Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Rene de Knyff

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1901. In a Panhard.

Baron Chevalier René de Knyff (December 10, 1865, France - 1954, France) was a French pioneer of car racing and later a president of Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI), now known as FIA.

Between 1897 and 1903 he took part in 18 car races, 5 of which he won (Paris-Bordeaux 1898, Spa-Bastogne-Spa 1899, Tour de France 1899, Circuit du Sud-Ouest Pau 1899, and Nice-Marseille-Nice, 1900).

He drove all the races in a Panhard-Levassor, wearing a captain cap which he always lost right after start. During his racing career, he was famous for his gentlemanship and sportsmanship. For example, during the Paris-Bordeaux race in 1895 he saw his great rival Fernand Charron who was sitting on the road next to his independable car, tired and desperate. De Knyff stopped, asked Charron if he could help him somehow, gave him a glass of cognac and encouraged him to go on, which Charron did.

He was a popular figure also due to his enormous beard, bohemian lifestyle (he knew where to get the best champagne, cigars and Rhine wine) and interest in many other sports, such as tennis, shooting, cycling, and also hunting.

He died in 1954, aged 90.

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