Le CastelletLe Castellet

Circuit Paul Ricard
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Circuit length:
5.842 km.
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Opened on 19 April 1970, 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. 

Le Castellet

The most modern motorsport facility - in two different eras

The Paul Ricard circuit has, in two very different eras, claimed the title of the most modern motorsport facility in the world. Constructed by drinks magnate Paul Ricard at Le Castellet in the south of France, the circuit was the first of the modern autodromes - a little sterile for those brought up on classic road racing circuits but with excellent facilities for the fans and teams.

Exactly why Paul Ricard decided to build his eponymous racing circuit is slightly lost in the mists of time; with a ban on advertising his pastis drinks in France, Ricard was an early adopter of sports sponsorship as a means of promoting his product and so the circuit could well have been a simple extension of the same philosophy. Others point to Ricard's disdain for the power of the French state and bureaucracy and suggest the circuit was an effort to prove that private companies could successfully build road networks (construction of the nation's slowly emerging network of autoroutes at that time remaining firmly in the state's control). Whatever the reason, it was undeniably a facility constructed to the highest standards

Wall of Fame

Herberth Motorsport - Porsche 911 GT3 R - Allemann, Bohn, Renauer, Renauer - 595 laps
Precote Herberth Motorsport - Porsche 911 GT3 R - Renauer, Renauer, Allemann, Bohn - 591 laps
Ram Racing - Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 - Onslow-Cole, White, Jäger, Christodoulou - 586 laps

Plans for the circuit were advanced in a relatively short time frame, though Ricard rejected the initial proposals, which were designed by architects unfamiliar with motorsport. French racing luminaries Henri Pescarolo and Jean-Pierre Beltoise were brought in to give their expert advice and soon construction began to a revised blueprint. In just 10 months the circuit sprang up on a plot of land near the town of Signes, where Ricard had earlier built an airport to serve his business interests (in typical Ricard style, this was the largest private airfield in the region).

Opening in April 1970 with a 2-litre sportscar race won by Brian Redman, Circuit Paul Ricard quickly usurped the fading Clermont-Ferrand and Rouen tracks as the premier venue for French motorsport. Within short order, it had secured the French Grand Prix, hosting it from 1971 for 14 years. While the Grand Prix drivers may not have been overly impressed with driving challenge, they were no doubt appreciative of the expansive run-off areas, which were considerably larger than any other circuit at the time.


RDN8 2760 Route des Hauts du Camp, 83 330 Le Castellet, France
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Within the modern circuit layout, visually, the biggest change was in the adoption of a pioneering new high-grip asphalt run-off system to replace the gravel traps of old. High-grip asphalt areas offer differing levels of abrasion, designed to slow down errant vehicles and avoid impact with the barriers. Distinguished by their bright blue and red (for ultra-high grip) colouring, the Blue Line concept has since been adopted by a number of other circuits, though not as completely as at Le Castellet.

Also new was the adoption of Tec-Pro safety barriers; these offer a more scientific approach to collision control than the traditional tyre barrier and, after proving themselves at Ricard, have seen widespread adoption elsewhere. These safety innovations were recognised in 2007 when the FIA Institute for Motorsport Safety bestowed the First Center of Excellence award on the new course.

Finally, in 2018, the circuit was announced as the host of the resurrected French Grand Prix, meaning F1 was back after a near 30 year absence. In prepraration, the circuit underwent a major two-month refurbishment and track safety update over winter 2017. 10,000 tons of asphalt were used to resurface the track and pit lane, and four corners were modified. The track has been widened at the entry of La Verrerie, the Virage du Camp at the western end of the circuit and the Virage du Pont leading onto the start-finish straight, while a new re-shaped and shortened version of the Virage de Bendor was added for motorcycle use.


CONTROL MRTC IV Capital Trees for the Future