- December 28, 1896
- October 13, 1981
- Not Active
Philippe Etancelin (1896-1981), nicknamed 'Phi Phi', was a French racing driver who reached a peak of his career during the 1930s, winning many Grand Prix races and 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1934.
After the World War II, he participated in the early years of the Formula 1 World Championship, recording twelve starts between 1950 and 1952. He retired from racing in 1953, at the age 57.
Collecting Grand Prix victories since 1927
Born in December 1896 in Rouen, Normandy, Etancelin started to drive race cars during the 1920s, traveling together with his wife Suzanne around the country. His first race car was a Bugatti which he was using in circuit races and hillclimb races.
His first notable victory was at the Marne Grand Prix at Reims in 1927. In the same year, he recorded class victory at the Coppa Florio in Saint-Brieuc. In 1929, Etancelin repeated a victory at Marne Grand Prix and added a win at Baule Grand Prix to his account.
Entering the inaugural European Championship in 1931
Etancelin entered a new decade in the same way, scoring victories in a Bugatti. In 1930, he won the Algerian Grand Prix, the French Grand Prix at Pau and the race at the Grenoble Circuit de Dauphine.
In 1931, he achieved victories at four Grand Prix races at French circuits, three of them in an Alfa Romeo. He also participated in the inaugural season of the AIACR European Championship. The AIACR was a motoring organization which later became the FIA. The first championship was featuring three events at Monza, Montlhery and Spa. Etancelin participated in two rounds with Bugatti.
Two Grand Prix seasons with Alfa Romeo
In 1932, Etancelin continued to race with Alfa Romeo, scoring one victory at the Picardy Grand Prix. In the European Championship, he appeared only at the French Grand Prix at Reims, not finishing the race.
In 1933, during the first year of a two-year hiatus for the European Championship, Etancelin scored two wins in an Alfa Romeo, at the Picardy Grand Prix and Marne Grand Prix. He finished third in the inaugural Pau Grand Prix and second at Nimes Grand Prix.
1934 – Grand Prix races in a Maserati, Le Mans triumph with Alfa Romeo
Etancelin switched to Maserati 8CM in 1934, winning just one race, the Dieppe Grand Prix. He scored second-place finished at Casablanca, Montreux and Nice.
In June 1934, Etancelin scored the greatest result of his career, a victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans. He was sharing the #9 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 with Luigi Chinetti. After 24 hours of racing, they were dominant winners with a 13-lap advantage over the nearest rivals.
The last pre-war victory at the 1936 Pau Grand Prix
In 1935, the European Championship has been revived, with seven Grand Prix races included. Etancelin participated in four events, driving a Maserati 6C-34 for Scuderia Subalpina. His best result was the fourth place at Monaco Grand Prix. In the non-championship races, he scored no wins, finishing best in the third place at the Tunis Grand Prix.
In 1936, Etancelin retired in both championship races he attended (Monaco, Bremgarten), still driving a Maserati. The highlight of the season was his victory at Pau Grand Prix.
Racing with Talbot-Lago in 1938 and 1939
He was out of racing in 1937, returning in 1938 to participate in one Grand Prix race and few sports car races, including Le Mans. His only Grand Prix race was the French Grand Prix at Reims, where he retired in a Talbot T150C. At Le Mans 24 Hours, he was sharing the #3 Talbot-Lago T26 with Luigi Chinetti, not finishing the race.
In 1939, still driving Talbot, Etancelin finished third at Pau Grand Prix and fourth at the French Grand Prix at Reims. Soon after that, the World War II stopped all racing competitions.
Continuing a racing career in 1948
After the war, Etancelin intensified his racing activities in 1948, driving his private Talbot-Lago T26C. He reached the second place at Albi Grand Prix.
He continued to collect second-place finishes in 1949, taking runner-up spot at the Marseilles Grand Prix, the European Grand Prix at Monza and the Czechoslovakian Grand Prix at Brno. His only victory was at the Paris Grand Prix at Montlhery in April 1949.
Six starts in the inaugural F1 World Championship season
In 1950, Etancelin entered the inaugural season of the Formula 1 World Championship and participated in all six European events. In the first ever World Championship race, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, he finished in the 8th place.
He then retired three times at Monaco, Bremgarten and Spa, scoring his first point at the French Grand Prix at Reims. He was driving the #16 Talbot-Lago T26C for 26 laps, then handing the car to Eugene Chaboud, who crossed the finish line in the fifth place. In the next race, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Etancelin finished fifth by himself.
At the age 53, he was the oldest driver ever to score championship points, finishing in the 13th place in the 1950 F1 Championship.
Five starts in the 1951 F1 World Championship season
In 1951, Etancelin was again active for the almost entire F1 season, skipping British and Italian championship rounds. He finished tenth in the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten and then recorded three DNFs in Belgium, France and Germany.
His fifth start of the year was at the Spanish Grand Prix at Pedralbes Circuit, where he finished in the eighth place in a Talbot-Lago T26C. In the non-championship races, he was fifth at the Pau Grand Prix.
The last F1 championship start in a Maserati
In 1952, Etancelin reduced his racing activities, participating in just one F1 Championship race. It was the French Grand Prix at Rouen-Les-Essarts in July.
There he was driving the #28 Maserati A6GCM for Escuderia Bandeirantes. He finished in the 8th place, seven laps behind a race winner Alberto Ascari (Ferrari).
Two podiums before closing a career
In August 1952, Etancelin joined Pierre Levegh at Goodwood 9 Hours. They were sharing a Talbot-Lago T26GS, not finishing the race. In June 1953, Etancelin finished third at the Rouen Grand Prix, what was his last Grand Prix race.
His last ever race was the Casablanca 12 Hours in December 1953, few days before his 57th birthday. He and Pierre Levegh finished in the third place in the #6 Talbot-Lago T26GS.