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Unsung Heroes: Raymond Sommer

2 years ago

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Andrew Frankel | Ti co-founder


19 July 2022

You might think the man who gave Ferrari only its second win, humbled Nuvolari, won Le Mans twice and was first to upset Alfa Romeo’s seemingly invincible applecart in both its pre and post-war heydays would be remembered as one of the Gods of racing.

And yet, if you mention Raymond Sommer to even reasonably well versed motor racing cognoscenti, the best you can usually hope for is a furrowed brow and a couple of pursed lips. The name will ring a bell – often quite loudly – and some will hazard correctly that he was French and raced either side of the war. Beyond that there’s usually a blank.

And yet the fact that the name of Sommer does not trip as easily off the tongue as Varzi, Chiron, Farina and Ascari is actually and entirely Sommer’s fault. If he’d taken even half the works drives he was offered, he’d now be remembered as one of the greatest drivers that France, or any other nation for that matter, ever produced. But, as we shall see, such was not Sommer’s way.

Raymond Sommer was born in Paris on the last day of August, 1906 – one of few blessed dates that ensured you were both too young for the first World War and too old to fight in the second – though he hardly idled his way through the latter.

Money was never going to be a problem for the young Sommer, thanks to family carpet making business in Sedan, a medium sized town to the north-east of Reims where France meets the Ardennes. But the Sommers were more than just millionaires. Before little Raymond’s third birthday, his father, Roger, took to the skies in his Farmer aircraft and did not come down again until he’d flown further than anyone else in history, breaking the record held by the Wright Brothers.

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