Philippe Streiff

Philippe Streiff was a late-starter in motor racing, the lanky Frenchman from Grenoble winning the Volant Motul competition at the Nogaro racing school at the end of 1977, when he was 22 years old. He began to race in Formula Renault in 1978 and won his first race at the French GP meeting at Paul Ricard in July that year. He finished only fifth in the series but knowing that he needed to move quickly he jumped into the European Formula 3 Championship in a privately-entered Martini-Renault. It was not until he switched to Toyota power that he became fully competitive and in 1980 he beat the Martini factory team at Zolder. Streiff then decided to return to Formula 3 in France and won the title in 1981 in an Ecurie Motul Nogaro Martini-Alfa Romeo.

This led to Streiff graduating to Formula 2, taking his Motul sponsorship to Henri Julien's tiny AGS team. He was a frontrunner in the series for the next three seasons, finishing in the top six in the series in all three years, but his only victory came in the very last Formula 2 race in the wet at Brands Hatch in 1984. That year he made his F1 debut with a third works Renault at Estoril. In 1985 he drove for AGS in Formula 3000 but midway through the season was called in by Ligier to replace the accident-prone Andrea de Cesaris. When Ligier missed South Africa for political reasons Streiff went to Tyrrell for one event and then in Australia he finished third, crossing the line on three wheels after crashing into his team mate Jacques Laffite.

Streiff was signed by Tyrrell for 1986 thanks to support from Renault but the relationship was not a successful one and Tyrrell switched to Ford engines in 1987. Streiff stayed on but was overshadowed by Jonathan Palmer and with little hope of a top F1 drive Streiff decided to go back to AGS, which had by now graduated to F1. He helped build the team into a sensible midfield operation but in pre-season testing for the 1989 season he crashed heavily in Rio de Janeiro and suffered neck injuries which left him paralysed.

Although constant re-education work has reduced the effects of the handicap, Streiff remains handicapped from the waist down although this has not stopped him developing a successful business empire. He was the organiser of the annual Elf Kart Masters at Bercy and recently opened Streiff Kart, a new permanent karting centre in the north of Paris. He runs a company which is converting vehicles for handicapped users and recently became the French importer for Gillet sports cars, which are built in a factory in Namur, Belgium.