A visit to the Reims Circuit in France

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On the way to the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa last month, we had the opportunity to stop off at the historic Reims-Gueux circuit, home of the French Grand Prix during the early years of the modern F1 championship.

The Reims-Gueux circuit was first used in 1926, hosting the second edition of the Grand Prix de la Marne. The circuit was notable for its long straights and slipstream battles. It’s layout remained fairly stable throughout the years, measuring between 7.15-8.37km between 1926-1969, when Reims-Gueux was actively used for a range of motorsport events, including Formula 1 (the French Grand Prix) and sportscars (the 12 hours of Reims).

Reims-Gueux hosted the French round of the inaugural modern Formula 1 World Championship in 1950. The race was won by Juan Manuel Fangio in an Alfa Romeo. The circuit would host both championship and non-championship F1 races until 1966, as well as F2 and F3 races. Winners at the circuit included some of the biggest names of the era, including Mike Hawthorn, Peter Collins, Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren and Jim Clark.

After closing in 1972, the circuit gradually fell into disrepair before a group of local enthusiasts (learn more here) began restoring the remaining buildings – especially those around the start-finish line. They also hold regular events featuring classic cars. Large parts of the circuit are still used as public roads, including the main straight and the long back straight, which is now a double lane motorway.

As you can see from the photos, the weather was overcast and the circuit deserted on the morning we visited. This somehow seemed fitting, and it truly did feel like walking back in time to the early years of the F1 World Championship. It’s a special place for F1 fans and well worth a visit if you are in the area!

Remembering local heroes

There are several memorials to local motorsport heroes at the track, including Jean-Pierre Beltoise from Paris (below left), who won the 1965 Reims F3 Grand Prix (pictured) and went on to race in Formula 1 from 1966-74, achieving one victory at the 1972 Monaco Grand Prix. Bruno Bonhuil (below right) was a professional motorcycle rider from Reims who competed in various categories over 20 years, including World Superbikes and 500cc Grand Prix bikes. His biggest victory came in the Les Mans 24 hours motorcycle race in 1991. Bruno was killed in a crash during warm up for the 2005 Macau Grand Prix.

Visiting the Circuit

The city of Reims is located in the heart of Champagne country, around 140km northwest of Paris. The historic circuit is around 8km west of Reims centre, near the village of Gueux (click here for the map). It’s easily reachable by car and close to the A4 motorway from Paris to Strasbourg. We stayed in the F1-themed Hotel Kyriad Design Enzo Reims Tinqueux, which is just a few km from the circuit and a good budget option (room average around €50-60 per night). The main attraction are the pit buildings on the main straight, which are open and easy to look around. The grandstands on the other side of the main straight are fenced off, but the more adventurous explorer can gain access. Don’t forget to remain vigilant; the main straight is a public road with traffic passing at speeds of around 100km/hr. Early morning, when there is less traffic, is a good time to visit.

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About the Author ()

Andrew Balfour is the Founder and Editor of F1Destinations.com. He originally hails from Adelaide, where he went to his first F1 race way back in 1987. He's been resident in Europe for almost 15 years and travels regularly to F1 races around the world.

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  1. Gary Christensen says:

    Back in the early 60s a small group of us from Laon Air Force Base, USAF, visited the Reims track. There was a race taking place. I do not recall the racing series. I do remember that 1963 Ford Galaxies were able to lead the famous red cars from Italy. A fun day.

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