Rosie Roussel, midgets and sprint cars Jul 15, 2013 22:09:16 GMT 1
Post by administrator on Jul 15, 2013 22:09:16 GMT 1
This article appeared in the August 2007 edition of the British oval magazine 'Short Circuit', a few days before the death of 83-year-old Rosie Roussel.
by John Hyam
IT is 58 years since the American midget car team breezed into London for a 10-week stay but left for home in half that time.
There were 20 drivers in the party. Now just three are still alive. They are Rosie Roussel, Byron Counts and the colourful Inky ‘Cowboy’ Ingram.
Of the trio, Roussel now 83 years old, remains the most active within the sport. He still takes an active interest in proceeding from his California home, and also has plenty of space devoted to him on a website.
Roussel, Ingram, Counts and the other drivers, the best know of whom was the USA-domiciled New Zealander Frank ‘Satan’ Brewer, took part in meetings on what turned out to be ill-prepared tracks at the old Stamford Bridge, Walthamstow and The Valley football ground at Charlton.
Frankly, the tour has been ‘done to death’ in print over they years with a variety of reasons given for its failure - including a rather bizarre attitude towards it by the British sporting press. They really panned the midget car tour - but then, when the British sports press gets on to a subject it doesn’t like, they are experts in giving unfavouable comments. Poor old Chelsea FC boss Jose Mourhino is a case in point!
I gave Roussel a mention in the June issue of ‘Short Circuit’, then decided to probe a little more into his racing career. That meant I had to turn to that fount of knowledge on American racing, my old friend Don Radbruch whose writings have graced ‘Short Circuit’ many times over the past 12 years.
This is the background he gave me on Roussel’s career. Don wrote, “Rosie started in the track roadsters at Porterville, California in about 1947. During the later part of the 1940s he also drove midgets in the southern California area.
“I won't say Rosie was a top driver in the midgets but he was very competitive - good enough to be asked along on the Lana Turner Tour. Rosie pretty well stuck with the midgets and roadsters until the roadsters were phased out.”
Don added, “He raced mostly with the California Roadster Assocation (CRA). This group allowed sprint cars to race with them starting in about 1952. They became a full sprint car outfit in about 1955 and changed their name to the California Racing Association.
“Rosie won lots of races with the group and was damned near the champion in about 1960 - he was leading in points when they scheduled a addtional race in Arizona---Rosie had to work and could not make the race. From what I recall, Rosie worked in some sort of supervisorary position in the oil fields”.
On the Roussel theme, Don added, “Part of Rosie's career was in what would be called modfieds in San Diego. Very hot machines and Rosie did well. There were also a few stock cars along the way for Rosie - I don't know when he quit racing. Then came the restoration of a Riley and Rosie ran that in vintage races.”
He gave me these details of the car which Rousell still owns. "It was (is) a pretty much typical track roadster of the 1940s and early 1950s. I"d guess that it had Essex frame rails and that is a '25 Model T Ford body. What made the car exceptional was the Four Port Riley engine and the fact that the car was competitive with the big Merc V8s that were running at the time. I guess you know that the Four Port Riley was an overhead valve conversion for the Model B Ford block.
"A few Riley powered cars were competitive in the early days of post war track roadster racing but for the Riley to win races in 1955 was downright amazing. Rosie was running an engine of a bit over 200 cubic inches against 296 cubic inch Mercs."
Radbruch added, "The Riley was basically a pre-war big car (sprint car) engine and competitive in pre war non-Offy groups. The engine had perhaps a 100 pound weight advantage over the V8s. Rosie was a better driver than most but there were plenty of drivers who were equally as skillful as Rosie."
::::: Photo shows: Chauncy Crist, Rosie Rousell and Inky 'Cowboy' Ingram in London, 1948.