieri Maserati choosing to withdraw their entries. This seemed like a perfect opportunity for a team like Ecurie Rosier to pick up some good starting and prize money. The problem was that the two major teams constituted the vast majority of the field. When they withdrew the organizers were left with about five entries. As a result, the event would be cancelled. Ecurie Rosier would have to look forward to the next race on the calendar.
As a result of the cancellation of the non-championship event in Turin, Louis Rosier would have to turn his focus northwards toward the Low Country of Belgium for it would be there, near the small villages of Spa, Malmedy and Stavelot that the fourth round of the Formula One World Championship, the Belgian Grand Prix would be held on the 3rd of June.
Situated in the heart of the Ardennes and near a major focal point of the last few months of the Second World War, the 8.77 mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit would be one of the only venues to have been on the World Championship calendar at the same site since the inaugural season. A true road course, the ultra-fast circuit features blindingly fast average speeds, some impressive elevation changes and some truly hair-raising corners that require great courage and an absolute attention on perfection.
While famous for the 'red water' left-right climb up a steep hill, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit would perhaps best be known for the rather docile looking Masta Kink. Approached at top speed, the left-right combination required absolute precision and was very easy to get wrong. And if one got it wrong…well the outcome may not have been the best.
While a favorite with the fans and the drivers, the nature of the circuit had the ability of limiting the number of teams that would come and take part in the race. The 1956 edition of the race would be no different as just 16 cars would appear for the race. The field would have been bigger had it not been for trouble with the BRMs. As a result, their three entries would be abandoned. Ecurie Rosier would come with its single-car effort to be driven by Louis Rosier. He would be just one of a gaggle of drivers driving Maseratis. Besides one Connaught and two Vanwalls, the rest of the field would be comprised of Lancia-Ferraris.
Practice would see the conditions conducive to high average speeds and this favored the power and the torque of the Lancia-Ferraris. However, the only one of the Ferrari drivers capable of taking advantage of the situation would be Fangio as he would turn the fastest lap and would grab the pole with a time of 4:09.8. Just under 5 seconds would be the margin to Stirling Moss starting in the 2nd place position. A little more than half a second slower than Moss would be Peter Collins in another Ferrari. He would claim the third, and final, front row starting spot.
Spa requires great skill and bravery to be fast around its 8.77 miles. This means when everything within the mind and body says to slow down the individual has to turn a deaf ear and go even faster. This was not something that came very easy to Rosier given his age and it would show in practice as his best effort would end up being 26 seconds slower than Fangio around the circuit. As a result, Rosier would start the race from the fourth row of the grid in the 10th position. Still, his starting position would be better than what he had earned for the Monaco Grand Prix.
Being situated in the Ardennes Forest unpredictable weather was about the only thing that was predictable. And, on the day of the race the skies would be overcast and the circuit wet as a light rain fell on the circuit. Nonetheless, the cars would be rolled into position and the spectators aligned all along the course to catch a glimpse of the best cars and drivers in the world.
At the start of the race, it would be Moss that would rocket off the line into the lead. His advantage would be obvious as he put a couple of car lengths in between himself and Castellotti heading into Eau Rouge. Rosier would struggle off the line and would actually lose a position or two before heading up the hill.
Flying around the circuit on the first of 36 laps it would be Moss still leading the way but he would have Castellotti and Collins following rather close behind. After a poor start, Fangio would be well on his way and would manage to get around Harry Schell for 4th place. This meant Moss was being chased by all three Ferraris while the Vanwalls of Schell and Trintignant led the way for the remainder of the field. After having a poor start himself, Rosier would be holding onto 12th.
At the completion of the first lap the order would remain unchanged with Moss out front leading the way and Piero Scotti bringing up the rear in his own privately-entered Connaught B-Type.
As the cars streamed around to start the second lap the field would be down one already as Chico Godia-Sales suffered an accident during the first lap. The 2nd lap would see Luigi Villoresi enter the pits to have his car checked. He would soon be back on course looking to make up for lost time.
By the 3rd lap of the race Fangio would be in 2nd place and breathing down Moss' neck while Castellotti fades slightly. Further back, Villoresi's troubles would seem to be behind him as he would soon catch Rosier and would be looking to pass.
The 5th lap would see changes at the front and rear of the field as Fangio powers his way around Moss through Stavelot to take over the lead of the race. Meanwhile, Maurice Trintignant begins suffering from an ailing engine and loses ground. At the back of the field, Villoresi would finally be in position and would take away the 11th place position from Rosier. It would be clear Rosier did not have the pace to compete in the given conditions.
Positions would hold steady till about the 10th lap of the race. While Villoresi continued his upward movement in the running order, Moss would suddenly find himself plunging down it as a result of losing a wheel going up Eau Rouge. Parking his car by the side of the road he would run back down the hill to the pits to take over Perdisa's car after a couple of laps. This would have given Ferrari a one-two-three placement on the road had it not been for transmission failure that ended Castellotti's day. All of the retirements would greatly help the slow and steady Rosier. After getting by the ailing Trintignant, Rosier would find himself shot into the 9th place position as a result of all the drama.
Fangio would lead the way through half distance. Peter Collins would not be that far back in 2nd place. Jean Behra would be busy keeping Belgian racer Paul Frere at bay for the final spot on the podium. Rosier would still be maintaining his 9th place position as he powered his way around the circuit in a mistake-free, albeit rather sedate, fashion.
Fangio looked entirely in control until the 24th lap. Powering his way through Stavelot, Fangio would suddenly slow having lost his transmission. This handed the lead to Peter Collins. Behra would now be in 2nd place just ahead of Frere. Meanwhile, Moss would be in Perdisa's car and would be in 4th place as a result of Fangio's misfortunes. Fangio's troubles also helped another. Rosier had been losing ground to the leaders hand over fist. However, all of the attrition had helped him move up to 8th place, the final car still running in the race.
Just 5 laps from the end and Collins would still be in the lead, but to the delight of the Belgian faithful there would be a change for 2nd place as Behra's Maserati would run into trouble. This enabled Frere to take over in 2nd place. Moss' effort to get back to the pits also paid off as he would be now in 3rd place, his race truly salvaged.
No such troubles for Collins however as he would power his way to his first World Championship victory after completing the race distance in two hours and 40 minutes. A minute and 51 seconds later, great cheers would go up amongst the assembled crowd as Frere would take his well-earned 2nd place. Another minute later, Moss would come through to finish 3rd.
Unlike Monaco, Rosier would find himself making it to the end of the Belgian Grand Prix. However, he wouldn't just be seconds behind, but miles. When all told, Rosier would end the race some 26 miles behind winner Collins, but, it was still an 8th place result proving that experience and a steady hand could still pay off. Unfortunately, it would not pay off with another championship point.
As the calendar turned to June the number of non-championship races would become fewer and fewer as the World Championship heated up for the summer. While there would be the 1st Aintree 100 race held on the 24th of June, Ecurie Rosier would instead have its sights set on a much more important race coming up. Coming up on the 1st of July would be one of the most important races for the French Ecurie Rosier team. The race was the fifth round of the 1956 World Championship, the French Grand Prix.
The French Grand Prix would be back on the calendar following its cancellation the year before as a result of the Le Mans tragedy. Interestingly, Ecurie Rosier had an entry in the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans with a Talbot Sport but would not end up starting the race. It would end up being a blessing in many ways perhaps.
But although the French Grand Prix had been cancelled in 1955 as a result of the events that transpired at Le Mans, the same ultra-fast Reims circuit would again be the venue for the French edition of the World Championship for 1956.
Measuring 5.15 miles in length, the Reims circuit was shorter than Spa-Francorchamps by an obvious amount, its average speed per lap was greater to about the same degree. This was a result of the fact the Reims circuit had only two real corners of any note, those being the hairpins at Muizon and Thillois. Some of the more dramatic locations, however, would be the fast sweeping turns known as Courbe de Gueux and then the esses at Hovette that led to the Muizon hairpin.
Being blindingly fast, the circuit obviously favored the Lancia-Ferraris and this was made painfully obvious to the rest of the field almost immediately when Fangio completed a lap in 2:23.3 at an average speed of just over 129 mph. It was not all that surprising then when Fangio would be joined on the front row by two of his Ferrari teammates. Eugenio Castellotti would start from 2nd place while Peter Collins would complete the front row in 3rd.
The fastest car of any other make would belong to Harry Schell. He would take his Vanwall and would turn a lap of 2:26.1. This would be achieved at an average speed more than 2mph slower than Fangio. Those 2mph translated into a time nearly 3 seconds slower. Louis Rosier's fastest average speed would be just over 119mph. Unfortunately, this translated into a time exactly 12 seconds slower than Fangio. As a result, Rosier would end up starting the race from the middle of the fifth row in the 12th position.
The race itself would be 61 laps covering a total distance of 314 miles. And, as the cars were rolled out to their positions on the grid, the overcast but dry conditions promised some very high average speeds. This is just what the crowd had hoped for.
As the flag dropped to start the race, what the crowd got was the three Ferraris rocketing into the distance while Hawthorn, Moss and Behra fought for position behind. Many in the field would be held up and have to take evasive action as Colin Chapman's Vanwall doesn't move off the line. Heading into the Muizon hairpin it would be Collins in the lead ahead of Castellotti and Fangio. Rosier would be running well at the start and would actually be in 11th powering his way up the rise before the drop toward Thillois.
At the end of the first lap of the race it would be Collins holding onto the lead mere feet ahead of Castellotti and Fangio. Hawthorn would be looking quite strong in 4th place showing a great deal of pace despite not feeling all that well. Rosier would still be a few car lengths behind Perdisa in 11th place, but would certainly have a good start to the race.
It wouldn't take too long before Fangio climbed to the head of the field. Taking over the lead of the race on the 4th lap, he would have Castellotti and Collins still following along in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Rosier would find himself embroiled in a battle with Godia-Sales who had started the race 17th. Rosier would eventually lose the position but would maintain 11th place in the order when Harry Schell retired from the race after 5 laps.
Being on home soil, Rosier would do his best to keep his foot in it each and every lap. This would help the Frenchman to climb all the way up to 8th place by the 14th lap as Schell was seen taking over the Vanwall from a tired Hawthorn. While the Ferraris maintained 1st through 3rd in the running order, Harry Schell began an all-out assault to climb up the leaderboard. Meanwhile, just as soon as he had climbed up to 8th, Rosier would lose a couple of positions and would be down in 10th place still following along behind Godia-Sales, whose meteoric climb up the order had stalled somewhat.
Moss would take over Perdisa's Maserati once again when the gear lever on his own Maserati broke. However, at the front of the field nothing would change. Harry Schell, however, was intent on changing that as he would climb his way up to 4th by the 30th lap of the race. At that same point in the race, Rosier would find himself in 8th place once again as a result of Alfonso de Portago retiring from the race and the sheer fighting spirit Rosier would display in his seemingly never-ending struggle with Godia-Sales.
It would be an impressive performance by Harry Schell as he would manage to climb all the way from 8th in Hawthorn's car to take 2nd place from Castellotti and Collins on the 31st lap of the race. At the same time, Rosier and Godia-Sales continued to fight for 8th place with each spending a number of laps in the position.
Then, just 22 laps from the end of the race, all would take a dramatic turn. Schell's impressive rise would come to a stop at 2nd place, and then, would come to a stop altogether when troubles with the Vanwall would force a pitstop of many minutes. Just when everyone figured that was it, Fangio would make a surprise visit to the pits with some kind of issue as well. Though only in the pits a short time, Fangio would lose the lead to his fellow Ferrari drivers of Castellotti and Collins. Another of the Ferrari pilots, Olivier Gendebien would suffer a broken clutch at about the same moment and would be dropped from the order altogether. This would help the steady veteran Rosier to climb up 9th on the leaderboard to 6th, just one place outside the points.
Following a battle that would last a couple of laps amongst the Ferrari teammates, it would be Collins leading the way into the final 10 laps of the race. Jean Behra would be in 3rd place followed by the unfortunate Fangio. Having gotten around Godia-Sales, seemingly for good, Rosier maintained his 6th place spot in the order following well behind Moss in Perdisa's Maserati.
Heading into the final lap of the race, Collins maintained a lead of just a couple of tenths over Castellotti. Jean Behra held onto 3rd place but was coming under pressure from a hard-charging Fangio desperate to reverse his fortunes. As predicted, the conditions lent themselves to some truly fast laps and on the last lap of the race Fangio was still pushing harder and harder in an effort to catch Behra.
Well ahead of the Behra and the rest of the field, Collins would lead Castellotti around Thillois for the final time. The two would power their way up the long, straight drag toward the finish line where Collins would take his second World Championship victory, a back-to-back victory no less. Castellotti would be 2nd. The question was, 'Who would be 3rd?' Behra had a margin over Fangio. However, the Argentinean was pushing as hard as possible to take the final podium position. Although he would come away with a point for turning the fastest lap of the race with a record lap, Fangio's effort would be all in vain as Behra would take 3rd by 5 seconds over Fangio.
Having gained a full lap advantage over Godia-Sales in the final third of the race, Rosier would be all by himself on the circuit as he headed to the finish line. Ending up 3 laps behind, Rosier would still bring even more delight to the French fans as he finished a strong 6th, just one place out of the points.
It would be a rather nice return to form for Rosier. While it would be obvious that he was no longer that threat to win or end up on the podium, his performance in Reims showed that he had some fight left in him and, if things went his way, he still had the ability to surprise.
Being only a couple of hours away from the English Channel coast it would be a relatively easy trip over to England for the sixth round of the Formula One World Championship. And so, following the French Grand Prix, Ecurie Rosier would make its way across the Channel and then continued on to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix set to take place on the 14th of July.
The last time Ecurie Rosier had been to Silverstone it was back in May. And despite the presence of Scuderia Ferrari and a strong British contigent, Rosier would come away with a solid 6th place performance.
Rosier enjoyed some of his best results at the Silverstone circuit throughout the years. In the first British Grand Prix as part of the Formula One World Championship, Rosier would earn his first World Championship point scoring a 5th place finish. And while that would be the only time in which Louis would come away with championship points, he had never suffered a retirement at the circuit. Therefore, hoped providence would see him through just one more time.
If the International Trophy race back in May had been a test, then the British Grand Prix would seem like an all-out battle with more than 30 cars entered for the 101 lap race. Just the threat from Scuderia Ferrari would be enough to deter even the strongest individual. Five D50s would be unloaded, not to mention the incredible number of Maserati 250Fs in the field. Then of course there would be the ever-strengthening Vanwalls, Connaughts and BRMs.
Not entirely the ultra-fast circuit like Reims or Spa, Silverstone enabled the Maseratis to be able to take the fight back to the Ferraris. This would be evident during practice when Moss would end up earning pole-position in his factory Maserati after turning a lap of 1:41.0. Still, he would only barely edge out Fangio for the position as the two would be separated by mere hundredths of a second. Two seconds further back would be Mike Hawthorn in one of the BRMs. Then, completing the front row, would be a third Brit in the form of Peter Collins. He too would be mere hundredths of a second slower than Hawthorn but would be forced to settle with 4th place.
Back in May, Rosier had shown to be well off the pace and started the non-championship International Trophy race from near dead-last on the grid. Just a couple of months later, Rosier would again just miss out on last place. His time of 1:59.0 would be 2 seconds faster than Jack Brabham and would give him the 27th starting spot situated in the middle of the eighth row.
As for the second race in a row, the conditions the day of the race would be rather bleak but at least conditions would be dry. Once again, this meant the thousands upon thousands of onlookers could expect a truly fast race. Still, at 101 laps of the 2.9 mile circuit, three hours worth of racing lay ahead.
There would be a lot of movement amongst the field just prior to the drop of the flag. However, when the flag did drop Stirling Moss would not get moving at all and would lose a number of positions even before the first turn at Copse. At the tail-end of the field, Brabham would make a great start and would gain more than half a dozen spots over the course of the first lap. Rosier, however, would be left out in the cold and would trail the entire field around on the first lap.
The first through the first corner, to the astonishment of many, would be the two BRMs of Hawthorn and Tony Brooks. Following along behind the two British cars and drivers would be Fangio and a very quick Harry Schell. Moss would be all the way down, almost out of the top ten.
Coming around to complete the first lap, it would be Hawthorn leading the way ahead of Brooks a couple of seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Louis Rosier would have the displeasure of completing the first lap dead-last.
After two laps, it would still be Hawthorn leading the way. A few seconds back would come Brooks with Fangio all over him in the Lancia-Ferrari. Fangio would pour on the pressure but it would be the Argentinean World Champion that would crack spinning on the 9th lap of the race. The resulting spin would drop Fangio from 3rd all the way down to 6th while Brooks came under assault from a determined Moss. Further back, Rosier would recover from his poor start to the race and would find himself in 23rd by the 9th lap of the race. Unfortunately, Rosier would be unable to make any headway against the rest of the field and would actually be back to last in only a few laps time. Still, Rosier would keep his mind sharply focused knowing that it didn't matter where he started the race that makes all the difference.
At 101 laps, the race was going to be a long affair and the attrition rate early on could have led some to believe only a couple of cars would make it to the end of the race. Not counting Jose Froilan Gonzalez's departure after a hundred yards, there would be eight drivers that would drop out of the race before the quarter distance mark. Unfortunately, one of those to retire after 19 laps would be Rosier. His carburetor had broken leaving him unable to carry on. For the first time ever in the British Grand Prix, Rosier would fail to finish.
There would be a number though that would fail to finish that day. Among them that would not would be the early leader Mike Hawthorn. An oil leak would see him slowly descend down the leaderboard starting on the 16th lap when he lost the lead of the race to a flying Stirling Moss. Another surprise would come in the form of the man following along behind Moss. Instead of Fangio or another of the Ferraris it would be Roy Salvadori in a privately entered Maserati in 2nd. Fangio would be in 3rd place while Brooks fought hard to hold onto 4th.
Ten laps before the halfway point in the race smoke and flames would be seen rising into the sky near Abbey Curve as Brooks' BRM would overturn and catch fire. Brooks would escape the terrible carnage but would suffer some injuries as a result. This dramatic departure of the last BRM would move Collins and de Portago up to 4th and 5th respectively. Salvadori and Fangio would still be giving chase of Moss who was slowly pulling away into the distance.
With the top six bookended by Maseratis, the top of the field would remain relatively unchanged until just past the halfway mark of the race when a tank strap would break loose on Salvadori's car causing him to have to hand over 2nd place to Fangio for repairs. Reminiscent of the Belgian Grand Prix, it would be Moss leading the way with three Ferraris following along behind him at the 60th lap of the race.
As with the Belgian Grand Prix, Moss seemed entirely in control under Fangio was in the 2nd place position. Fangio would draw in his former Mercedes teammate with every single lap until he managed to take over the lead on the 69th lap of the race. It was clear not all was entirely well with Moss' Maserati as he continued on in the 2nd place position ahead of his Maserati teammate Jean Behra following Collins' retirement due to falling oil pressure.
Collins would not be out of the race for long as de Portago would be flagged into the pits to hand his car over to Collins for the remainder of the race. Fangio would be in the lead and would enjoy a comfortable margin over Moss who would be delayed after stopping to have a misfire issue checked. This would allow Collins to close up the gap to Moss but would still be a good distance back of the Maserati pilot.
Seven laps remaining in the race it seemed certain Fangio would win and Moss would finish 2nd after having been so dominant for so long during the race. However, it was not to be as Moss' gearbox would finally fail him leaving him out of the race and wondering what might have been. This promoted Collins to 2nd place and Behra to 3rd. But, it would be the man in 4th place that would be most surprising.
And so the race would run out. Leading the last 33 laps of the race, Fangio would be fortunate to come away with the victory after Moss had led the way for some 53 laps. Still, credit would be due the Argentinean as he would finish the race a little more than a lap ahead of his Ferrari teammate Peter Collins. Collins would delight the British fans but would also have to count himself as having had providence on his side as de Portago stayed out of trouble for so long to hand him his car. In 3rd place would be Jean Behra. Ever steady, the Frenchman would complete the race 2 laps behind Fangio but would be 3rd in the standings following the race.
For Louis Rosier, to say the race was a disappointment would be an understatement. The British Grand Prix had always been good to him in the past, but not on this day. Not to even make it a quarter distance would certainly be the most bitter pill to have to swallow. It had been a terrible weekend all the way around starting from the tail-end of the field and being out before even reaching 20 laps. If Rosier had any allusions of scoring another World Championship point, his opportunities were running short.
The British Grand Prix had been a very difficult pill for Rosier to swallow. It had been a terrible experience and then, just three weeks following, Rosier was to arrive at perhaps the most arduous of circuits in an attempt to turn everything around. Things had gone badly for Rosier at Silverstone in the British Grand Prix. However, to head to the Nurburgring to take part in the German Grand Prix on the 5th of August seemed an even greater fool's errand.
For many, the 14 mile long Nurburgring was to approached the same as the entire 24 Hours of Le Mans; the goal being to outlast the circuit instead of trying to conquer it. For to try and conquer the Nordschleife seemed near as impossible to most. However, for some, the Nurburgring was like poetry in motion. Rising and falling, constantly turning and twisting, the amount of concentration and memory required, just for a single lap, would be absolutely immense. But, it was as a road course should be: an epic journey each and every time, full of danger and hugely dangerous for any driver making the slightest of errors. It was a circuit, certainly in the minds of many that separated then men from the boys.
Going for sheer age, Rosier certainly was to be counted among the men. And his vast amounts of endurance racing experience certainly would have an advantage coming to a circuit where the ability to concentrate over the length of just a single lap would be paramount.
Although a small village just about 30 miles from the Belgian border, Nurburg would certainly have to be considered a place of pilgrimage for any serious racer. With views of the Eifel Mountains and the Nurburg castle that looms over the village, the Nurburgring would be a curious merging of the ancient and the modern, and therefore, would give a sense of importance for all generations.
During the Formula 2 era of the World Championship the German Grand Prix would boast of large starting grids as the under-funded privateer German entries would fill the ranks. However, the move back to new Formula One regulations in 1954 would see the size of the grid gradually dwindle. But, one thing that would not dwindle would be the passion of the German fans for motor racing. Thousands upon thousands would come to the circuit to see the best in the world fight it out on perhaps the most dramatic stage of all.
The 1956 edition of the race would be billed as a straight-up fight with five Lancia-Ferraris being entered by Scuderia Ferrari. Officine Alfieri Maserati, the factory Maserati team, would also enter an equal number of cars. But while on paper things appeared equal, the true advantage still had to swing in Ferrari's favor. Not a whole lot of favor was to be had for the privateers with ten Italian factory cars filled the ranks. Still, Ecurie Rosier would unload and prepare to put forth its best effort.
The advantage Ferrari had would come to show itself in practice when Fangio turned in the fastest lap around a wet Nurburgring. In spite of the pouring rain that blanketed the area for more than a couple of days, Fangio would post a lap time of 9:51.2 and would earn the pole by just three-tenths of a second over Peter Collins. Eugenio Castellotti would make sure at least three Ferraris started from the front row when he posted a time just 3 seconds slower than Fangio. Stirling Moss would end up preventing a clean sweep of the front row by posting a best lap of 10:03.4. Although more than 12 seconds slower than the Argentinean, Moss would be on the front row and in a strong position at the start of the race.
Rosier would put forth a strong effort in practice in the Maserati. While he would not make it into the top half of the field, he wouldn't be all that far away. Posting a personal best of 11:39.0 around the 14 mile circuit, Rosier would end up gaining a spot on the fourth row of the grid. On the same row as Horace Gould and Harry Schell, Rosier would be 14th on the grid.
Thankfully for the passionate German race fans the days upon days of rain would come to an end. The day of the race would break with bright skies and comfortable temperatures; perfect for some record laps around the Nordschleife.
Engines brought to a roar, the flag would drop to start the race. Peeling away from the line, it would be Collins that would get away the fastest and would lead the way into the first couple of corners. Behind him, Fangio and Moss would be giving chase with the remainder of the field winding its way through the South Curve. Rosier would suffer a terrible start to the race and would actually be all the way down in 17th at the first turn. Still, one lap around the Nurburgring would be like two or three at other circuits, and therefore, there would be plenty of time for the Frenchman to make up the lost ground.
The first of 22 laps complete, it would be Fangio that would end up crossing the line in the lead having gotten around Collins. Moss would also be right there in 3rd place while Jean Behra made it Ferrari-Ferrari-Maserati-Maserati. Rosier would also recover nicely from his poor start over the course of the first 14 miles he would manage to climb up from 17th to complete the first lap in 12th, an amazing climb up through the field on the very first lap.
Rosier's forward movement would get some help however as Giorgio Scarlatti and Robert Manzon would be forced to retire before having completed a single lap. Even more forward movement was to come over the course of the next couple of laps as Roy Salvadori, Horace Gould and Umberto Maglioli all retired before the 4th lap of the race had been completed. As a result, Rosier would be up to 10th place and locked in a battle with another veteran racer, Luigi Villoresi.
At the front of the field it remained Fangio leading the way over Collins and Moss. These three would be pushing each other very hard. One would set a new fastest lap only to have it eclipsed by another. It would be absolutely amazing to watch three men powering their way throughout the dangerous circuit.
But although Collins and Moss would be flying around the circuit in their own rights, neither could really match the pace of Fangio every time around and the Argentinean continually pulled out a bigger and bigger margin over the rest of the field. Such was his pace that Fangio would end up lapping Rosier around every 7 laps of the race.
More trouble would come to the field, and Ferrari would seem to be directly in its crosshairs. The Nurburgring seemed to favor the Lancia-Ferraris, but then there was providence to think about and it seemed that was not on the side of the Maranello-based squad as Castellotti and Peter Collins would all fall out of the running prior to the 10 lap mark. Castellotti would end up taking over Luigi Musso's car for what should have been the remainder of the race. However, in his anger, Castellotti would make a mistake and would crash out of the race. So twice Castellotti would retire from the German Grand Prix. Amazingly, the same result would happen with Collins as he would take over de Portago's Ferrari on the 11th lap. Pushing hard in an effort to make up for lost ground Collins would push a little too hard and would make a mistake that cost him dearly. Though he would be fine, the car would not, and the race would be over for the Brit.
This would leave Fangio clearly ahead as he continued to turn fast lap after fast lap, the fastest coming on the 14th lap when he posted a time of 9:41.6; a new lap record. Moss would try everything he could. He too would be turning fast lap after fast lap in an effort to keep touch with the Argentinean, but it was proving to be of no avail.
Louis Rosier was by no means able to take the fight to Fangio or any of the other front-runners. However, providence would see to it that his rivals would provide him with the opportunity to move up the running order. And, by the time the race was heading into the last 5 laps, Rosier would be in 6th place and just hoping and praying for just one more late retirement.
Another privateer entry, the British driver Bruce Halford, had been running an inspired race. In spite of an early spin Halford had been running quite well and found himself inside the top five with just 7 laps remaining. However, it seemed painfully obvious there wasn't anything that was going to keep Rosier out of the points this day as Halford would be disqualified with just 2 laps remaining for having received outside assistance when he spun. And so, Rosier was not up to 5th place as Fangio carried on his way to complete the race.
The Lancia-Ferraris had the advantage. And while the rest of the squad would be out of the running, one important member remained. Having led every single lap from the start of the race, Fangio would come into view powering his way to victory completing the 312 miles in three hours and nearly 39 minutes. Some 46 seconds later, Stirling Moss would come across the line to finish in 2nd place. Seven minutes and 38 seconds would be the gap from Fangio back to the 3rd place finisher that of Jean Behra.
Because of the late disqualification of Halford, Rosier would end up doing it. Though finishing the race a little more than 3 laps behind, Rosier would nonetheless complete the race in the 5th position. Therefore, two more World Championship points would be added to his Formula One record. Amazingly, they would be the first points since his 4th place finish in the 1951 Belgian Grand Prix while driving a Talbot-Lago T26C.
It had been an interesting week for Louis Rosier. Only a week before the German Grand Prix his attempt at the 24 Hours of Le Mans would come to naught when the Talbot Sport 2500 he had been driving with Jean Behra suffered a rear axle and gearbox failure. And yet, in a race in which he seemed less likely to come away with a strong result, Rosier would leave the Nurburgring with a 5th place showing and two points toward the World Championship. Just like that, Rosier would be in the top 20 in the driver standings. It certainly seemed as though Rosier still had a lot in him despite his age.
The 5th place result in the German Grand Prix had been a good start to the month of August, especially considering the retirement in the 24 Hours of Le Mans just the week prior. Unfortunately for Rosier, it would be difficult to keep the momentum from the strong result going. Once passed the German Grand Prix the number of championship and non-championship races left on the calendar dropped dramatically.
Not counting Formula Libre events, there would be very few events left on the calendar in which single-seaters would be able to go and race. However, on the European mainland there would be one more non-championship event remaining. And, conveniently enough, it would be on French soil.
Three weeks following the German Grand Prix, the strategic French city of Caen would host a non-championship Formula One race. Taking place on the 26th of August, the 4th Grand Prix de Caen would be the final non-championship Formula One race to take place on European soil for 1956 and it served as a good warm up for the Italian Grand Prix coming up in just a matter of a week.
The city of Caen will forever be remembered for two major battles. The first would come back during the 14th century when the English invaded Normandy under King Edward III. The invasion would lead to the demoralizing defeat of the French and would play an important role in the Hundred Years' War. Nearly 600 years later, the British would be back, but with American, Canadian and other allied forces. But this time, instead of demoralizing and laying siege to the French, the Battle of Normandy would be an effort to revive the morale of the French people by driving out the siege imposed by the forces of the Third Reich. In either case, the coastal city of Caen would be an important objective.
Just 11 years following the end of the Second World War the city of Caen would be the objective of another battle, but this one would be fought on much more peaceful terms. Instead of the sounds of tank and artillery barrages, the city would be filled with the sounds of powerful grand prix engines.
The Grand Prix de Caen would take place on a 2.19 mile circuit based around La Prairie and amongst the city streets just to the south of the city's downtown. The Caen circuit would be different than most other circuits to which it could be compared. While La Prairie is a park, the circuit itself would not run through, but around, the park. Situated right along the English Channel coast and right beside the l'Orne River, the grand prix circuit around the park would be flat. The start and finish line would be placed halfway down the straight on Boulevard Yves Guillou. After a fast right-left kink, the circuit would come to two 90 degree right-hand turns. From there, the circuit runs in a short straight right along l'Orne before bending back around to the right to a tight right-hand hairpin that led back to the start/finish straight. Overall, the circuit would be quick, but, it would be short enough and interrupted just enough to prevent top speeds from being reached.
Since the Grand Prix de Caen was just a week away from the Italian Grand Prix, the field would be void of many the top factory teams. Additionally, for any privateer that intended to take part in both races, the race in Caen would be a calculated gamble as it was highly unlikely a privateer would have the time and the finances to repair any problems in time to make it into the field for the Italian Grand Prix. However, because it was a race on French soil it was not all that surprising to see the vast majority of the entry list be comprised of French entries.
Confidence and momentum was certainly in Rosier's favor having finished in the points at the Nurburgring. Using his confidence and Maserati 250F to great effect, Rosier would end up posting one of the fastest lap times around the 2.19 mile circuit in practice. Unfortunately, it would not be as fast as Roy Salvadori and Rosier would be forced to start the race from 2nd on the grid. Still, it was a front row starting spot and that boded well for the upcoming 70 lap, 153 mile, race.
In total, 13 cars would line up on the grid in preparation for the start of the race. Conditions at the start of the race favored another high-speed affair. However, with such speeds, even the smallest error threatened to serve up some terrible consequences, especially if conditions worsened.
Putting all of that aside, the field would roar into the distance at the start of the race. Heading around the two 90 degree right hand bends Salvadori would be looking quite strong in the Glby Engineering Maserati. However, Rosier would be just one of many that seemed capable of challenging this day.
Salvadori would be very quick right out of the gate as he would end up turning what would be the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of 1:26.2 at an average speed of more than 91 mph. This would put tremendous pressure on the rest of the field and the potential for mistakes rose dramatically.
The first to suffer trouble would be the Equipe Gordini pilot Hermanos da Silva Ramos. Driving a Gordini T32, da Silva Ramos would suffer clutch failure after just a single lap and would be forced to retire.
The pace would continue to be fierce throughout much of the early part of the race, but then conditions would change. A few laps following Paul Emery's departure from the race with a blown engine, the Grand Prix de Caen would dramatically turn into a wild event with drivers exiting the race left and right.
The first to fall victim would be Horace Gould. After completing 11 laps he would lose control of his Maserati and would crash out of the race. Exactly 10 laps later, Bruce Halford would experience the same fate crashing out of the race. Another 10 laps would pass and then there would be yet another crash. This time it would be Robert Manzon in one of the Gordini T32s. The final victim would not come 10 laps, but just 4 laps later. Unfortunately for Ecurie Rosier it would be Rosier. Four crashes in a row, and still half a race left to go.
The first half of the race would make the second look boring and relatively sedate. About one of the only changes to the second half of the race would be Salvadori's turn of misfortune. After being the fastest on the circuit at one point, the Gilby Engineering driver would end up losing ground and would be fighting with everything he had just to remain on the lead lap by the end of the race.
The man that would capitalize the most from all of the dramatic twists and turns of the plot would be the one that should not have been in the race in the first place. Harry Schell did not have a ride prior to the race. However, he would manage to talk the Maserati factory into releasing one of their 250Fs to him for the race. It would end up being a great decision as he would be in the lead of the race as it headed into the final couple of laps.
The man that was close to not even taking part in the Grand Prix de Caen would be out front with a comfortable margin and with just one lap remaining. Averaging a little more than 80 mph en route, Schell would take the victory by about a minute and 10 seconds over Andre Simon in one of the Gordini T16s. Roy Salvadori would complete a rather disappointing race finishing one lap down in 3rd place.
The strange twist in the middle of the Grand Prix de Caen would end up doing a lot of damage, not only to Rosier's Maserati, but also, to his momentum as well. Heading to the start of the race it seemed as though Rosier had the clear potential of pulling off one last victory. Instead, it would all fall apart until all that he would be left with would be, literally, the pieces. Rosier seriously could have done without this, especially right before the Italian Grand Prix the following week.
As stated earlier, taking part in the Grand Prix de Caen just one week before the final round of the Formula One World Championship, the Italian Grand Prix, would be a calculated risk. Rosier had gone all in and lost it all on the horse race around La Prairie. He would now be faced with the very real task of having to quickly repair the damaged Maserati and travel all the way to Monza to make it to the circuit in time for the Italian Grand Prix.
Taking place on the 2nd of September, the entry list for the Italian Grand Prix would be absolutely filled with Italian pieces of machinery. Scuderia Ferrari would enter no less than six of their D50s on the entry list. Including factory and privateer Maseratis there would be some 13 of the Modena-based single-seaters on the list. With six entries apiece, it was clear Ferrari and Maserati were intent on having an Italian Red car win World Championship round on Italian soil. And there was reason for concern with four Connaught Engineering B-Types and three Vanwalls entered in the race.
Rosier would have to work fast despite having an entry in the race. The Italian Grand Prix for 1956 would again make use of the entire 6.2 mile circuit that included the road circuit with the steeply-banked oval circuit. Comprised of concrete, the steep banking was not a place for any weakness in any car. Therefore, Rosier could not merely patch together his car. The bumpiness of the banking would shake apart any shoddy repair and would make taking part in the race very dangerous.
Despite having moved to live nearer the Maserati factory, Horace Gould would be a no-show for the Italian Grand Prix although he too had an entry in the race. The damage suffered by his Maserati at Caen would be too great to get corrected in time for the race. Soon after the cars arrived and practice began another of the entries would be out. Ferrari would enter one of its Lancia-Ferraris for the young Wolfgang von Trips. However, his race would be over before he even qualified as he would suffer an accident in practice, thereby ruining his chance at his first grand prix.
Teams had arrived and begun unloading their cars in preparation for the start of practice. One by one the teams, factory and privateer, would arrive and unload. However, in time it would become obvious the Ecurie Rosier team was yet to arrive. Then it was made clear. Ecurie Rosier had withdrawn its entry from the Italian Grand Prix. Like Horace Gould, Rosier would cite the fact he would not be able to repair his broken Maserati in time to take part in the race. In retrospect, the broken car would be much more symbolic than what it certainly must have been at the end of August.
Missing out on the Italian Grand Prix meant the 1956 Formula One World Championship had come to an end for Rosier. For seven years he had taken part in the World Championship. And finally, after four of those years, Rosier would end the season having scored at least one championship point. The two points earned in the German Grand Prix would bring his total World Championship tally to just 18 points. Yet, despite not taking part in the final round of the World Championship due to the accident suffered in Caen, Rosier would still manage to finish the season 19th in the driver standings.
Although the World Championship for 1956 was now over, there was still more racing ahead for Ecurie Rosier. In endurance sportscar racing, Rosier seemed to be enjoying a resurgence as he would be enjoying a level of success not seen since his glorious overall victory at Le Mans with his son back in 1950.
The resurgence had actually started back in early 1955 when he scored a 2nd place finish in the Dakar Grand Prix driving a Ferrari 750 Monza. He would follow that performance up with two-straight victories. One of those would be in the 4 Hours of Forez in the 750 Monza. The second would also come in the 750 Monza, but this time in the Grand Prix Bougie. The season would then end with two more 2nd place finishes in the Charterhall International Sports Unlimited race and at Castle Combe in early October.
It seemed his Formula One career was perhaps drawing to a close while his sportscar career was still going strong. Such a view could have been supported when, in 1956, he partnered with Jean Behra and ended up winning the 1000km of Paris. The two men had started the race from the pole and would end nearly 3 minutes ahead at the finish of the race.
But then came a string of retirements. It seemed like it was all going wrong. It would be unfortunate however no one realized just what was on the horizon.
The tide seemed to be stemmed with the Grand Prix of Pescara. Driving a Ferrari 166MM, Rosier would start that race from 22nd on the grid. Measuring 16 miles in length, the Pescara circuit seemed to suit Rosier and his approach to racing, which was much more strategic, endurance minded.
Despite finishing the race a full lap behind eventual winner Robert Manzon, Rosier would still manage to finish the race in 16th place. This was truly nothing special, but after the run of retirements Rosier had been on the result certainly had to feel better than what it would have seemed on paper.
But then there was the Coupes du Salon on the 7th of October.
The last time Rosier had been at the Montlhery Circuit it had been back in mid-June with Jean Behra for the Paris 1000 Kilometers. Driving a Maserati 300S, the two Frenchman started the race from the pole and would look to be one of the favorites right from the very beginning of the race.
Chased by such drivers as Maurice Trintignant, Harry Schell, Robert Manzon and Phil Hill; Rosier and Behra would come through the 1000 kilometers absolutely unscathed and would end up taking the victory by two minutes and 41 seconds ahead of Harry Schell and Jean Lucas. So the Montlhery Circuit was certainly familiar and welcome in the mind of Rosier.
Therefore, it would make perfect sense why the Ecurie Rosier team would arrive at the Montlhery Circuit for the Coupes du Salon race held on the circuit on the 7th of October. A number of top drivers, especially French drivers, would arrive at the circuit to take part in the race.
The Coupes du Salon consisted of 24 laps around the Montlhery circuit. Rosier would be back behind the wheel of the Ferrari 750 Monza and since the race was just about an hour long, or 24 laps, he would be on his throughout the course of the race. In fact, Jean Behra would also be in the race but would be driving for the USA team in a Maserati-powered Talbot.
Despite being at the wheel of a Ferrari 750 Monza, Rosier would have a difficult task on his hands given the Maserati 300S driven by Godia-Sales along with the Jaguar D-Type entered by British driver Duncan Hamilton. Therefore, the competition would be tight in each of the classes and the potential for mistakes great.
The race would make use of both the road and track circuit. This meant the fearsome banking would be every bit a player in the race, but nobody would realize until the race got going just how much of a player it would be.
Francisco Godia-Sales would be flying at the wheel of a Maserati 300S while Duncan Hamilton would look impressive in the D-Type Jaguar. Jean Behra, ever the consistent and fast driver, would also be right up there amongst the best in the race.
Some of the retirements in the race would seem innocuous enough. Peter Ashdown would suffer an accident but would walk away. Gerard Crombac would have engine-related issues and would end up out of the race. Hermano da Silva Ramos would suffer overheating in his Gordini T15S. The race, therefore, seemed straightforward and harmless.
All of that would change and the happy occasion would turn absolutely tragic in a moments notice. The first terrible turn would come with Benoit Musy in his 2-liter Maserati. Powering his way into the steep banking very much a part of the character of fame of Montlhery, the steering on the Maserati would fail sending Musy flying over the top of the banking and crashing down hard on the other side. Tangled in the wreck, Musy would be killed almost instantaneously when the car came crashing down.
Musy's death certainly should have been enough, but there was still yet another to come. Pushing hard in his Ferrari, Rosier would end up making a slight mistake that would lead to him spinning around wildly. The car would then overturn a number of times, but Rosier would not be thrown clear. Trapped in the car through the whole thing, Rosier would suffer injury after injury due to the car crushing him in the process of slowing itself down.
When the car finally came to a rest it seemed clear the soon-to-be 51 year old was teetering on the break of death and actually showed very little signs of living through even the next moments.
Extracted from the car, Rosier would be taken to a hospital in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. Showing that same fighting spirit that served him well throughout his time in the Resistance and when a prisoner of war, Rosier's body would hang on for three agonizing weeks before finally letting his spirit go free. Louis Rosier was dead, and only about a week or so from his 51st birthday. One half of the only father-son combination to have ever won Le Mans was now gone, and with him went the Ecurie Rosier team.
Although Ecurie Rosier was no longer, the team would certainly serve with distinction foster the careers of drivers like Andre Simon, Robert Manzon, Maurice Trintignant and Jean Behra. But even though the team would be gone forever after 1956, the legacy of Louis Rosier would continue to live on with the Charade race track in Clermont-Ferrand and his large Renault dealership in Clermont-Ferrand.
And so, in many ways, the spirit of Rosier remains and remains in a very similar fashion to when it was physically active. Though never one of the first to come to mind, the Rosier name just had that ability of jumping out and surprising everyone to remind all he was still very much present, just as he is today.