Raymond Sommer (born August 31st 1906, died September 10th 1950) was a French motor racing driver who competed in Grands Prix from 1931, prior to entering the Formula One World Championship in 1950. In addition to this, Sommer competed in nine runnings of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, winning on two occasions (1932 and 1933).
Sommer made his Formula One début at the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in 1950 where he finished in fourth place. However, his World Championship career was cut short after only a few months, when the Frenchman was killed in a racing accident at the Circuit de Cadours, France, when his car overturned at a corner.
Prior to Formula 1 World Championship
Raymond’s father, Roger broke the Wright Brothers record for the longest flight in 1909 and in 1931, Raymond started showing his own daredevil tendencies entering motor races in a privateer Chrysler Imperial. The following year Sommer won the Le Mans 24 Hour driving 18 hours of the race himself when his teammate Luigi Chinetti fell ill.
During the 1930’s Sommer dominated the French Enduro, winning again in 1933 for Alfa Romeo and led every race up to 1938. In one race he had a 12-lap lead when his car suffered mechanical failure and retired.
His tendency to drive privately entered cars rather than factory cars made him an underdog in Grand Prix but pulled off a popular victory in the 1936 French GP against the big German manufacturers.
During WW II, Sommer played an active part in the French Resistance and famously shot down a German plane with his rifle.
After the war he lead an unpopular campaign to free Dr. Ferdinand Porsche from a Dijon jail and won, then returned to motor racing enjoying his most successful season in 1946, including the infamous GP of St. Cloud where the factory Alfa Romeo's failed.
He also enjoyed success in 1947 driving a privateer Ferrari, taking the marque’s first ever privateer victory but this was the same year he had a nasty crash at Pau, nearly biting his tongue off, and was out of action for a time after accidentally drinking ethanol.
His on the edge driving style was spectacular to the point it even concerned the Italians.
Sommer started the season in Monaco as a Ferrari works driver alongside Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi and was one of the drivers to navigate his way through the melee and drama at the Monaco GP when the track had become flooded at the Tabac corner on the first lap. Sommer eventually brought his Ferrari home 4th for 3 World Championship points.
The team missed the 3rd round of the championship at Indianapolis but Sommer again traveled with the team to Switzerland for the 4th round at the Bremgarten circuit. Here Sommer qualified poorly in comparison to his teammates in 13th and retired early. He was then subsequently sacked by the Enzo Ferrari out of the factory team.
Sommer competed in the next round of the championship at Spa-Francochamps in a privately entered Talbot-Lago and qualified on the second row, sharing it with his former Ferrari teammate Luigi Villoresi and ahead of Alberto Ascari.
In the race he started strongly battling with the Ferrari's before giving them the slip and going on up the road in pursuit of the dominant Alfa Romeo's. When the Alfa Romeo's pitted for fuel Sommer found himself in the unlikely position of leading the race for 5 laps before the Alfas caught him back up. Sadly on lap 20 Sommer had to retire his car with oil pressure problems.
After his strong showing at Spa, Sommer was given a factory Talbot-Lago drive at Reims but would retire early on.
At the Italian GP, Ferrari had brought a new engined car but factory driver Luigi Villoresi had been involved in a traffic accident on the way back from testing it. Team manager Enzo Ferrari asked Sommer if he could rejoin the Ferrari team to replace his injured driver but organisers would not allow him to.
During the race the new Ferrari of Ascari battled for the lead and even lead for a few laps. The only other time this season the Alfa Romeos hadn't led was when Sommer himself leading at Spa.
Sommer continued to drive for the Talbot-Lago team at Monza and qualified comfortable ahead of his teammates. He was running a strong 4th towards the end of the race and looked likely to score points when his gearbox failed.
After 1950 Season
After the season had finished Sommer tested for the new ambitious British manufacturer BRM and they entered him in the tourist trophy at Silverstone. Sadly the car suffered transmision trouble and did not finish the race.
Sommer also contested a race in an 1100cc Cooper at Cadous and was dominating when he crashed. Sommer died from the injuries substained.
It is thought that a wheel bearing may have failed on his car.
Formula One Statistical Overview
Formula One Record
|Year||Entrant||Team||WDC Points||WDC Pos.|
|Raymond Sommer (privateer)||Talbot-Lago|
|Front Row Starts||0|
|Distance Raced||1062.844 km (660 mi)|
|Distance Led||70.600 km (44 mi)|
Non-championship Grands Prix are shown in pink. Pre-championship (before 1950) Grands Prix are shown in blue
|Win Number||Grand Prix||Competition|
|1932 Grand Prix de Marseilles||Non-championship|
|1935 Grand Prix de l'UMF||Non-championship|
|1935 Grand Prix du Comminges||Non-championship|
|1939 Remparts Grand Prix||Non-championship|
|1946 René le Bègue Cup||1946 Grandes Épreuves|
|1946 Grand Prix de Marseille||Non-championship|
|1946 Forez Grand Prix||Non-championship|
|1946 Circuit des Trois Villes||Non-championship|
|1946 Coupe du Salon||Non-championship|
|1949 Grand Prix du Salon||Non-championship|
|Complete Formula One results|
|3rd||DNQ||Did not qualify|
|5th||Points finish||DNPQ||Did not pre-qualify|
|14th||Non-points finish||TD||Test driver|
|Italics||Scored point(s) for Fastest Lap||DNS||Did not start|
|†||Classified finish (retired with >90% race distance)||NC||Non-classified finish (<90% race distance)|
|P||Qualified for pole position||[+] More Symbols|
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