Raymond Sommer

Raymond Sommer

Sommer portrait.jpg (4822 bytes)Raymond Sommer was born on the 31st August 1906, the son of a wealthy carpet manufacturer and aviation pioneer. Raymond was a successful boxer and went to college in Manchester, England before returning to work for the family business in France.

He decided that he wanted to be a racing driver, persuaded his father to buy him a Chrysler Imperial and, in March 1931, he took part in his first road race, between Paris and Nice. The following year he bought an Alfa Romeo 8C and, when his team mate Luigi Chinetti became ill, Sommer drove 20 of the 24 hours at Le Mans to win. Three weeks later he finished third to Louis Chiron and Rene Dreyfus in the Nice Grand Prix and a week after that, he won the Grand Prix de Marseilles at Miramas.

Raymond Sommer.jpg (16870 bytes)In 1933 he joined the Maserati team while continuing to race his Alfa in sports car events and, sharing with Nuvolari, he won the Le Mans 24 Hours for a second time. In 1935 he bought an Alfa Romeo P3 and won races at Comminges and Montlhéry but by 1936 the car was no longer competitive. That year he shared victory in the Grand Prix de l'ACF at Montlhéry with Jean-Pierre Wimille in a Bugatti. Raymond also won the Spa 24 Hours and finished fourth in the Vanderbilt Cup.

In 1937 Raymond raced for Ferrari and competed in France with a Talbot sports car, winning the Marseilles Three Hours at Miramas and the Grand Prix de Tunisie and becoming French Champion. There was little success in 1938 although he led at Le Mans before his car failed. He was French Champion again in 1939, racing as variety of cars.

During the war Sommer was a member of the French Resistance, but at the end of hostilities he brought out the Alfa Romeo 308 he had campaigned before the war and found immediate success, beating the 158 Alfettas at St Cloud, before joining Maserati, unsuccessfully, for 1947.

After suffering from an illness and involvement with the ill-fated CTA Arsenal project, Sommer joined Ferrari in 1948 but left midway through the following season to run his own Talbot Lago, winning at Montlhéry and leading the 1950 Belgian Grand Prix. Raymond had signed by BRM for the marque's infamous debut at the 1950 British Grand Prix in May where the car failed to move from the grid.

On the 11th June, he won the 500 race at Angoulême in a Cooper Mk IV and followed this with a second to Moss at Daily Express Meeting, Silverstone on 26th August. Only a fortnight later, in September, Raymond Sommer became the first fatality in a Cooper when the steering failed on the 1,100cc Mk IV he had borrowed from John Cooper for the Haute Garonne Grand Prix at Cadours.