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Philippe Étancelin

Philippe Étancelin
File:Philippe Étancelin at the 1933 Grand Prix de la Marne (cropped).jpg
Philippe Étancelin at the 1933 Grand Prix de la Marne
Born (1896-12-28)28 December 1896
Died 13 October 1981(1981-10-13) (aged 84)
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality 23x15px French
Active years 19501952
Teams works and private Talbot-Lago, non-works Maserati
Races 12
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 0
Career points 3
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First race 1950 British Grand Prix
Last race 1952 French Grand Prix

Philippe Étancelin (28 December 1896 – 13 October 1981) was a French Grand Prix motor racing driver who joined the new Formula One circuit at its inception.


Born in Rouen, Seine-Maritime, in Normandy, he worked as a merchant in the winter and raced cars during the summer.[1]

His wife, Suzanne, served as his crew chief. Their three children were placed in a school in Rouen while she traveled with her husband to races around the world. She communicated with Étancelin through French sign language as he raced around the speedway.[citation needed] Suzanne told a reporter Étancelin bought a racing car to celebrate the birth of their second child, Jeanne Alice. He did not intend to race the car but merely use it for pleasure driving around the countryside. The couple once drove it up to a speed of Script error: No such module "convert".. After two years of recreational motoring, Étancelin decided to enter a race.[2]

He began racing a privateer Bugatti in 1926, entering local events and hillclimbs.[3] His first victory was the Grand Prix de la Marne at Reims in 1927,[3] the same year he recorded a third at the Coppa Florio in Saint-Brieuc.[3] He repeated his victory at Reims in 1929, ahead of Zenelli and friend Marcel Lehoux, making a Bugatti sweep of the podium.[3] Étancelin took a victory at the Grand Prix de la Baule and the Antibes Prix de Conseil General.[3]

Nicknamed "Phi Phi",[3] Étancelin also earned Bugatti a win at the 1930 Algerian Grand Prix, followed home by Lehoux. At the Formula Libre French Grand Prix, he defeated Henry Birkin's Bentley, and won the Grenoble Circuit de Dauphine, with a third at Lyons.[3]

He began the 1931 season in a Bugatti, placing behind Czaykowski at the Casablanca Grand Prix at Anfa.[3] He won the Circuit d'Esterel Plage at Saint-Raphaël. For major events, run to Formula Libre rules to a 10 hour duration, he shared with Lehoux. They dropped out of both the Italian and French Grands Prix. After Étancelin switched to Alfa later in the year, he came fourth in the Marne Grand Prix and won the four-hour Dieppe Grand Prix, ahead of Czaykowski's Bugatti and Earl Howe's Delage. He added wins at Grenoble and the Comminges Grand Prix at St. Gaudens.[3]

While Étancelin was a top privateer, he was consistently beaten by works teams in 1932, earning only one win, the Picardy Grand Prix at Peronne.[3]

In 1933, Étancelin's Alfa narrowly lost the 19th annual[4] French Grand Prix (organized by the French Automobile Club in Paris)[4] following a "furious"[3] contest with Giuseppe Campari's Maserati, losing the lead on the final lap of the Script error: No such module "convert". event.[4] Nevertheless, Étancelin won a second consecutive Picardy Grand Prix, over a "formidable"[3] Raymond Sommer, and placed second to an equally formidable Tazio Nuvolari at the Nîmes Grand Prix, with win over Jean-Pierre Wimille at the Marne Grand Prix.[3]

The new 750 kilogram formula brought the conquering Silver Arrows of Mercedes and Auto Union. Étancelin switched to a Maserati 8CM,[3] earning second places at Casablanca, Montreux, and Nice, with a win at Dieppe. He shared an Alfa with Luigi Chinetti to win Le Mans.[3]

Étancelin's 1935 season was no better, with only a third at Tunis. He gave Rudolf Caracciola's Mercedes a tough fight at Monaco in the little 3.7 litre Maser, but suffered brake fade and came fourth.[3]

Entering one of the new 4.4 liter Maseratis in 1936, he was outmatched by the German entrants, suffering retirements in nearly every contest. He won only the Pau Grand Prix, and that was "against modest opposition".[3] He negotiated the 100 laps in 3 hours 21 minutes 22 seconds.[5] In October, Étancelin qualified 6th for the Vanderbilt Cup, which was run over Script error: No such module "convert". near Westbury, New York, after a Script error: No such module "convert". qualifier[6] at Roosevelt Raceway in Long Island.[2] By this time he had won the Marne Grand Prix three times.[1]

He stayed out of racing in 1937, returning in 1938 solely to share a new Talbot with Chinetti at LeMans, but did not score a win. For 1939, he put his Talbot third at Pau, following Hermann Lang and Manfred von Brauchitsch home. He also scored a fourth place at the French Grand Prix.[3]

Étancelin would enter the first motor race held in France postwar, failing to finish at the Bois de Boulogne in an Alfa.[3] He was not able to obtain one of the scarce new racers until 1948, when he purchased a 4½ litre Talbot, and put it second at the Albi Grand Prix, behind Luigi Villoresi in the Maserati.

His 1949 season saw second places at the Marseilles Grand Prix (to Fangio), the European Grand Prix at Monza (to Alberto Ascari), and Czechoslovakian Grand Prix at Brno (to Peter Whitehead in a Ferrari). In addition, he won the Paris Grand Prix at Montlhéry.[3]

Étancelin participated in twelve World Championship Formula One Grands Prix, debuting on 13 May 1950. He scored a total of three championship points. His fifth place in the 1950 Italian Grand Prix made him the oldest driver ever to score championship points.

In 1953, he ran third at the Rouen Grand Prix and at the 12 Hours of Casablanca, and decided to retire.[3] The government of France awarded him the Legion of Honour in recognition of his contribution to the sport of automobile racing that spanned four decades.

Étancelin retained an interest in racing, making occasional appearances in historic racing through 1974.[3]

He died at Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1981.

Major career wins:

Complete European Championship results

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)

Year Entrant Make 1 2 3 4 5 EDC Points
1931 Private entry Bugatti ITA
BEL 34= 21
1932 Private entry Alfa Romeo ITA FRA
GER 16= 21
1935 Scuderia Subalpina Maserati BEL GER
ESP 17 34
1936 Private entry Maserati MON
ITA 18= 28
1938 Talbot-Darracq Talbot FRA
GER SUI ITA 24= 29
1939 Talbot-Darracq Talbot BEL FRA
GER SUI 16= 28

Complete Formula One World Championship results


Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 WDC Points
1950 Philippe Étancelin Talbot-Lago T26C Talbot
500 SUI
18th 3
Automobiles Talbot-Darracq Talbot-Lago T26C DA BEL
Philippe Étancelin FRA
5 *
1951 Philippe Étancelin Talbot-Lago T26C DA Talbot Straight-6 SUI
500 BEL
NC 0
1952 Escuderia Bandeirantes Maserati A6GCM Maserati Straight-6 SUI 500 BEL FRA
* Indicates shared drive with Eugène Chaboud


  1. ^ a b "World's Best Drivers Vie For $60,000 In Cup Race", Washington Post, October 12, 1936, p.X15.
  2. ^ a b "Vite! Vite! To Victory, Or-", Edwardsville, Illinois 'Intelligencer, March 13, 1939, p.5.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Twite, Mike. "Etancelin: Twenty Years Behind the Wheel", in Northey, Tom, general editor. The World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 6, p616.
  4. ^ a b c "Campari Wins Paris Auto Race", The New York Times, June 12, 1933, p.22.
  5. ^ "Wins Grand Prix", Olean, New York Times Herald, March 2, 1936, p.13.
  6. ^ "Nuvolari Tops Qualifiers for Auto Race", Washington Post, October 8, 1936, p.X19.
Preceded by
Raymond Sommer
Tazio Nuvolari
Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
1934 with:
Luigi Chinetti
Succeeded by
Johnny Hindmarsh
Luis Fontés