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Rene Dreyfus

Full Name:
Rene Albert Dreyfus
6th May 1905
Nice, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur
16th August 1993 (Aged 88)
New York City, New York (USA)
Most recent race (in database):

The winner of the second Monaco Grand Prix in 1930, a recipient of the Légion d’Honneur and later famed as a New York restaurateur – René Dreyfus lived his life with style and class.

Early racing career

The son of a successful clothing merchant, Dreyfus began racing in 1925 with a Mathis. He soon joined the growing ranks of amateur Bugatti drivers although service in the French Army’s transportation corps in 1928 interrupted his career. With duty done, Dreyfus was working as a salesman for Bugatti’s Riviera agent Ernest Friderich by the end of the year. The arrangement also saw him race Friderich’s cars during 1929 when fifth in the inaugural Monaco GP and fourth in Spain.

Grand Prix winner

Dreyfus drove the T35B of wealthy young Parisian Albert de Bondelli in 1930 and scored his defining victory in the Monaco GP. The car was fitted with an auxiliary fuel tank in the unused passenger seat so Dreyfus could run non-stop. He won after rival stars stopped to refuel but rather than celebrate another victory for his marque, Ettore Bugatti was not amused. He refused to meet the Monaco victor when Dreyfus visited the Molsheim factory soon after.

A spell with Maserati yielded little success and Dreyfus was lucky to survive with an injured arm after crashing into a tree while leading the 1932 Comminges GP.

Works Bugatti driver

That was in a Bugatti T35C and he finally joined the works team in 1933 – finishing third in Monte Carlo and Belgium. The 1934 season was a watershed year for GP racing as the new German government funded programmes for both Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union. Those silver machines soon dominated although both withdrew from the 1934 Belgian GP, allegedly after customs officials demanded 180,000 Francs duty to import their specialist fuel. So it was Bugatti versus Alfa Romeo and a private Maserati. Despite an early stop for new spark plugs, Dreyfus benefited when both Ferrari-run Alfa Romeos retired. He led home an unlikely 1-2 for the marque in the Ardennes drizzle.

Scuderia Ferrari and Alfa Romeo

A move to Scuderia Ferrari and an Alfa Romeo Tipo-B "P3" in 1935 saw Dreyfus finish second at Monaco and win a couple of minor races. He finished third in the 1937 Le Mans 24 Hours when sharing a Delahaye 135S with Henri Stoffel and enjoyed a rare French success against Mercedes in the 1938 Pau GP. That was the first race to new GP rules and his defeat of Rudolf Caracciola and Hermann Lang was front page news in the French press.

Indianapolis 500 and World War II

Dreyfus joined the French Army at the start of World War II but was allowed to travel to America to represent his country in the 1940 Indianapolis 500 driving Lucy O’Reilly Schell’s Maserati. Sharing with René le Begue after a qualifying misunderstanding, the Frenchmen finished 10th and Dreyfus remained in the country.

That was no dereliction of duty for Dreyfus served in the United States Army during the conflict. He settled in New York once peace had been restored and opened Le Chanteclair in 1952. Situated at Manhattan’s 49th and Madison, the restaurant was a popular venue for racing folk for many years to come.

Dreyfus was awarded the Légion d’Honneur by Charles de Gaulle in the early 1960s. He died in 1993 in his adopted hometown after suffering an aneurysm of the aorta.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1940 AAA National Championship
Lucy O'Reilly Schell
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
21st 84
1939 European Championship
Ecurie Laury Schell
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
1938 European Championship
Ecurie Bleue
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
1936 European Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
1935 European Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
3 0 1 0
0% win rate