Born in London, De Cadenet is the son of Maxime-Jacques de Cadenet, a lieutenant in the French Air Force, and his wife Valerie. He was educated at Framlingham College.
He started racing in the mid 1967 with an AC Ace Bristol at Brands Hatch and this was followed by a Porsche 904 which was also his road car.
He made his reputation building and driving his own sports prototypes, taking on works teams and occasionally beating them. In 1976 he finished 3rd overall at the Le Mans. In 1980, with co-driver Desiré Wilson, he won two rounds of the World Sportscar Championship —the Monza 1000 kilometers and Silverstone 6 hour events. This was a major achievement in an era of increasing professionalism, when it was very difficult for privateers to defeat larger, better-funded teams that had factory support.
De Cadenet also races classic and vintage cars, having owned and raced numerous examples, particularly Alfa Romeos. In addition to cars, he also collects motorcycles and aircraft, and owns a Supermarine Spitfire. A video on the Internet shows a clip from a documentary in which a Spitfire flies extremely low over his head. He was also a collector and authority on George V stamps, and advised the Royal Mail on their collection. Alain's knowledge of vintage wines and period stills cameras is also formidable. In fact before he started racing he was a professional photgrapher working in the fashion and music industries.
Divorced from Anna de Cadenet, with whom he has two children, Alexander and Amanda, he is now married to Alison de Cadenet and has a younger son Aidan.
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