Former F1 circuit in France reopened for Jaguar lap record
Circuit de Charade – colloquially known as Clermont-Ferrand – has run its original five-mile configuration for the first in 30 years, as part of a record attempt by Jaguar
Known as the 'French Nürburgring', Circuit de Charade was built around an extinct volcano and held the French Grand Prix four times and the French motorcycling grand prix ten times between 1959 and 1974. Safety concerns led to the testing 8.0km layout being shunned for a 3.98km layout in 1989.
30 years on from its final race, the circuit's original design – which has since been used as public roads – has been reopened for a lap record attempt by Jaguar. The British sports car brand marked the anniversary by taking its XE sports saloon around in a record time for a production saloon car.
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Last year Jaguar took its XE SV Project 8, its most powerful road-legal car ever, around the Nürburgring Nordschleife in a record time, but took the more road-focused XE 300 Sport to France. It had to contend with a roundabout and two narrow gateways to complete the 48 corner lap, which it managed to do in 4m09s, at an average speed of 72mph (116km/h).
The circuit is perhaps best known for its final F1 race in 1972, when a small piece of volcanic rock was thrown up by Emerson Fittipaldi's Lotus and into the path of BRM driver Helmut Marko, later known as the head of the Red Bull Junior Team. The stone penetrated Marko's visor and blinded him in the left eye, ending his racing career.
Between its last grand prix and its termination as a race track, the original layout held Formula 3, sportscar, touring car, rallying and hillclimbing. The shortened version of the track still holds track days and historic motorsport events, and last held a national championship event in 1998 with a round of the French GT championship.
"I set the production saloon record at the Nürburgring in the XE SV Project 8 last year and this lap was every bit as demanding," said Vincent Radermecker, who drove the lap. The Belgian is a race-winner in F3 and took podiums in the British Touring Car Championship in 1999 with Volvo.
"The longest straight is barely 600 metres, so I can see why drivers used to call this the French Nürburgring," said Radermecker, a nod to its infamous past.
Period Formula 1 images courtesy of Motorsport Images
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