Philippe Étancelin

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Philippe Étancelin
Philippe Étancelin at the 1933 Grand Prix de la Marne
Born(1896-12-28)28 December 1896
Died13 October 1981(1981-10-13) (aged 84)
Formula One World Championship career
NationalityFrance French
Active years19501952
Teamsworks and private Talbot-Lago, non-works Maserati
Career points3
Pole positions0
Fastest laps0
First entry1950 British Grand Prix
Last entry1952 French Grand Prix

Philippe Jean-Armand Étancelin (28 December 1896 – 13 October 1981)[1] 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.[2]

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 125 mph (201 km/h). After two years of recreational motoring, Étancelin decided to enter a race.[3]

He began racing a privateer Bugatti in 1926, entering local events and hillclimbs.[4] His first victory was the Grand Prix de la Marne at Reims in 1927,[4] the same year he recorded a third at the Coppa Florio in Saint-Brieuc.[4] He repeated his victory at Reims in 1929, ahead of Zenelli and friend Marcel Lehoux, making a Bugatti sweep of the podium.[4] Étancelin took a victory at the Grand Prix de la Baule and the Antibes Prix de Conseil General.[4]

Nicknamed "Phi Phi",[4] 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.[4]

He began the 1931 season in a Bugatti, placing behind Czaykowski at the Casablanca Grand Prix at Anfa.[4] 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.[4]

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.[4]

In 1933, Étancelin's Alfa narrowly lost the 19th annual[5] French Grand Prix (organized by the French Automobile Club at the Montlhery Autodrome[citation needed] near Paris[5]) following a "furious"[4] contest with Giuseppe Campari's Maserati, losing the lead on the final lap of the 500 km (310 mi) event.[5] Nevertheless, Étancelin won a second consecutive Picardy Grand Prix, over a "formidable"[4] 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.[4]

The new 750 kilogram formula brought the conquering Silver Arrows of Mercedes and Auto Union. Étancelin switched to a Maserati 8CM,[4] earning second places at Casablanca, Montreux, and Nice, with a win at Dieppe. He shared an Alfa with Luigi Chinetti to win Le Mans.[4]

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 Maserati, but suffered brake fade and came fourth.[4] Driving a Maserati for the Subalpina team, he also had a spectacular accident at the Swiss Grand Prix in Bern, with his car upturned and in flames, but he did not suffer injuries.

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".[4] He negotiated the 100 laps in 3 hours 21 minutes 22 seconds.[6] In October, Étancelin qualified 6th for the Vanderbilt Cup, which was run over 300 mi (480 km) near Westbury, New York, after a 20 mi (32 km) qualifier[7] at Roosevelt Raceway in Long Island.[3] By this time he had won the Marne Grand Prix three times.[2]

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.[4]

Étancelin would enter the first motor race held in France postwar, failing to finish at the Bois de Boulogne in an Alfa.[4] 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.[4]

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, a record set in the very first World Championship season which still stands more than 70 years later.

In 1953, he ran third at the Rouen Grand Prix and at the 12 Hours of Casablanca, and decided to retire.[4] 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.[4]

He died at Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1981.

Major career wins:

Racing record[edit]

Complete European Championship results[edit]

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 EDC Pts
1931 M. Lehoux Bugatti T51 Bugatti 2.3 L8 ITA
BEL 24th 21
1932 M. Lehoux Alfa Romeo Monza Alfa Romeo 2.3 L8 ITA FRA
GER 16th 21
1935 Scuderia Subalpina Maserati 6C-34 Maserati 3.7 L6 MON
13th 46
Maserati 3.3 L6 GER
Maserati V8RI Maserati 4.8 V8 ITA
1936 P. Etancelin Maserati V8RI Maserati 4.8 V8 MON
ITA 18th 28
1938 Talbot Darracq Talbot T150C Talbot 4.5 L6 FRA
GER SUI ITA 24th 29
1939 Automobiles Talbot-Darracq Talbot MD Talbot 4.5 L6 BEL FRA
GER SUI 16th 28

Post WWII Grandes Épreuves results[edit]

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5
1948 Philippe Étancelin Talbot-Lago T26C Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6 MON SUI FRA
1949 Philippe Étancelin Talbot-Lago T26C Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6 GBR
Automobiles Talbot-Darracq BEL

Complete Formula One World Championship results[edit]


Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 WDC Pts
1950 Philippe Étancelin Talbot-Lago T26C Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6 GBR
500 SUI
18th 3
Automobiles Talbot-Darracq Talbot-Lago T26C-DA BEL
Philippe Étancelin FRA
1951 Philippe Étancelin Talbot-Lago T26C-DA Talbot 23CV 4.5 L6 SUI
500 BEL
NC 0
1952 Escuderia Bandeirantes Maserati A6GCM Maserati A6 2.0 L6 SUI 500 BEL FRA

Indicates shared drive with Eugène Chaboud

Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results[edit]

Year Team Co-Drivers Car Class Laps Pos. Class
1934 Italy Luigi Chinetti Italy Luigi Chinetti Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 3.0 213 1st 1st
1938 Italy Luigi Chinetti Italy Luigi Chinetti Talbot T26 5.0 66 DNF DNF


  1. ^ "Motorsport Memorial - Philippe Étancelin". Motorsport Memorial. Retrieved 22 March 2023.
  2. ^ a b "World's Best Drivers Vie For $60,000 In Cup Race", Washington Post, October 12, 1936, p.X15.
  3. ^ a b "Vite! Vite! To Victory, Or-", Edwardsville, Illinois Intelligencer, March 13, 1939, p.5.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b c "Campari Wins Paris Auto Race", The New York Times, June 12, 1933, p.22.
  6. ^ "Wins Grand Prix", Olean, New York Times Herald, March 2, 1936, p.13.
  7. ^ "Nuvolari Tops Qualifiers for Auto Race", Washington Post, October 8, 1936, p.X19.
  8. ^ "THE GOLDEN ERA – OF GRAND PRIX RACING". Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  9. ^ "Philippe Étancelin – Biography". MotorSportMagazine. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  10. ^ "Philippe Étancelin – Involvement". StatsF1. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  11. ^ "All Results of Philippe Étancelin". Retrieved August 24, 2018.
Sporting positions
Preceded by Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
With: Luigi Chinetti
Succeeded by