Race of My Life: Philippe Streiff

Competing in 55 Grand Prix for Renault, Ligier, Tyrrell and AGS Streiff’s career ended with a serious testing accident at Jacarepagua in 1989 confining him to a wheelchair. Since then Philippe (57) devised the popular Bercy karting event and has also campaigned for improved disability rights and facilities the world over.

This article first appeared in the 29th November edition of Autosport magazine

Race of My Life – Philippe Streiff

Brands Hatch International F2 Daily Mail Trophy – 23rd September 1984

I look at my life in sections. There was obviously before and after my accident at Rio in 1989 but I have a new life now where I am on a mission to make changes and a better life for disabled people and also to improve road safety. In 2002 Jacques Chirac asked me if I would be involved with DIPH (Delegation Interministery for People with Disabilities) and along with many other associations, charities and foundations it is my real passion.

Looking back at my ‘first life’ in motorsport, I have many different races I remember but the 1984 F2 event at Brands Hatch was not only my best but also enabled me to break in to F1.

 

Streiff leading at Brands in 1984 – Photo courtesy of Philippe Streiff

 

I love Brands Hatch and always went well there in my career. The year after the F2 race, I was in a Ligier-Renault for the European Grand Prix and qualified 5th. I remember before the race, Alain Prost, who was behind me in 6th place on the grid and about to become the first French champion du monde, came up to me and said: “Please Philippe, today is my day for the title. I understand you have done a good job to qualify here but be careful on the first lap.” For me it was déjà vu because a year earlier at Estoril, Niki Lauda did the same thing and made me very nervous as we were together on the grid! I made a really bad start because this was on my mind so much. Can you imagine me wiping Niki out and ruining the championship in my very first Grand Prix!

Before my F1 career started, I had three seasons in F2 and by 1984 I was already 29 so had to move fast. I had been a test driver for Renault in F1 since 1982 and I was very upset at the end of ‘83 when Gerard Larousse (team manager at Renault) chose Warwick and Tambay as race drivers. I felt I had earned a chance in F1. Throughout 1984 when I was still testing for Renault I thought I would never get that chance but it all changed at Brands Hatch that autumn.

The race itself was stopped because of a rainstorm and it was run as two heats. When the red flag came out I was 2nd behind the Ralt-Honda of Roberto Moreno but at the re-start I got him on the way up to Druids and was able to pull out a gap. Roberto fell back and Michel Ferte was second in his ORECA Martini. Michel got close to me at the end because the spray made it difficult for me to judge the gap. I really had to use the pit-board to keep me informed as to where Michel was.

It was a great way to finish the season and to win the last ever International F2 race. But it got even better on Monday morning because Larousse called and congratulated me on the result. He said, “Philippe, we appreciate all the hard work over the years and we are going to enter a third car for you at Estoril.”

So, for many reasons this was the race of my life as I am sure it helped Larousse to make the third car decision. I have had many other big battles in my life but just like Brands Hatch in 1984 there is always something positive just around the corner.

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