Pierre-Henri Raphanel

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Last updated: 27-October-2001


Before Formula One Formula One After Formula One

Before F1

Algerian takes the French F3 title, and a win at Monaco!

If your birthplace definitively determined your nationality, then Frenchman Pierre-Henri Raphanel, born in Algiers, would be the only Algerian F1 driver in history. As it was, he made a relatively late start to his motor racing career, becoming French national karting champion in 1981, before being 'discovered' and taken on by Marlboro in 1982, and competing in Formula Renault in 1983.

In 1984 he moved up to French F3, where he came 3rd overall in his ORECA Martini Mk 42 Alfa Romeo, scoring 73 points to eventual champion Olivier Grouillard's 108. The next year, though, in the new Martini Mk 45 his ORECA team gave him, he went two better and became French F3 champion with 4 wins to his credit. He made a further impression by taking victory in the prestigious Monaco F3 race.


Move is made to F3000, but he shows only glimpses of winning speed

For 1986, Raphanel remained with ORECA but stepped up to F3000, driving a March 86B Cosworth. There were flashes of speed in qualifying, 4ths at Pau and Imola, and 2nd at Le Mans Bugatti being the highlights, but result-wise there was only a 6th at Spa and 3rd at Le Mans to show. Raphanel was 12th overall with 5 points. He also made his sports car debut at the Le Mans 24hrs classic, coming 18th in his Primagaz Team Cougar C12 Porsche with Alain de Cadanet and Yves Courage.

The following year, Pierre-Henri moved to the Onyx F3000 team to drive their March 87B Cosworth. Apart from taking pole at Pau, his best qualifying efforts were 5th three times. Again results were lacking, with only 4th at Vallelunga and 3rd at Donington giving him 7 points for 13th overall. Once more he raced at Le Mans, coming a fabulous 3rd in his Primagaz Cougar C20 Porsche with Courage and Hervé Regout, leaving him 33rd in the World Sportscar Championship with 12 points.

A tough year in F3000 with ORECA in 1988: only one podium finish and two front row starts. Here he leads Mark Blundell at Silverstone.
A tough year in F3000 with ORECA in 1988: only one podium finish and two front row starts. Here he leads Mark Blundell at Silverstone.


Still no luck in either F3000 or WSC; a pit fire ends Le Mans tilt

If Raphanel was to progress up the single-seater ladder, then 1988 was going to be a make-or-break year. He rejoined ORECA, which swapped its March 88B Cosworth for a Reynard 88D three races into the season. But once again, Pierre-Henri could only show moments of brilliance that he couldn't sustain. He started 2nd at Pau but slipped to 6th in the race; he was 3rd at Silverstone from 3rd on the grid; he finished 5th at Enna, but crashed at Birmingham where he started 2nd.

Even a fine drive late in the season at Le Mans Bugatti from 16th on the grid to 6th was little consolation. 8 points and equal 13th in the series (with Jean-Denis Deletraz) was not what he would have wanted. There was further disappointment in the WSC, where after coming 7th at Monza with Roberto Ravaglia in the Primagaz Cougar C20B Porsche, he was forced to retire at Le Mans where he was sharing the car with Michel Ferté, thanks to a pit fire.

Formula One

Joins a team on its last legs, and qualifies right at the back

But as things turned out, at the end of 1988 another ORECA man, Yannick Dalmas, who had been driving in his first full season with the Larrousse F1 team, fell ill with what turned out to be Legionnaire's Disease. At Suzuka his seat was taken by Aguri Suzuki, but for the Australian GP at Adelaide, Raphanel was given the chance to make his F1 debut in the Larrousse Lola LC88 Cosworth.

And although he failed to qualify, he didn't disgrace himself either. Stepping up to the plate admirably, and able to learn the car reasonably quickly, he was hit by gearbox problems in second qualifying, but still finished up 29th fastest. Of course, only the top 26 were allowed to start, but Pierre-Henri had been only 0.4s off 26th-placed Piercarlo Ghinzani's Zakspeed.

On debut at Adelaide for Larrousse in 1988, he did quite well even though he failed to qualify.
On debut at Adelaide for Larrousse in 1988, Raphanel did quite well even though he failed to qualify.


Has to make do with only an updated chassis, but gets through PQ in Monaco

Still, for 1989 the Coloni team started employing some ex-AGS people, and French connections plus some sponsorship saw Raphanel get the full-time ride alongside Roberto Moreno. However, with Coloni's new C3 chassis not appearing until round 6, early on he had to be content with an updated C188B, making the job of pre-qualifying more difficult than what it already was (although Moreno's Coloni was an automatic inclusion in main qualifying).

In both Brazil and San Marino, Raphanel was seriously off the pace, managing to be 9th and 10th fastest in qualifying respectively when only the top 4 made it through. However at Monaco, continuing that fabulous form on street circuits that had seen him do so well at Pau in F3000, he was 3rd in pre-qualifying, just behind Stefano Modena and Alex Caffi, but ahead of Martin Brundle.


Adventure at Monte Carlo sees PHR on the grid, and racing ahead of Piquet

Amazingly, Brundle ended up qualifying 4th and finishing 6th, while Modena came home 3rd and Caffi 4th. But Raphanel too did a very respectable job in not only getting his car onto the grid, but in a sensational 18th spot. He was well ahead of Moreno, and even in front of three-time World Champion Nelson Piquet, the experienced Eddie Cheever, Rene Arnoux and Ivan Capelli, and the young English talent Johnny Herbert.

When Riccardo Patrese's Williams stalled on the dummy grid, Raphanel found himself effectively bumped up to 17th. As the race went on, he was able to hold Piquet off, and as others retired he moved up to 15th by lap 18. But then the car developed a gearbox problem, which eventually sidelined him two laps later. With Capelli running in 6th towards the end of the race, who knows where Raphanel might have come?

Raphanel's Coloni leading Nelson Piquet's Lotus through the tunnel in Monaco in 1989: the high point of PHR's F1 career!
Raphanel's Coloni leading Nelson Piquet's Lotus through the tunnel in Monaco in 1989: the high point of PHR's F1 career!


Things start going downhill fast, and come to a head in Hungary

Thereafter, Raphanel never again looked like qualifying, and remains the only man of the 130+ who have started just one GP to have started it at Monaco. Because after that, he was slowest in pre-qualifying in Mexico and a respectable 6th quickest at Phoenix, but subsequent teething troubles with the new car meant he in fact dropped further off the pace in Canada, France and Britain.

He in turn was getting fed up with the team, and they with him. Things got worse at Hockenheim, where on special 1989 qualifying tyres, only good for one or two hot laps, in trying to keep his foot down he launched the car off a kerb, and into a wall, writing off his C3 chassis. He was forced to use the old C188B in Hungary, and didn't even record a time there, before leaving the team altogether.


More DNQs, but he makes the grid on home soil at Monza

He had reason to do so, because Volker Weidler had left the Rial team after Hungary as well, but both Rial cars were automatically in qualifying and didn't need to pre-qualify. This attracted Raphanel, and the Rial team were attracted by the sponsorship he brought, especially from TV station La Cinq. So come Belgium, Pierre-Henri found himself in the Rial ARC2 chassis.

However, what he also found was that the ARC2 was a car well past its use-by date. Compared to some of the machines struggling in pre-qualifying, it didn't deserve to be in the automatic inclusions. In 6 qualifying attempts, he was 30th quickest out of 30 at Spa and Estoril, 29th quickest at Monza, Suzuka and Adelaide, and 28th fastest out of 29 at Jerez. During this time, none of his various team-mates (Christian Danner, Gregor Foitek and Bertrand Gachot) ever qualified either.

Raphanel, Rial and rain. Not a great combination at Spa in 1989.
Raphanel, Rial and rain. Not a great combination at Spa in 1989.

After F1

Off to Japanese prototype racing, 3rd at Suzuka in a works Toyota

Finding the F1 nut too hard to crack, Raphanel returned to sports cars. During 1989, he had in fact started at Le Mans in a Joest Porsche 962C with Frank Jelinski and 'John Winter', but retired from the race. In 1990, he went to Japan to drive in the Japanese Sports Prototype Championship, driving a works SARD Toyota 89C-V with Roland Ratzenberger in the first two rounds, and a works Tom's Toyota 90C-V with, variously, Geoff Lees, Masanori Sekiya and Hitoshi Ogawa in rounds 4 to 6.

The only notable results were 7th at Fuji with Ratzenberger, and 3rd and 8th at Suzuka and Sugo with Lees, giving Raphanel 15th overall in the championship with 19 points. Pierre-Henri also raced at Le Mans that year, driving his SARD Toyota 90C-V with Ratzenberger and Naoki Nagasaka, but the car retired with an engine failure.


Three JSPC podiums and a superb second at Le Mans cap a great year

In 1991 he continued his team-hopping between Tom's and SARD. He started out in the Tom's Toyota 90C-V with Lees, coming 6th and 5th at the first two Fuji rounds, before rejoining SARD, taking their Toyota 91C-V with Ratzenberger (and once with Nagasaka also) to 1st and Suzuka and 7th at Sugo. Raphanel was 13th with 38 points. He also raced at Le Mans (a WSC round) in the works Peugeot Talbot Sport 905 with Dalmas and Keke Rosberg, but retired when the gear linkage broke.

For 1992, Pierre-Henri committed himself to Tom's, driving their Toyota 92C-V with Sekiya in the JSPC. In a tremendous show of consistency, they finished all 6 rounds, three times in 5th, once in 3rd, and twice in 2nd. They were equal 3rd in the championship with 73 points. Meanwhile Raphanel also drove the Tom's Toyota TS010 at Le Mans with Sekiya and Kenneth Acheson, and finished a wonderful 2nd, leaving him equal 17th in the WSC with those 15 points. It was surely his best year.

Raphanel's 1995 Le Mans tilt with the Gulf McLaren team came to naught when the car crashed out.
Raphanel's 1995 Le Mans tilt with the Gulf McLaren team came to naught when the car crashed out.


Slow down in super tourers echoes slow down in his career

But just when it was beginning to come good, things turned sour. The JSPC was abandoned with the worldwide death of Group C prototype racing. Raphanel had to be content with racing in Japanese super tourers, taking his Toyota Corolla to 4th in the championship, but these cars must have felt oh so slow. There was however a chance to drive the Tom's Toyota TS010 one more time at Le Mans, but the combination of Raphanel, Acheson and Andy Wallace retired.

1994 saw Raphanel make one start at Le Mans in a Courage C32LM Porsche with Pascal Fabre and Lionel Robert, but they were sidelined with engine problems. Whilst he helped in the development of the Courage C41 chassis, what he really wanted to do was to get back to racing, and in 1995 he had that opportunity when he joined Lindsay Owen-Jones in the Gulf Racing McLaren F1 GTR for the BPR Global GT Endurance Series.


Two years with McLaren, but despite plenty of podiums, no wins

This pairing started 10 of the 12 rounds, finishing 4th at the Nurburgring and Nogaro, 3rd at Anderstorp, and 2nd at Donington. At Le Mans, a non-championship event, they were joined by Philippe Alliot in the car, but they crashed out. Raphanel also started the Zhuhai round of the BPR series with Alliot in a Tom's Toyota Supra, and came 11th. Overall, Raphanel was equal 7th in the BPR series with 107 points.

In 1996 he continued in the same series, in the same team, with the same car, and with the same co-driver (twice they were joined by David Brabham, though). Raphanel was 6th with 150 points after 2nds at Jarama, Anderstorp and Nogaro, 3rds at Nurburgring and Brands Hatch, 4th at Zhuhai and 6th at Suzuka. At Le Mans, Raphanel, Owen-Jones and Brabham finished a creditable 5th.

A driver change at the 1997 Le Mans 24hrs as Pierre-Henri readies himself to hop in en route to a brilliant 2nd place finish.
A driver change at the 1997 Le Mans 24hrs as Pierre-Henri readies himself to hop in en route to a brilliant 2nd place finish.


Another great year sees him off to Japan again, and JGTC

1997 saw the end of the BPR series, replaced instead by the FIA GT championship. Raphanel drove the Gulf Team Davidoff McLaren BMW F1 GTR with drivers such as Jean-Marc Gounon, Ray Bellm, Andrew Gilbert-Scott and Anders Olofsson. In a year of similar consistency to his 1992, Raphanel finished every race from 2nd to 6th, including 2nd at Le Mans with Gounon and Olofsson, but only took 7th in the championship with 27 points.

But just like in 1993, in 1998 he was on the move after such an impressive 1997. He returned to Japan to race in their GT championship, driving 5 of the 6 rounds in an Inging Toyota Supra with Shin'ichi Takagi. Poor results left him equal 31st with only 6 points. He also did a round of the US Road Racing Championship at Homestead in a Champion Motors Porsche 911 GT1, finishing 4th with Thierry Boutsen. That result helped Boutsen to the title, but left Raphanel equal 38th on 27 points!


Rather mediocre couple of years follow in JGTC with Tom's

Raphanel also attempted Le Mans again in 1998, racing a Joest Porsche LMP1 with James Weaver and David Murray, but the car retired with accident damage. In 1999, Pierre-Henri didn't race at Le Mans, concentrating instead on the JGTC where he drove a Matsumoto-Kiyoshi Tom's Toyota Supra with Shin'ichi Yamaji. 2nd at Sugo, 6th at Motegi and the fastest race lap at Mine were the only results of note.

Come season's end, Raphanel had finished equal 23rd overall with 27 points, as Erik Comas won the title. Staying in the same JGTC combination for 2000, once again Raphanel found good results hard to come by, with 3rd at Sugo, 7th at Suzuka and 9th at Aida being the only real highlights. This time he and Yamaji ended up only equal 22nd with 18 points.

Pierre-Henri got the chance to join the Panoz team for the Sebring 12hrs and Le Mans. Here he is at the famous 24hr race on their way to a 5th place result.
Pierre-Henri got the chance to join the Panoz team for the Sebring 12hrs and Le Mans. Here he is at the famous 24hr race on their way to a 5th place result.


Picked up by Panoz at Sebring, a great 5th place at Le Mans

2000 also saw Raphanel get the opportunity to drive a few times in the works Panoz LMP Roadster. He drove at the Sebring 12hrs (which was a round of the American Le Mans Series) with Brabham and Jan Magnussen, but the car retired late with engine problems. At Le Mans, Raphanel drove the car again with Hiroki Katoh and Johnny O'Connell, and came a fairly respectable 5th, but 26 laps down on the winning Audi.

In 2001, it was reported that Raphanel was on the short list for a drive with the Rafanelli team, but this has turned out to be not the case, and Pierre-Henri has not been seen at the circuits this year. Whether he will make any more appearances in 2002 and beyond remains to be seen. On a personal note, Raphanel is 181 cm tall, and weighs 73 kg. His blood type is Rh +A.

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