René de Knyff

10/12/1865 - 0/0/1954

Record updated 10-Dec-18

René de Knyff was a French pioneer of car racing and later a president of Commission Sportive Internationale, now known as the FIA.

Baron Chevalier René de Knyff was was born in Antwerp in the Flemish part of Belgium. He spent most of his life in France and became a French citizen in 1914. Until that time his name was spelt the Flemish way, René De Knijff. 

After Emile Levassor died in 1897, de Knyff became a director of Panhard & Levassor, the company with a capital of 5,000,000 francs, a great deal of money at the time. He always raced a Panhard and later was instrumental in establishing the French Automobile Club (ACF). 

He started racing in 1897 and with his full beard, he was one of the great drivers of the first era of motor sport taking many victories in the City to City races popular in those early days. 

Some notable results:

1898: 3rd Marseille-Nice

1898: 1st Criterium des Entraineurs

1899: 2nd Paris-Bordeaux , 1st Brussel-Namur-Spa, 1st Spa-Bastogne-Spa, 1st Tour de France (Later renamed the IV Grand Prix de l'A.C.F.) 

1900: 1st Circuit du Sud Ouest 

1900: 1st Nice-Marseille-Nice

1901: 3rd Paris-Berlin

1903: 2nd Gordon Bennett race 

in 1902 he led the Gordon Bennet Trophy when it was run from Paris to Innsbruck. He leading by a large margin when the sleeve of the Panhard's differential casing broke just 40 km from the finish. Selwyn Edge, the only other in contention went on to win and put an end to the French domination of the first two races. This meant that, for the first time, the race would move from France. 

As England had a strictly enforced 12mph speed limit in 1903, the race came to Ireland. Selwyn Edge, in his Napier, stormed his first lap but fell back due to a series of mechanical failures, the race soon became a duel between the refined Rene de Knyff for France in his Panhard and the Hungarian immigrants son, Jenatzy, for Belgium in the Mercedes. The gap between de Knyff and Jenatzy was never more than a few minutes. After lap two, Jenatzy was two minutes ahead. After lap four, it was a gap of ten minutes. By lap five, this had become eight minutes. In the end, despite the best efforts of de Knyff, it was to fall to the Red Devil, Jenatzy, to claim the prize with a time of 6hrs 39mins, an average speed of just under 50mph. De Knyff came in with a time just 11 minutes behind at an average speed of 47.85mph. 

After 1903 he withdrew himself from active racing. He became a chairman of the racing department of the ACF. He was also President of the Commissione Sportiva Internazionale (CSI) and the Internazionale dello Sport Automobilistico (FISA) from 1922 until 1946.