philippestreiff

Philippe Streiff

Philippe Streiff was a Formula 1 driver and Le Mans podium finisher whose career was cut short after a testing accident left him paralysed

Philippe Streiff was a French F3 champion whose time in Formula 1 was cut short in 1989 after a severe crash in testing for AGS, which left him quadriplegic.

It was the end of a driving career that saw him finish second at Le Mans, and drive for Liger and Tyrrell in F1, but after three years in hospital, the Frenchman returned to racing. He organised the annual Bercy karting event, developed driving aids for handicapped drivers, and was involved in a bid to buy Liger. Strieff was also a regular visitor to grands prix until his death in December 2022 at the age of 67.

Success in Formula 3 and at Le Mans

Already 22 years old when he won the 1977 Volant Motul scholarship at Nogaro and started racing, Philippe Streiff won his Formula Renault debut a year later in front of the French Grand Prix crowd. He graduated to European Formula 3 in 1979 and twice finished fourth having switched from Renault-power to the more conventional Toyota engine.

A winner in Zolder’s 1980 European F3 race, he returned to the national series to clinch the 1981 French F3 Championship with an Ecurie Motul Nogaro Martini MK34-Alfa Romeo. He was second in the 1981 Le Mans 24 Hours with a Rondeau M379C-Ford, Jean-Louis Schlesser and Jacky Haran.

Streiff graduated to the European Formula 2 Championship in 1982 with AGS and proved a perennial thorn to the better funded works teams. On the podium nine times in the final three years of the category, he finally won the very last F2 race at a wet Brands Hatch in 1984. That year also included a third place finish at Le Mans in John Fitzpatrick’s Skoal Bandit Porsche 956 and his GP debut in Portugal with a third works Renault RE50.

Formula 1 regular with Ligier and Tyrrell

He remained with AGS for the first year of F3000 in 1985. Third at Zandvoort was the best of five points’ scores and he joined Ligier at that year’s Italian GP after Andrea de Cesaris was fired following one accident too many. His Ligier JS25-Renault started from an impressive fifth position at Brands Hatch and Streiff ended the season by finishing third in Australia despite crashing into second placed team-mate Jacques Laffite during the closing laps.

Streiff signed for Tyrrell in 1986 and his Renault-powered car was classified sixth in Britain and fifth in Australia after an error-prone season. Joined by Jonathan Palmer for 1987, Streiff lacked the consistency of the Englishman and was generally outperformed by his team-mate.

Return to AGS and accident

He returned to AGS for 1988 (Henri Julien’s privateers now an F1 concern) and had his moments. He ran fifth in Canada but the team was hampered by dwindling and inadequate funding. No matter, Streiff remained as part of an expanded two-car line-up for 1989 but he crashed while testing prototype wheels at Rio de Janeiro in March 1989. His car rolled several times and the roll-hoop was ripped off in the violent crash at Jacarepagua. The back injuries he sustained left him paralysed and in hospital for three years as he recuperated.

Since returning home in 1992, Streiff established the annual Bercy karting event, scene of the final duel between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1993. At that time, he was already developing and testing a joystick-controlled car and in 1995, became the first person to pass a driving test using the system. He continued work on adapting cars for disabled drivers.

Streiff’s death, at rthe age of 67, was announced on December 23, 2022.

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