The Circuit Paul Ricard (French pronunciation: ​[siʁkɥi pɔl ʁikaʁ]) is a French motorsport race track built in 1969 at Le Castellet, Var, near Marseille, with finance from pastis magnate Paul Ricard. Ricard wanted to experience the challenge of building a racetrack. The circuit has hosted the FIA Formula One French Grand Prix since 2018, having previously hosted it intermittently from 1971 to 1983, and every year from 1985 to 1990.

History

First years (1970–1990)

Satellite view of the circuit in April 2018

Opened on 19 April 1970,[1] the circuit's innovative facilities made it one of the safest motor racing circuits in the world at the time of its opening. The circuit had three track layout permutations, a large industrial park and an airstrip. The combination of modern facilities, mild winter weather and an airstrip made it popular amongst racing teams for car testing during the annual winter off-season.[2]

The original track was dominated by the 1.8 km long Mistral Straight that is followed by the high-speed right hand Signes corner. The long main straight and other fast sections made the track very hard on engines as they ran at full revs for extended spells. Engine failures were common, such as Ayrton Senna's huge crash during the 1985 French Grand Prix after the Renault engine in his Lotus failed and he went off backwards at Signes on his own oil and crashed heavily, with only light bruising to the driver. Nigel Mansell crashed at the same place in the same weekend during practice and suffered a concussion which kept him out of the race. Mansell's crash was the result of a slow puncture in his left rear tyre causing it to explode at over 320 km/h (200 mph), which detached his Williams FW10's rear wing. The Honda powered FW10 holds the race lap record for the original circuit when Mansell's teammate Keke Rosberg recorded a time of 1:39.914 during the 1985 French Grand Prix. During qualifying for the 1985 race, Swiss driver Marc Surer clocked what was at the time the highest speed recorded by a Formula One car on the Mistral when he pushed his turbocharged, 1,000 bhp (746 kW; 1,014 PS) Brabham-BMW to 338 km/h (210 mph). This compared to the slowest car in the race, the 550 bhp (410 kW; 558 PS) naturally aspirated Tyrrell-Ford V8 of Stefan Bellof which could only manage 277 km/h (172 mph). Bellof qualified 9 seconds slower than Surer and 12 seconds slower than pole winner Rosberg.

Paul Ricard was inaugurated with a 2-litre sports car race;[3] during the 1970s and the 1980s the track developed some of the best French drivers of the time including four time World Drivers' Champion Alain Prost who won the French Grand Prix at the circuit in 1983, 1988, 1989 and 1990. The circuit hosted the Formula One French Grand Prix on many occasions, the first of which was the 1971 French Grand Prix.

The circuit was also extensively used for testing, especially in Formula One. In 1986, Brabham Formula One driver Elio de Angelis was killed in a testing accident at the fast first turn after the rear wing of his Brabham BT55 had broken off. Although the circuit was not the cause of the crash, it was modified in order to make it safer. The length of the Mistral Straight was reduced from 1.8 km (1.1 mi) in length to just over 1 km (0.62 mi), and the fast sweeping Verierre curves where de Angelis had crashed were bypassed. Effectively, after the start, instead of heading into the left hand Verierre sweeper, cars now braked hard and turned sharp right into a short run that connected the pit straight to the Mistral. This changed the circuit length for a Grand Prix from 5.81 km (3.61 mi) to just 3.812 km (2.369 mi). This also had the effect of cutting lap times from Keke Rosberg's 1985 pole time of 1:32.462 in his Williams-Honda turbo, to Nigel Mansell's 1990 pole time of 1:04.402 in his V12 Ferrari.

The last French Grand Prix held at the circuit was in 1990; the event then moved to Magny-Cours where it ran until 2008. Since then there were discussions about reviving the French Grand Prix with Paul Ricard one of the circuits believed to be considered as the venue. During its life of hosting a round of the Formula One World Championship, Paul Ricard hosted the French Grand Prix on 14 occasions between 1971 and 1990. The Long Circuit was used from 1971 to 1985, with the Club Circuit used from 1986 to 1990. On six occasions (1971, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1980 and 1989) the winner at Paul Ricard went on to win the World Championship in the same year. Ronnie Peterson (1973 and 1974) and René Arnoux (1982) are the only Ricard winners who never won the championship.

Recent times (1990–present)

United Autosports Audi at the 2010 FIA GT3 European Championship Paul Ricard round
Daniel Ricciardo at Paul Ricard during the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series Paul Ricard round

In the 1990s the circuit's use was limited to motorcycle racing and French national racing, most notably until 1999, the Bol d'or 24-hour motorcycle endurance race. The track was also the home of the Oreca F3000 team. After Ricard's death, the track was sold to Excelis, a company owned by Formula One promoter Bernie Ecclestone, in 1999. The track was rebuilt into an advanced test track, and was for a time known as the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track (Paul Ricard HTTT) before changing its name back to Circuit Paul Ricard.

An aircraft landing strip suitable for private jets is amongst the circuit's facilities. There is a Karting Test Track (KTT) that features the same type of abrasive safety zones as the car track. The track has also hosted some races, including the 2006 Paul Ricard 500km, a round of the FIA GT Championship. Other GT championships have run races here, most notably the Ferrari Challenge and races organized by Porsche clubs of France and Italy.

On 5 December 2016, it was announced that the French Grand Prix would return to the Formula 1 calendar for the 2018 season at Paul Ricard. It was the first French Grand Prix since 2008 (last held at Magny-Cours) and the first at Circuit Paul Ricard since 1990.[4][5] On 19 June 2017, the FIA's World Motor Sport Council in Geneva published its 2018 provisional calendar with the French Grand Prix scheduled for 24 June at Circuit Paul Ricard with the race itself followed immediately by the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring and then the British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit.[6] Pirelli Motorsport has planned for a two-day tyre testing for its 2018 Formula 1 tyres at Circuit Paul Ricard in the months of May, June and September 2017.[7]

Paul Ricard has the 3-star FIA Environmental Accreditation. In a 2021 report, it was ranked the second most sustainable racetrack in the world, together with Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and behind Mugello Circuit.[8]

Track

The track is characterised by its long Mistral straight (1.8 km, 1.1 mi) and elongated track design. The track is also unusual in that it is built on a plateau: it is very flat. In 1986 the track was modified to shorten the circuit, by adding shortcut through to the middle of the Mistral Straight. This shorter circuit is also known as the GP short circuit and is 3.813 km (2.369 mi) long. The track offers 167 possible configurations from 0.826 km (0.513 mi) to the full 5.861 km (3.642 mi).[9] The track's elevation ranges from 408 to 441 m (1,339 to 1,447 ft) above sea level. Its flexibility and mild winter weather mean that it is used for testing by several motorsport teams, including Formula One teams.

2011 edition of the 6 Hours of Castellet

The track is known for its distinctive black and blue run-off areas known as the Blue Zone. The runoff surface consists of a mixture of asphalt and tungsten, used instead of gravel traps, as common at other circuits.[10] A second, deeper run-off area is the Red Zone, with a more abrasive surface designed to maximize tyre grip and hence minimize braking distance, although at the cost of extreme tyre wear. The final safeguard consists of Tecpro barriers, a modern improvement on tyre barriers.[10]

In 2019 the pitlane entry was moved following safety concerns. The entry, which was previously accessed via the main straight, is now situated between the final two corners (turns 14 and 15).[11]

Track configurations

Lap records

The official lap record for the current F1 circuit layout (1C-V2) is 1:32.740, set by Sebastian Vettel during the 2019 French Grand Prix. While the unofficial all-time track record is 1:28.319, set by Lewis Hamilton during final qualifying for the aforementioned 2019 race. The official race lap records at the Circuit Paul Ricard are listed as:

Category Time Driver Vehicle Event
Current Layout with Mistral Chicane (1C-V2): 5.842 km (2005–present)
F1 1:32.740 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari SF90 2019 French Grand Prix
FIA F2 1:44.584 Nyck de Vries Dallara F2 2018 2019 Le Castellet Formula 2 round
Formula Renault 3.5 1:50.855[13] Pierre Gasly Dallara T12 2014 Le Castellet Formula Renault 3.5 Series round
FIA F3 1:52.171 Marcus Armstrong Dallara F3 2019 2019 Le Castellet Formula 3 round
GP3 1:52.551[14] Anthoine Hubert Dallara GP3/16 2018 Le Castellet GP3 Series round
Euroformula Open 1:54.281[15] Ye Yifei Dallara 320 2020 Le Castellet Euroformula Open round
FTwo (2009-2012) 1:55.837[16] Christopher Zanella Williams JPH1 2012 Le Castellet FTwo round
FREC 1:57.596 Gianluca Petecof Tatuus F.3 T-318
Formula Renault 2.0 1:59.516[17] Lorenzo Colombo Tatuus FR-19 2019 Le Castellet Formula Renault Eurocup round
GT1 2:02.659[18] Enrique Bernoldi Chevrolet Corvette C6.R 2009 FIA GT Paul Ricard 2 Hours
Formula 4 2:04.878[19] Tatuus F4-T014 2021 Le Castellet Italian F4 round
GT3 2:05.714[20] Jens Reno Møller Honda NSX GT3 Evo 2019 Le Castellet GT Sports Club round
GT4 2:12.633[21] Jim Pla Mercedes-AMG GT4 2019 Le Castellet FFSA GT4 round
TCR Touring Car 2:13.760[22] Honda Civic Type R TCR (FK8) 2021 Le Castellet TCR Europe round
Current Bike Layout without Mistral Chicane (1A-V2 Bike): 5.673 km (2018–present)
FIM EWC 1:55.487[23] Broc Parkes Yamaha YZF-R1 2018 Bol d'Or
Current Layout without Mistral Chicane (1A-V2): 5.770 km (2005–present)
LMP2 1:40.139[24] Nyck de Vries Aurus 01 2020 4 Hours of Le Castellet
LMP1 1:42.541[25] Rinaldo Capello Audi R15 TDI plus 2010 8 Hours of Castellet
LMP3 1:48.988[26] Ben Barnicoat Ligier JS P320 2020 1st Paul Ricard Le Mans Cup round
LM GTE 1:52.098[24] Andrea Piccini Ferrari 488 GTE Evo 2020 4 Hours of Le Castellet
Formula 3 1:52.828[27] Daniel Abt Dallara F308 2011 Le Castellet F3 Euro Series round
GT1 1:53.343[28] Chevrolet Corvette C6.R 2006 FIA GT Paul Ricard 500km
GT3 1:53.750[29] Jake Dennis Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 2019 1000 km of Paul Ricard
Short Circuit with Mistral chicane (3C): 3.841 km (2002–present)
Auto GP 1:18.347[30] Kimiya Sato Lola B05/52 2014 Le Castellet Auto GP round
Formula 3 1:21.740[31] Joel Eriksson Dallara F315 2016 Le Castellet F3 round
Formula 4 1:27.607[32] Ayumu Iwasa Mygale M14-F4 2020 3rd Le Castellet French Formula 4 round
WTCC 1:30.455[33] Robert Huff Honda Civic WTCC 2016 FIA WTCC Race of France
GT4 1:31.906[34] Adrien Tambay Audi R8 LMS GT4 Evo 2020 2nd Le Castellet French GT4 Cup round
Original Short Grand Prix Circuit: 3.812 km (1986-2001)
F1 1:08.012 Nigel Mansell Ferrari 641 1990 French Grand Prix
LMP 1:16.870[35] Emmanuel Collard Ferrari 333 SP 1998 International Sports Racing Series Paul Ricard
500cc 1:21.487 Kenny Roberts Jr. Suzuki RGV500 1999 French motorcycle Grand Prix
250cc 1:23.559 Loris Capirossi Aprilia RSV 250 1997 French motorcycle Grand Prix
GT2 1:24.447[36] Jean-Pierre Jarier Porsche 911 GT2 1998 4 Hours of Le Castellet
125cc 1:28.383 Tomomi Manako Honda RS125 1997 French motorcycle Grand Prix
Original Long Grand Prix Circuit: 5.809 km (1970-2001)
F1 1:39.914 Keke Rosberg Williams FW10 1985 French Grand Prix
Group 5 1:50.600[37] Jean-Pierre Beltoise Matra-Simca MS670C 1974 1000 km of Castellet
GT1 1:52.653[38] Anders Olofsson Ferrari F40 GTE 1996 BPR 4 Hours of Le Castellet

References

  1. ^ "Paul Ricard Circuit History". www.circuitpaulricard.com. 8 December 2016. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Round 1 Paul Ricard". www.gtopen.net. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Paul Ricard Circuit, France (April 19th)". www.motorsportmagazine.com. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  4. ^ Billiotte, Julien (5 December 2016). "Le Grand Prix de France confirmé au Ricard - F1i.com". F1i.com (in French). Archived from the original on 7 December 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  5. ^ Benson, Andrew (5 December 2016). "French Grand Prix returns for 2018 after 10-year absence". BBC Sport. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  6. ^ Noble, Jonathan. "Formula 1 2018 calendar revealed with first triple-header". Autosport.com. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  7. ^ Noble, Jonathan. "F1 2017 tyre test plan revealed". motorsport.com. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  8. ^ Racing towards a sustainable future - A Review of the sustainability performance of international racing circuits - Enovation Consulting and Right Hub, June 2021
  9. ^ "Official website". Archived from the original on 22 June 2018. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  10. ^ a b Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track, The Marshal: Incorporating Rescue & Resuscitation, April 2007 (Issue 21).
  11. ^ Mitchell, Scott. "French GP pit entry moved after safety fears". motorsport.com. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Paul Ricard Racingcircuits.info". Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  13. ^ "Circuit Paul Ricard Formula Renault 3.5 Race 1 (40' +1 lap) Final Classification" (PDF). Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  14. ^ "2018 GP3 Series Paul Ricard Session Facts". Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  15. ^ "2020 Euroformula Open Paul Ricard Race 2 Provisional Results" (PDF). Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  16. ^ "2012 Paul Ricard MSV F2 - Round 11". Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  17. ^ "2019 Formula Renault Eurocup Paul Ricard Session Facts". Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  18. ^ "2009 Paul Ricard FIA GT". Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  19. ^ "2021 F4 Italian Championship Paul Ricard Session Facts". Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  20. ^ "2019 GT Sports Club Paul Ricard Race 1 Results" (PDF). Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  21. ^ "FFSA GT4 Paul Ricard 2019". Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  22. ^ "2021 TCR Europe Paul Ricard Race 2 Results" (PDF). Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  23. ^ "FIM EWC Paul Ricard Info". Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  24. ^ a b "2020 4 Hours of Le Castellet Classification By Class" (PDF). Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  25. ^ "2010 Paul Ricard LMS". Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  26. ^ "2020 Michelin Le Mans Cup Paul Ricard Round Final Classification" (PDF). Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  27. ^ "2011 Paul Ricard European F3". Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  28. ^ "2006 Paul Ricard FIA GT". Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  29. ^ "2019 Paul Ricard Blancpain". Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  30. ^ "2014 Paul Ricard Auto GP - Round 3". Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  31. ^ "2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship Paul Ricard Session Facts". Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  32. ^ "Championnat de France FFSA des Circuits - Paul Ricard 3C 2020 Race 1" (PDF). Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  33. ^ "2016 World Touring Car Championship Race Of France Session Facts". Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  34. ^ "Championnat de France FFSA des Circuits - Circuit Paul Ricard (2) 20 - 22 November 2020 GT4 France Race 1 Final Classification" (PDF). Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  35. ^ "1998 International Sports Racing Series Paul Ricard". Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  36. ^ "1998 4 Hours of Le Castellet". Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  37. ^ "1000 km Le Castellet 1974". Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  38. ^ "1996 BPR 4 Hours of Le Castellet". Retrieved 10 April 2021.

External links