Dijon-Prenois is a permanent racing circuit near the towns of Dijon and Prenois, in eastern France, about 60 km from the Swiss border. It has been used five times for the French Grand Prix, and twice for the Swiss Grand Prix, one of which was a non-championship event.
The circuit was the brain child in the mid 60s of a French rugby player and wrestler named François Chambelland (who wrestled as 'l'Ange Blanc'). He was from the area, and thought that a race track that could be used for automotive testing would be a boost to the local economy. Despite that, the track never received any assistance from either the local or national governments, and the project struggled financially.
The first plans were announced in 1967, and ground was broken in 1969. With the support of racing personalities Guy Ligier, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and François Cevert, the track was opened on May 26, 1972, with Ligier taking the first timed laps on the track in one of his own cars.
Circuit Layouts Edit
The original layout was a simple, 3.289 km (2.044 mile) track, laid out in a hilly, forested area. The main straight is over 1 km long, with the pits and start/finish at the crest of a hill. At the end of the straight, the track dips sharply downhill into a wide, almost 180° sweeping righthander. A series undulating of S-bends, with one moderately tight kink in the middle, lead back to a pair of downhill sweeping righthanders that put the drivers onto the main straight, which is sharply uphill at the beginning.
The track was built to modern (at the time) specs, and was seen as an another home to the French GP, alternating with Circuit Paul Ricard. The first F1 race was held in 1974. Ronnie Peterson won the race, Niki Lauda set the pole time of 58.79 seconds, and during the race Jody Scheckter set the fastest lap at exactly one minute. Lapped traffic was a major issue in both practice and the race.
In 1975 a group of Swiss investors, trying to convince the Swiss government to overturn their ban on auto racing in the country, staged a non-championship event at the track. Known as the 1975 Swiss Grand Prix, it attracted 16 F1 cars, and was considered a success. Swiss driver Clay Regazzoni was the delighted victor, and spoke of his hope of a permanent Swiss GP on the calendar. But the higher speeds on the short track meant that much of the race was a procession with only one passing zone, and the F1 Powers That Be felt that the track would need to be lengthened before another championship event was held there.
After the 1975 race, plans were circulated for an extension to the circuit, that would increase the length to close to 5 km, and have more passing zones. But again funding was an issue, and the track simply could not afford to buy the necessary land. A smaller tract of land was purchased, and a new section of the circuit was built. Instead of the tight kink in the back section, the track now made a sharp left, and after a short downhill straight, the cars made a fairly tight 160° right, before another straight (going uphill) back to the original circuit. This increased the total length to 3.8 km (2.361 mi). When F1 returned in 1977, the competitors felt that it was improved, but they were hopeful of the longer extension in the future.
Sadly, this was never to be. The remote location of the track, coupled with the limited access and lack of spectator amenities has always kept the attendance down, and the track has rarely made enough money for improvements. Aerial photos show where the forest had been thinned in anticipation of a further track expansion, but the lack of followup means nature is reclaiming its own. The last Grand Prix was held in 1984, with Niki Lauda winning to boost his third championship. Since then, Dijon has been deemed too small and too far off of the beaten path to continue to host F1.
The following is a list of Formula One events held at the Dijon-Prenois circuit (non-championship races in yellow):
|Year||Event||Winning Driver||Winning Constructor|
|1974||French Grand Prix||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford|
|1975||Swiss Grand Prix||Clay Regazzoni||Ferrari|
|1977||French Grand Prix||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford|
|1979||French Grand Prix||Jean-Pierre Jabouille||Renault|
|1981||French Grand Prix||Alain Prost||Renault|
|1982||Swiss Grand Prix||Keke Rosberg||Williams-Ford|
|1984||French Grand Prix||Niki Lauda||McLaren-TAG|
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