Philippe Étancelin, (December 28, 1896 at Rouen - October 10, 1981 at Neuilly sur Sienne, France) with his trademark reversed cap was a successful pre and post war Grand Prix driver who maintained his enthusiasm for motorsports long after his retirement from Formula One in 1952.
Often called by his nickname, "Phi Phi", he was also a winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and when it came to ending his career, went out in style.
Before Formula One World Championship
Étancelin bought a Bugatti Type 35 when he was 20 years old but did not intend on racing instead, instead he used it for leisure. After driving with his wife of speeds of 125 mph, Étancelin decided to take part in local hillclimbs.
He then decided to enter the Grand Prix de la Marne and promptly won the race, establishing himself as one of the fastest drivers in French national racing with his wife Suzanne as crew chief. It was a position they would maintain throughout the early 1930s in Bugatti, Delage, Alfa Romeo and Maserati machinery winning many major races between 1930 and 31.
In 1932 Étancelin was still a top privateer but found himself getting beaten more often by works teams and this theme continued In 1933 with few victories. A stand out race in 1933 was the 19th annual French Grand Prix where Étancelin's Alfa narrowly lost following a furious contest with Giuseppe Campari's Maserati, losing the lead on the final lap of the 500 km event. Nevertheless, Étancelin won a second consecutive Picardy Grand Prix, over Raymond Sommer and later beat Jean-Pierre Wimille to victory at the Marne Grand Prix. During the next few years until the war Étancelin was a regular podium finisher but wins became more elusive as the factory German teams of Mercedes and Auto-Union dominated the sport.
During this period he had his share of accidents and good luck, including surviving a big accident at Monza where he rolled.
After the war, despite being nearly 50, he returned to racing in the French national championship purchasing a Talbot-Lago which he would compete in for many years and achieved more podiums plus victories at the Paris Grand Prix at Montlhéry.
Formula One Career
To continue the trend of his pre world championship career, Phi Phi continued to race as a privateer and entered all six European races of the World Championship in a Talbot-Lago.
At Silverstone he qualified fourteenth and climbed to eighth by the finish, at Monaco he survived the first lap mele where many of the drivers were involved in a multi-car pile-up and was looking at scoring points until a late race retirement with an oil pipe problem and in the Swiss GP he suffered more car trouble with a gearbox forced retirement.
For the Belgian GP Phi Phi was prmotoed to the factory team after the nasty crash suffered by Eugène Martin meant he couldn't race but the Talbot-Lago suffered over-heating problems, a weakness of Talbot-Lago's, resulting in retirement.
At his home French GP, Phi Phi was back as a privateer and shared his car with Eugène Chaboud who drove to fifth, sharing the 2 world championship points and this result was backed up with a fifth at Monza, without Chaboud, finishing the championship on three points.
Philippe died of old age on October 13, 1981.
Formula One Statistical Overview
Formula One Record
|Year||Entrant||Team||WDC Points||WDC Pos.||Report|
|Front Row Starts||0|
|Distance Raced||2937 km (1825 mi)|
|Distance Led||0 km (0 mi)|
|Complete Formula One results|
|3rd||DNQ||Did not qualify|
|5th||Points finish||DNPQ||Did not pre-qualify|
|14th||Non-points finish||TD||Test driver|
|NC||Non-classified finish (<90% race distance)||DNS||Did not start|
|Italics||Scored point(s) for Fastest Lap||[+] More Symbols|