Phi-Phi, as he was called by his friends, was the prototype of a private driver. He never belonged to a works team, but competed in numerous races with his own racing cars. His career began in 1926 with a Bugatti . In 1927 he celebrated his first victory at the Grand Prix de la Marne , which was followed by more in French races in 1929. His greatest success was the 1930 French Grand Prix . He competed with Alfa Romeo , Maserati and Talbot in the 1930s with varying degrees of success.
After the war he celebrated further successes in a Talbot , in the first Formula 1 world championship season in 1950 he achieved two fifth places. His last race, the non-World Championship Grand Prix of Rouen, he contested in 1953 at the age of 56 years and came third.
After his retirement he remained connected to the sport, he often appeared in the pits or at meetings of historic racing cars. Étancelin died in 1981 at the age of 84.