This year, the Circuit Bugatti - at which take place most motorsports events with the exceptions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Le Mans Classic - celebrates its 50th anniversary. A half century of history and changes...
Around the 1950s, the need for a permanent track became obvious to local motorsports participants as well as racing outfits. Still, agreement had to be reached between misters Lelièvre, Acat, Allanet, De Cortanze, Deutsch and Finance for the idea to materialize. The high cost of setting up the big circuit, the willingness to promote young talent through driving school and the growing need for a training track for constructors, equipment-makers, teams and individuals, made the project happen.
The permanent usage of the facilities for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the vast wooded areas at the back of the burgeoning town greatly facilitated the task. Charles Deutsch, inspired by the silhouette of his left hand and optimally utilizing available space, achieved a 4.422 km serpentine layout amidst the regular and black pines typical of the circuit's surroundings.
Just after the Dunlop bridge at the descent toward the Tertre Rouge, a tight hairpin brought the 24 Hours track parallel toward the village. At the time newly constructed, the Musée des 24 Heures buildings necessitated the creation of a wide parabolic curve with a maximum reading of 14%. Coming out of this endless loop of more than 180°, a new straight went to the most eastern point of available land, where a new equally tough hairpin preceded the long straight of the Bugatti circuit.
800 meters were needed to cross the mound and access the Chemin aux bœufs which gave a flat, separated, large-radius turn. Then on to the western edge of the cicuit and after an "S" with a large slope, the junction with the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit at the end of a perfectly flat hairpin before the long straight of the grandstands and especially the timeclock.
The undertaking went smoothly and the rigors of winter had little impact on the progress of the work since the sandy nature of the soil absorbed any overflow from the sky. Its first race took place at the end of 1965, allowing everyone to get a feel for the new circuit. The technical specifications at the time were, other than recurrent curves, a safety device made of fascines (piles of acacias and brushwood) that was efficient and inexpensive since they grew there profusely on their own. To indicate curve markers, semi-buried tyres painted white discouraged any cheating.
Very soon, touch-ups were needed, as well as the very short Garage Vert escape, done with a pile of sand, as so many drivers fell victim to running into the retaining wall, even over it, that it was necessary to shorten the length of the circuit to facilitate the creation of a significant out. The ground level was notoriously raised to allow the implementation of a dual flat right turn, one without much character it must be said.
Hervé Guyomard / ACO - Translation by Nikki Ehrhardt / ACO
To be continued tomorrow...