Former Grand Prix driver Philippe Streiff is turning 56 years old today.
Streiff started in 53 Grands Prix between 1984 and 1988 (finishing once on the podium) before a pre-race testing accident at Rio de Janeiro behind the wheel of an AGS in 1989 saw him confined to a wheelchair.
The tall Frenchman was a late arrival to motorsport after winning the Volant Motul competition at the Nogaro racing school in 1977, aged 22. The following year, he competed in French Formula Renault, finishing fifth overall with one win. He jumped straight into European Formula 3 the following year, spending two seasons there before dropping back to the French championship, which he won.
This led to him joining the Formula 2 championship in 1982 and he stayed there for three seasons, impressing many with his efforts driving for the tiny AGS team. He finally won a race – his last in the championship, it would turn out – at Brands Hatch, before he was called up to drive a third car for the Renault F1 team at the Portuguese Grand Prix.
A full-time F1 drive was not forthcoming, and so he joined AGS in the new Formula 3000 championship, before he was called up to the Ligier F1 team mid-season to replace the crash-prone Andrew de Cesaris.
When Ligier skipped the South African Grand Prix, he joined Tyrrell and promptly finished third at the season-ending Australian Grand Prix, finishing the race with three wheels after collecting team-mate Jacques Laffite.
This result – not to mention some support from Renault – saw Streiff signed full-time by Tyrrell for 1986, but this generated few results and he stayed with the team for 1987, although it was now running Ford engines.
Overshadowed by team-mate Jonathan Palmer, he switched to his old friends at AGS (having now graduated to F1), and he helped build the little team into a very impressive midfield outfit in little time at all.
Tragically, a pre-season testing accident at Rio de Janeiro – coupled with a lack of prompt medical attention – saw Philippe suffer several neck injuries that rendered him paralysed.
Years of rehabilitation has reduced the effects of his paralysis, and he was now concentrated his efforts on building a range of successful business ventures, including the annual Bercy karting event and setting up a company that converts cars for disabled drivers.