Marathon Man (3) – Louis Rosier’s near-solo triumph

Marathon Man (3) – Louis Rosier’s near-solo triumph

Louis Rosier, a garage owner from Clermont-Ferrand, took part in the 1950 Le Mans 24 Hours with his son, Jean-Louis. They competed in a Talbot that resembled a remnant of the pre-war era.

After four hours of the race, Louis Rosier lay in second place. Encouraged by his reasonable start, he stepped on the gas – and pulverised the 1939 lap record by twenty seconds in the process! Snubbing the notion of “sharing” the wheel, Rosier Senior rolled off stint after stint despite being almost taken out by an owl that demolished the Talbot’s tiny windscreen. He was also forced to pit when the rocker arm was reshaped by an unintentional downshift from fifth to second gear.

The noise on reaching the garage startled Rosier’s mechanic, Robert Aumaitre, a veteran of many pre-war Bugatti campaigns. Aumaitre urged the horde of inquisitive ACO officials to accept a glass of champagne proffered by the Talbot drivers’ wives while he slipped into the truck for “a bite to eat” in preparation for the job ahead. The cunning mechanic reappeared with an oversized sandwich which concealed a new rocker arm! Forty-five minutes later, the part was in place and Jean-Louis took over for three laps while his father refuelled on bananas. Once back behind the wheel, the replenished Rosier stormed back into the lead and claimed a memorable Le Mans victory. The triumph was all the more remarkable in view of the tremendous energy required to handle the massive two-seater GS version of the Talbot TS 26, based on the Formula One single-seater to which motorcycle mudguards, extra headlamps and drum brakes had been added, as well as the tiny windscreen that failed the bird test.

An alternative rendition of the story of Rosier’s epic performance claims that his son completed one or two stints. No matter – what is certain is that Louis Rosier spent at least 22 hours at the wheel.

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