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12/03/2015 16:01

The Circuit Bugatti: 50 years of history - Part 2: The evolution

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...

The Circuit Bugatti: 50 years of history - Part 2: The evolution
The Circuit Bugatti: 50 years of history - Part 2: The evolution

 

Photo : D.R. - Archives ACO

 

In 1967, the Circuit Bugatti was the site of the only Formula 1Grand Prix ever raced at this track, won by Sir Jack Brabham whose sons Geoff then David would later win the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

"Characterless" was the rather harsh opinion of some drivers who competed in the only Grand Prix of France (the so-called Grand Prix of the Automobile Club de France, it was the 5th round of the 1967 Championship) held at the Circuit Bugatti, and speaking of the layout, the meaner American hacks even called it the "Mickey Mouse" circuit.

Fifty years later, it would be easy to show how many "miracles" this circuit has facilitated, by its versatility and most likely helped the ACO to remain afloat during less successful times, thanks especially to the motorcycle phenomenon, and bikers who unlike F1 participants have always greatly enjoyed the layout. Few 
circuits in the world can boast having hosted as many forms of competition, to the highest levels, such as: Formula 1, Grand Prix Moto, F 3000, 1,000 km Endurance protos Le Mans, Formula 2, Formula 3, endurance moto including the Bol d’Or and the 24 Hours Moto, 1,000 km moto, 24 Hours Trucks, Kart 250, 24 Hours on foot, bicycling, skating, dragsters and all auto and bicycle promotional events.

After the changes to the Garage Vert turn, the Bugatti layout has been consistenly modified over the years. More or less significant changes, not to mention the many modifications to the Dunlop curve, in 1990, 2002, 2005, common ground with the 24 Hours circuit. Safety structures evolved in tandem with these modifications: the fascines left way to safety rails, reasonably pushed back, protected by fences. Then clearances, imposed by the supervisory federations, marked the appearance of gravel traps. This improvement was decisive in the reduction of accidents especially relative to motos. The "sea of sand" of the Dunlop curve allowed the circuit to retain the Grand Prix, the 24 Hours Motos and various other two-wheel events.

Activity at the circuit went on for aound 90 days of the year back in 1970. By the end of the 1990s, it reached 330 days per annum easily, making the Bugatti one of the busiest circuits in Europe. Ten years after its inauguration, the creation of the Maison Blanche track echoed the revival of moto racing. This achievement, made with Honda's support, reached the justified status of a circuit, as to the Bugatti, the policy that prevailed for decades created the uniqueness that continues to make it coveted and special.

The Bugatti constitutes an exceptional tool for the ACO and those who realized at the time the relevance of the investment must be saluted, because without it the association could not have found the resources to make it through loss editions of the 24 Hours. 
And by the way, why Bugatti? Because the directors of the ACO at the time honoured the French constructor's glory which marked the history of the auto and motorsports. As proof, the type 35 Bugatti and its 2,000 victories between the two world wars and the Bugatti Royale, the most legendary car of all time until the Veyron of today...so tribute is paid to one of the most emblematic car constructors in French motorsports.

Hervé GUYOMARD / ACO - Translation by Nikki Ehrhardt / ACO

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