Circuit de Reims-Gueux: motorsport’s forgotten challenge

When I watch modern Formula One, more often than not the drivers are battling it out on yet another Hermann Tilke-designed circuit. These circuits are crafted to be technically brilliant, with a considered mix of fast-flowing and tight chicanes, lengthy straights and off-camber corners. Despite their engineering, though, they’re not as exciting as some of the oldest and downright dangerous circuits that post-war Europe offered up in the embryonic stages of the sport. For those familiar with Spa-Francorchamps, the Nurburgring Nordschleife, Laguna Seca, Bathurst or Silverstone, run-off areas are a product of the modern era only.

The Circuit de Reims-Gueux is just one of those circuits imbued with a blend of history, danger and difficulty. Originally conceived as a road race in 1926 on public roads between Thillois and Gueux, the narrow circuit featured just seven corners and two extensive straights in its ultimate incarnation. As a result, it became notorious as a location for manufacturers to test out the v-max of their race cars. It spears through rural France on bumpy, rucked tarmac in a manner similar to that of its glamourous cousin, the Circuit de la Sarthe. The Formula One cavalcade last visited the circuit in 1966; just seven years before the engines were turned off for the last time due to financial difficulties.
France - Circuit de Reims-Gueux | www.motormessenger.co.uk
The 1966 French Grand Prix at Circuit de Reims-Gueux. Photo credit: http://img11.hostingpics.net/pics/845659F11966.jpg
Whilst Reims-Gueux does not see any competitive motorsport today, sections of the track still remain visible to motorists, with the odd historical race and restoration work being hosted by local organisation Les amis du Circuit de Gueux. Since my last post, I’ve booked my road trip to see the Belgian Grand Prix this summer. Whilst the ultimate destination is of course Spa-Francorchamps, we also plan to visit Reims-Gueux and – say it softly – drive Germany’s Green Hell in the same trip. Whether that will be in my 320i or a rented pocket rocket remains to be seen, however.
From my extensive research (a quick glimpse at TripAdvisor), the main straight of Reims-Gueux is still preserved with the same sponsors, grandstand and pit garages that adorned the circuit in its heyday. I cannot wait to visit, as not only will it be a fantastic photo opportunity for the car, but I’ll be sampling a bit of motorsport history in the process.
France - Circuit de Reims-Gueux | www.motormessenger.co.uk
The circuit as it looks today. Photo credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1b/Dodge-challenger-srt8-at-reims-track.jpg
I passionately hope that this trip will allow me a glimpse of three of motorsport’s most famous European theatres. In a world of increased health and safety legislation, noise pollution regulations and ever-declining interest in Formula One, it’s absolutely essential that I experience these intoxicating circuits first-hand before they are altered, sold off or shut forever. As a motormessenger reader, you can expect a detailed report on our Eurotrip at the end of the summer.
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