Teams1952 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Throughout his racing career, Louis Rosier proved to be one of a relatively few number of truly competitive private entrants within grand prix racing. Despite offering cars to other drivers for years under his team name Ecurie Rosier, Louis would enter the 1952 Formula One World Championship as his own team's lone entry.
Though going it alone, Rosier would be armed with a truly powerful weapon. Headed into the season Louis had been able to secure his own Ferrari 500 in order to take part in the Formula One season, which was competing according to Formula 2 rules for 1952.
Louis' grand prix season didn't begin until the first round of the French F2 Championship, which was the 13th Grand Prix of Pau held on the 14th of April. This event, as would all of the rounds for the French F2 Championship, would be a timed event. The total time for the race was three hours.
Rosier's Ferrari 500 would be one of five 500s that would qualify for the race. While Ascari impressed with a lap around the 1.75 mile of one minute and forty-three seconds, Rosier's time wasn't all that impressive. Louis' time was exactly five seconds slower and only good enough for the Frenchman to start the race 8th and in the third row. Ferrari teammate, and friend of Ascari, Luigi Villoresi would qualify 2nd with a time less than a second slower than Alberto's. Lance Macklin finished off the front row in 3rd.
While pole-positions are impressive, race-results are of paramount importance. Throughout his career, nobody seemed to understand this better than Rosier. The three hour race around the streets of Pau would demonstrate that once again.
Attrition was heavy during the endurance test. By the end of the three hour race eleven cars would either be not classified or retired from the race. Rosier would end up keeping his head and would drive steady throughout, avoiding problems with his own car.
All of the troubles amongst the field allowed Ascari to leave the rest of the field an incredibly long way behind. By the end of the race, Ascari won with an advantage of three laps over the 2nd place finisher, which happened to be Louis. Rosier drove steady, and fast enough, to complete 96 laps by the end. More importantly, he would finish 2nd. Equipe Gordini's Jean Behra would finish 3rd, another two laps behind Rosier. The race would have a number of victims. Only six cars would actually complete the race.
Ecurie Rosier's next race was the 2nd round of the French F2 Championship. Rosier travelled to Marseille to take part in what was the 10th Grand Prix of Marseille. The race took place on the 27th of April, and only about three weeks before the start of the Formula One World Championship.
The Marseille circuit was the 1.65 mile Parc Borley circuit and it featured generally fast sweeping turns and esses. This layout enabled average speeds to remain rather high. This would be noted after the results from qualifying.
Alberto Ascari took the pole for the race needing only one minute and seventeen seconds to complete the 1.65 miles. Robert Manzon started 2nd followed by Luigi Villoresi in 3rd. In a display of consistency, Louis Rosier would start the race 7th having set a time, again, five seconds slower than Ascari.
Rosier would push during the race, but would also allow the race to come to him. This tactic wasn't going to help him catch Ascari, but it was positioning him for another top-five, or better, result. Nineteen cars started the race. By the time Ascari had completed over 50 laps, seven were out of the race due to problems. Amongst those out of the race were Villoresi, Manzon and Trintignant. All three had started in front of Rosier. Unfortunately, Louis wouldn't be able to take advantage of these failures because his own car would fail him. On the 59th lap, his race would come to an end after his Ferrari 500 suffered from a lubrication problem. Rosier's problem made it three cars in a row that had to retire due to lubrication issues.
Ascari would go on to win the race over Robert Manzon and Johnny Claes. Furthermore, Ascari would enlarge his lead in the French F2 results. Rosier's failure prohibited him from keeping pace.
Ecurie Rosier's next race did not happen until the early part of May. Rosier had decided to skip the BRDC International Trophy race in Silverstone, and instead, entered the 5th Grand Prix of Napoli.
The race in Posillipo Park consisted of 60 laps of the 2.52 mile road course. More than half of the field would consist of teams running Ferrari chassis. In qualifying, the Ferrari chassis would dominate. Giuseppe Farina would take the pole followed by Piero Taruffi and Andre Simon. Louis Rosier would qualify 4th and would start from the two car second row. Louis' 4th place starting spot made it four Ferrari 500s in a row.
The same Ferrari 500s that dominated in qualifying would go on to dominate the race. Farina would start from the pole and would win the race. Taruffi would keep the order and would finish 2nd, over a minute behind. Simon dropped out of the race after a crash on lap 34. Unfortunately, Rosier wasn't able to muster the pace to take advantage. Instead, Franco Comotti, in an older Ferrari 166 would finish in 3rd. Rosier would complete 48 laps, but would not be classified in the results.
One week later, Ecurie Rosier headed to Berne, Switzerland to take part in the first round of the Formula One World Championship. Louis' race at the 4.52 mile Bremgarten road course would not be the way the Frenchman would have liked to start the season.
It all started to go wrong during practice. While Farina would go on to take the pole over Piero Taruffi and Robert Manzon, Rosier wouldn't get going at all. In the end, Rosier would end up starting the race from 20th on the grid after setting no time. It wouldn't turn into a dramatic run up through the field either.
Farina would lead from the start, followed by Taruffi and Manzon. Normally, Rosier was one that exhibited good car control, but while battling from the back of the grid, mistakes are easy to make. Sure enough, on the second lap, Rosier would suffer an accident and would end up out of the race.
Farina wouldn't go on to win either. Magneto problems in Farina's car dropped him out of the race. Taruffi would assume the lead and would never look back. Taruffi led the final 46 laps to take the win by over two minutes and thirty-seven seconds in front of Rudi Fischer for Ecurie Espadon. Jean Behra finished 3rd for Equipe Gordini. While Rosier would score points during the first round of the French F2 Championship, all Louis would leave the first round of the Formula One World Championship with was a broken car.
On May 25th, the third round of the French F2 Championship was set to take place on the 3.90 mile Troisiéme Circuit at Montlhery. The race was the three hour timed 6th Grand Prix of Paris. Once again, it would be a race exhibiting Ferrari's dominance.
In qualifying, however, it would be an Equipe Gordini T16; driven by Robert Manzon, that would set the fastest time and start from the pole. Taruffi would start 2nd after setting a time only eight tenths slower. Luigi Villoresi would complete the front row by starting 3rd. Louis's best time was, once again, five seconds slower than Manzon's. Rosier's pace was good enough for the Frenchman to start the race 6th.
Eighteen cars roared away at the start of the race. By 50 laps in, seven of the eighteen would be out of the race due to problems. Confusion and craziness marked the last third of the race. Farina tried to take over Villoresi's car in order to chase for the win, but would be disqualified for receiving outside help when getting going again. Farina's car was then taken over by Andre Simon. Two drivers carried on without too much trouble. Piero Taruffi would win the event, avoiding the troubles others ran into over the course of the three hour event. Taruffi's winning margin was three laps over a happy Andre Simon in Giuseppe Farina's stranded Ferrari 500. Another that ran a quiet but successful race was Louis Rosier. He would end up finishing the race 3rd, four laps down. This steady result would earn Louis more points toward the French F2 Championship.
As usual, Rosier was proving to be fast, and on the verge of victory. He just hadn't gotten the right opportunity. The right opportunity would come on the 1st of June at the 14th Grand Prix of Albi.
In addition to grand prix races run to Formula 2 regulations (Formula One and the French F2 Championship in 1952), there were still a number of grand prix races throughout Europe in 1952 that were run to Formula One regulations, which allowed bigger cars with larger liter engines. One of those races was the 14th Grand Prix of Albi.
Cars, like the Talbot-Lago T26C, the BRM 15 and the Ferrari 375 were allowed to come out of retirement to compete against the 2-liter engines that were currently being run in Formula One during that year. One of the dominant Ferrari 375s entered for the race belonged to Ecurie Rosier.
During the later-part of 1951, Ferrari's 375 not only competed against Alfa Romeo's powerful 159, it actually would become the dominant car by the end. Louis Rosier and Chico Landi would end up proving the car was still dominant.
The troublesome BRM P15 would end up starting the race from the first-two positions on the grid as Juan Manuel Fangio took the pole followed by fellow-Argentinean Jose Froilan Gonzalez. Posting a time eleven seconds slower, Rosier would start 3rd, but on the front row of the grid.
The big 16-cylinder BRMs led the way at the start, followed closely by Rosier. Proving the BRM P15 still made more noise than might, both Gonzalez and Fangio were out of the race by lap 15. Pretty much all Louis had to do was hold on to the 375 and it would win. That's exactly what he would do. Louis ended up winning the race by sixteen seconds over Brazilian Chico Landi! Gonzalez had set the fastest lap of the race with an average speed in excess of 106 mph. Over the course of the 34 lap event Rosier would average 101 mph, but the steady, consistent and reliable drive gave him the victory.
Another Formula One-spec event took place the very next week at Dundrod in Northern Ireland. Louis had competed at the Ulster Trophy Race only once and it was the previous year. His experience was a positive one as he would leave the event having scored a top-ten finish. As a result, Rosier decided to pack up his Ferrari 375 and head to Ireland.
The 6th Ulster Trophy Race would be a real test of the Formula One and Formula 2 machines entered. The road course around Dundrod was 7.41 miles in length. The race distance was 34 laps, or, 250 miles. Average speeds around the track were high, and therefore, wear and tear on the car and driver would also be high.
Powering down the long straights and sweeping curves of the Dundrod circuit, Piero Taruffi recorded the best time during practice with a five minute and six second lap. This gave the Italian the pole in North Ireland. British driver, Mike Hawthorn would be three seconds slower, but would start 2nd. Louis would be a full ten seconds slower but would also start from the front row in 3rd.
During the race, Taruffi would dominate in his Ferrari 375. He would end up setting the fastest lap of the race with a time over twelve seconds faster than his pole time. Hawthorn would hold steady in 2nd, but Rosier would get locked into a battle with local Irishman Joe Kelly for the 3rd place.
Piero would win the 250 miles race by three and a half minutes over Hawthorn. Kelly would give the Irish fans reason to cheer as he would beat out Rosier for 3rd by one and a half minutes.
On the 22nd of June, the 3rd round of the Formula One World Championship was set to take place in Francorchamps, Belgium. The 14th Belgian Grand Prix would take place at the long and fast Spa circuit. It was 8.77 miles of undulating public roads that wound through the Ardennes Forest. It was a fast layout, but was notoriously dogged by unexpected weather.
Runner-up to the championship in 1951, Alberto Ascari was present for what was actually his second round of the World Championship. He had competed, unsuccessfully, in the Indianapolis 500 the previous month and was looking to get his season on track. So too was Ecurie Rosier.
All indications after qualifying were that Rosier would have a tough time getting his Formula One season going at Spa. Upon his return, Ascari promptly went out and took the pole. 1950 World Champion Giuseppe Farina would start 2nd followed by Ferrari teammate Taruffi in 3rd. Louis was nowhere near the front-runners. Twenty-two drivers would qualify their cars for the 36 lap race. Rosier would qualify toward the back of the grid in 17th.
A steady drive could have seen Louis make his way up into the top-ten with his Ferrari 500, but, the car has to be up to the challenge. It wasn't. A soaking rain was falling on the track as the field roared away and up the hill at Eau Rouge for the first time. Ascari rocketed away, with the other front-runners in hot pursuit. Very soon, Louis was just concerned with being able to carry on the pursuit. Then, on the 6th lap, his race came to an end due to transmission problems. Ascari would lead all but one lap of the race and would take the win in front of Farina and Robert Manzon. Despite the rain, Alberto powered away from his competition and would have almost a two minute margin of victory. Louis just wanted to see the end of a Formula One race.
One championship in which Rosier was finishing races was the French F2 Championship. The fourth round of the championship, the 20th Grand Prix of the Marne, was one week after Louis' disappointing Belgian Grand Prix. This was a blessing as it helped him to focus on the next race instead of being frustrated by what had already taken place.
Rosier continued to struggle in practice leading up to the event. While Ascari would take the pole with a time of two minutes and twenty-six seconds, the best Louis could do was a lap almost twenty seconds slower. He would start the race from the fifth row in 11th.
However, looks can be deceiving. The three hour race around the 4.45 public road course got underway with every expectation being that Ascari would dominate the event. Instead, the competition would be fierce around the ultra-fast Reims circuit. Throughout the event Ferrari could not pull away. Equipe Gordini's Jean Behra and Robert Manzon would remain right there. Meanwhile, Louis appeared to get the problems sorted and was moving up the order. The fast pace was extremely hard on the cars and the drivers. Six entries would be out of the race before 20 laps because of either engine or transmission troubles. Thankfully for Rosier, he wasn't one of them.
Jean Behra would complete 71 laps during the three hour race and would take the surprise victory. Farina would finish 2nd, one lap down. Ascari gave up his ride to his friend Villoresi who had dropped after 4th lap of the race, and would go on to finish 3rd. Rosier would come all the way up from 11th to finish the race 5th, six laps down. This earned Louis more points toward the French F2 Championship.
Rosier had been able to score points at a number of French F2 Championship races, but had come up empty at each of the Formula One races he entered. The best scenario Rosier could ask or hope for was to have a Formula One round also count toward the French F2 Championship. That scenario would happen on the 6th of July at Rouen-Les-Essarts.
Rouen-Les-Essarts was a favorite road course for many teams and drivers. After qualifying, it appeared it would be a favorite of Rosier's as well. Louis' effort would provide him the best starting position he ever had at any of the Formula One events earlier in the season. He would not be in contention for the pole, as neither would anyone else. The pole was strictly reserved for Alberto Ascari. Scuderia Ferrari would end up making it clear the front row was reserved for itself when Farina would start 2nd and Taruffi 3rd. Forgetting about the front row, Rosier focused on giving himself the best starting spot he could get. He would end up cracking the top-ten. He would end up starting the race 9th.
Rather unusual, the race would be a timed event, instead of a specific number of laps. It wouldn't end up mattering to Rosier, unless the race only lasted about 38 minutes. If it had, then he would have cared. Alberto took off at the start of the race and began lapping the course and the field without a hiccup. Louis was looking good as well, but holding his breath throughout. Sure enough, on his 17th lap, it all ended when his Ferrari's engine let-go. Once again, Rosier would leave a Formula One round without even having finished. Ascari would end up leading every lap of the race and would win by a lap over Farina and Taruffi. Just as they started, the Scuderia Ferrari drivers ended.
The frustration and the failed engine led Rosier to miss the sixth round of the French F2 Championship at Les Sables one week after Rouen-Les-Essarts. Undoubtedly because of the frustrating finishes and Scuderia's dominance, Rosier would abandon Formula One races until the Italian Grand Prix in September. Instead, Rosier would focus on more local and competitive events. Therefore, his next race would be the 1st Grand Prix of Caen on the 27th of June.
Louis sorely needed some positive results in order to revive his confidence and momentum. Scuderia Ferrari did not attend the event. This would enable Ecurie Rosier, and others, to have a chance at a good result and prize money.
Chances were looking very good for Rosier after qualifying for the 75 lap event. Louis was able to traverse the 2.55 mile road course with a time good enough for him to start 2nd on the grid. The rest of the front row consisted of fellow countrymen. Maurice Trintignant would start on pole and Yves Giraud-Cabantous would start 3rd.
It was important for Rosier to finish the race just with a good result. Therefore, from the very start, he would not push the issue all that much. Trintignant would pull away at the front. Giraud-Cabantous would end up dropping out of the race with a wheel problem. However, Trintignant's Equipe Gordini teammate, Jean Behra, would end up getting by Rosier for 2nd. Maurice would end up winning the race over Behra, but, Rosier would finish the race, and would do so on the podium in 3rd. Despite finishing over two minutes behind, he finished. This was the most important part to building some momentum.
Rosier's second trip across the English Channel would be at the beginning of August. He entered the 2nd Daily Mail Trophy race, held at Boreham, England. The race would also allow Rosier to leave behind his troublesome Ferrari 500, and instead, compete with his Ferrari 375.
The race was to be 67 laps around the 3.00 mile airfield circuit. The setting enabled an unusually wide grid arrangement to be used. The five fastest qualifiers would all occupy the front row. The next four-fastest would occupy the second row. Luigi Villoresi would take the pole in a Ferrari 375. Louis would end up qualifying 5th, and therefore, would start from the front row.
As the race started, the pace was furious at the front. On the 3rd lap, Jose Froilan Gonzalez crashed out in his BRM P15, and, Ken Wharton had slipped down the order. However, Mike Hawthorn had been able to push his way past Rosier and into the lead in front of the Ferraris. From that point on, Louis would shut the door and pull away.
Villoresi would end up making his way past and would take the victory by ten seconds over Chico Landi in another Ferrari 375. Hawthorn would push his Cooper-Bristol and would finish 3rd. Louis had been able to pull away by about minute over Alan Brown and would finish the race 5th.
Heading back to the continent, Rosier would take part in the seventh round of the French F2 Championship, the three hour race at St. Gaudens. The 16th Grand Prix of Comminges was the second-to-last round of the championship. As far as Louis was concerned, hopefully the grand prix would continue to provide encouraging results.
All-in-all, Louis had performed well in French F2 Championship races throughout the season. But overall, the year had been a difficult one. Nineteen drivers would qualify for the race at St. Gaudens. Rosier was positioned rather well up near the front of the starting grid in 7th place. His time was a little over six seconds slower than Ascari, who sat on the pole.
Attrition would play a big part in the race. Not even Ascari was immune. The difference was the ability to cope, and, confidence. Normally, Rosier was steady, almost unshakable, behind the wheel. However, when a season has been filled with frustration after frustration, the unusual can become the norm. Rosier's frustrating season would only cause further problems for the usually unwavering Frenchman. While Ascari had been able to take over Andre Simon's car and retake the lead of the race, others; like Rosier, would not be able to cope with problems as easy. This reality became evident when, on the 56th lap, Rosier made a mistake and suffered a crash. He was out of the race, and, unable to take over another car to try and make it to the finish.
Ascari would, however, recover and would win the race by a lap over Farina, and six laps over Jean Behra. Louis would leave yet another race with a retirement.
By not taking part in any Formula One races between the French Grand Prix and the Italian Grand Prix, Louis would have two weeks before his next grand prix. The next grand prix he would take part was the last of the 1952 French F2 Championship.
The last round of the championship that year was the 11th Grand Prix de La Baule on the 24th of August. The race was held at the airfield near La Baule along France's western coast. The layout was 2.66 miles around the airfield.
Qualifying times for the race were rather close. Not surprisingly, Alberto Ascari took the pole. Robert Manzon was only a second slower and would start 2nd on the 2-2 grid. Farina and Villoresi would start on the second row. The top-four times were only separated by two seconds. Louis couldn't match the pace. His best time was nine seconds slower than Alberto's. This time earned the Frenchman 10th on the grid.
Once again, attrition was a problem during the race. The long main straight and the tighter turns would cause a number of retirements due to accidents and failures. Rosier was helped when Farina and Manzon came together on the 1st lap, knocking both out of the race. As he had over the course of the last few races, Louis drove his usual steady, consistent pace and would allow the event to come to him. And it would. Nobody could touch Ascari, who would go on to win by a lap over teammate and friend Villoresi. However, Rosier would control his Ferrari 500 and march it up through the field. Though four laps down, he would finish the race 3rd.
This result would help Rosier not only build momentum and confidence, but it also helped him in the final standings for the French F2 Championship. The 3rd place finish at the last race allowed him to jump up to 5th place in the final order, tied with Jean Behra with 16 points.
With one championship out of the way, Rosier headed off to Monza, Italy to be part of the conclusion of another. Ascari had already locked up the championship after the previous event in Zandvoort, Netherlands. This meant the Italian Grand Prix was more a show for the crowd and for personal pride. Besides, Rosier was driving a Ferrari in an Italian race—he almost had to come.
Qualifying for the 80 lap event would do little to bring levity to Louis. Ascari took yet another pole, followed by Villoresi and Farina. In front of the Italian crowd, Scuderia Ferrari would start one-two-three. Rosier's time around the 3.91 mile road course meant he was headed toward the front row as well, if one was looking backward. Louis would start 17th.
The field roared away for the 23rd Italian Grand Prix. Jose Froilan Gonzalez drew the ire of the Italian fans when he raced to the lead on half-full tanks. Meanwhile, Louis was getting into a comfortable pace and trying to move forward. After Gonzalez's first pit stop, Ascari took over the lead and would never look back.
Despite being over 300 miles in length, the race saw rather low attrition. Thankfully for Louis, he was not amongst the nine that would fall out of the race. Although he was driving the same car, Alberto was lapping Rosier as if he were standing still. Ascari would win the race easily. He had a margin of over a minute on Gonzalez. Villoresi would finish in 3rd. Scuderia Ferrari ended up with two cars on the podium. Rosier also had success. Though he didn't finish near the points, he nonetheless finished. Rosier would end the race in 10th place.
The previous year, Louis had managed to earn three points in the championship, despite the presence of both Scuderia Ferrari and Alfa Romeo SpA. However, he would end 1952 shut-out in the points and ended up only finishing one of the events.
Although the championships were over, Rosier still had one more grand prix in which he would compete before the end of 1952. He entered the 4th Circuit de Cadours on the 14th of September, in an attempt at one more good result before the end of the season.
The race was made up of two 15 lap heat races and a 30 lap final. In practice before his heat 1 race, Rosier recorded the best time and would sit on the pole. His time of one minute and fifty-eight seconds was five seconds faster than Peter Collins' time in 2nd. Armed with that kind of pace, all he would have to do is hold onto the car to make it through his heat race. He would hold on and would win the heat.
After the second heat race, the grid was set for the 30 lap final. Rosier's time in practice before his heat was still the time to beat. Therefore, he would start on pole again. Collins, whose time was five seconds slower, again started 2nd. Once again, all he would have to do is hold on. The car had the pace to win, if, the car could make it to the end.
The field roared away at the start. Louis was up at the front, holding on. Over the course of the race, he wouldn't just hold on, he would pull away. The car held together, and Louis remained out of trouble. Rosier took the victory by thirty seconds over Harry Schell and Emmanuel de Graffenried. This result allowed Rosier to end what was a heart-breaking 1952 campaign on a high note. It also encouraged him to look to the next year.