DRIVERS: ANDRE GUELFI

Name: Andre Guelfi
Nationality: France
Date of birth: May 6, 1919

The son of a Corsican military man, Guelfi was a businessman from an early age, chauffeuring tourists on the island from when he was 10 years old. At 16 he became a debt collector for the local bank and with a 15% commission on each collection he had soon earned enough to invest in the sardine industry. He introduced refrigeration aboard the ships and built himself a small empire. During the war he enlisted and became a driver, quickly developing a desire to go racing.

He took the tracks after the war at the wheel of a Delahaye but did not rise to prominence until 1953 when he began racing Gordini sports cars in North Africa. One of his early major roles was to co-drive a factory car with Behra in the 12-hour race at Casablanca. The following year he finished sixth at Le Mans, sharing a Gordini with Jacky Pollet. He was Moroccan champion in 1955 but did not make any further impact on the international scene until he drove a Cooper to second place in the Prix de Paris at Montlhery in June 1958, only three seconds behind Henry Taylor. That same year, at the wheel of a Formula 2 Cooper-Climax he took part in the Grand Prix of Morocco, his first and only F1 race.

He continued racing in Morocco until the late 1960s. It was in the 1970s that he left Africa and settled in Paris, moving into real estate and building an impressive empire after marrying the niece of French president Georges Pompidou. As a result he was able to acquire a mansion in Lausanne, overlooking Lake Geneva, where he lived for nearly 20 years. Having made considerable money he was able to purchase his own private jet and the Le Coq Sportif company and he quickly became a close advisor to IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch. He went on to work as a negotiator with Elf Aquitaine and was a key figure in a number of scandals involving top French politicians. These resulted in him being given a three-year suspended jail sentence and cost him a 1 million Euros. In 1999 he wrote his life history which included details of his various colourful careers. The following year he moved to Malta where he now lives quietly in retirement.

Print