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Pierre-Henri Raphanel

27th May 1961 (Age 59)
Algiers (DZ)
Most recent race (in database):

The son of French pieds-noir, Pierre-Henri Raphanel was a promising junior who never fulfilled that early promise. His parents settled in the south of France after the Algerian War of Independence when Raphanel was a young child.

Early racing career

Victory in the Marlboro-backed Cherche Son Pilote scholarship kick-started his car racing ambitions and began an association with Philip Morris France that lasted his career. After a season in Formula Renault, Raphanel joined the crack ORECA team for the 1984 French Formula 3 Championship alongside Olivier Grouillard.

Third overall in his rookie year, Raphanel held off new team-mate Yannick Dalmas’s increasingly strong challenge to clinch the 1985 title – his five victories that year included the prestigious Monaco support race.

Raphanel raced in Formula 3000 from 1986 to 1988 with ORECA, Onyx and then ORECA again. He scored one third place finish each year, showed some promise as a rookie but ultimately disappointed. He was also third in the 1987 Le Mans 24 Hours for Courage just as Raphanel’s single-seater star appeared to be fading.

Formula 1 at the back of the grid

Despite that, he was given a Formula 1 opportunity in the 1988 Australian Grand Prix when replacing an ill Dalmas in a Larrousse Calmels Lola LC88-Ford. He failed to qualify but signed for Coloni for 1989. The Coloni FC88-Ford was an uncompetitive car and Raphanel only qualified once – starting an impressive 18th in Monaco. That was his only F1 start despite a mid-season switch to Rial.

Raphanel then raced sports cars in Japan and Europe and enjoyed some success in the new International GT series from 1995 to 1997. Second at Le Mans in 1992 (for Toyota) and 1997 (McLaren), he raced there for the last time in 2000 before retiring from the sport a year later.

Pierre-Henri Raphanel later worked as an estate agent in Montpellier before joining Bugatti in 2006 as a test driver and demonstrator of its Veyron supercar.