Rene Dreyfus  France

  • Full name Rene Dreyfus
  • Birth date May 6, 1905
  • Birthplace Nice, France
  • Date of death August 16, 1993 (88 years 102 days)
  • Place of death New York Hospital, Manhattan, United States
driver portrait

René Dreyfus was one of the greatest pre-war French drivers, driving Maseratis, Ferraris, Delahayes, and Bugattis against some of the best drivers of all time, In all, he won 36 races across Europe, including Monaco, Florence, Rheims, Belgium,Cork, Dieppe, Pau, and at Tripoli in North Africa, becoming a French national hero.

His breakthrough came in 1930, by which time he had enjoyed considerable domestic success. A year earlier he finished fifth at Monaco, and a year on he competed in a Bugatti to which he had added extra fuel tanks (using the space vacated by the rule change allowing mechanics not to be carried) to avoid him having to make pit stops, reasoning the time saved would give him a vital advantage. Wisdom dictated he would be too tired to drive without a break, but he proved it wrong and won by 21 seconds. But Ettore Bugatti was not impressed - Dreyfus also used other non-standard additions - and refused to meet Dreyfus and it was more than two years before he was invited to join the Bugatti team.

Once the Nazi-backed Auto Union and Mercedes started to dominate, all the top drivers headed for the German teams but as a Jew that was not an option available to Dreyfus. In 1938, he became the Champion of France and his victory of the might of the German and Italians at Pau was among his greatest.

He joined the French army on the outbreak of war and was sent to the USA to race in the 1940 Indianapolis 500, finishing tenth, but in his absence France was invaded and so he settled in America, eventually returning to Europe with the US army in 1944. He raced occasionally after the war while running a restaurant in New York. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by President Charles de Gaulle in the early 1960s.

He opened Le Chanteclair restaurant in Manhattan in 1952 and for 25 years it was one of the more popular stops for international racers.
Martin Williamson

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