The Reims circuit was a temporary track, laid out over public roads in the wine country of northeastern France. Originally in the shape of a triangle, the track was reshaped to bypass the village of Gueux, in the interests of safety.
With a back straight that rivalled the infamous Mulsanne, the races were both close and fast. In 1953 the circuit would host "the race of the century". An all out battle between the Maseratis and Ferraris with lead changes on every corner. The race was won by Mike Hawthorn by a whisker, and a painting of this event hangs in the BRDC (British Racing Drivers Club) at the Silverstone circuit.
One of the most famous of the road circuits of the Twenties and one of the most enduring, the Reims track, near Gueux was first used in 1925 and was the home of the Grand Prix de la Marne. The circuit had a simple triangle shape and was made up of public roads where slipstreaming was vital and the long back straight rivaled the Mulsanne at Le Mans.
The first French Grand Prix was hosted at Reims in 1932, and was won by the great Tazio Nuvolari. With a large variety of tracks in France, the Grand Prix did not return again until 1938 but would regularly hold races for GP cars and drivers. After the war, Christian Kautz was the first victor at Reims in 1947. Other greats like Jean-Pierre Wimille and Louis Chiron also won in this period.
In 1950 and 1951 Reims hosted the French Grand Prix, both races were won by Juan Manuel Fangio. In 1952 the event moved to Rouen although Reims held the GP de la Marne a week before the Rouen race where Jean Behra celebrated a popular win in the Simca-Gordini.
Reims most famous duel happened throughout the 1953 French Grand Prix and fans were treated to "The Race of the Century" as the Ferrari and Maserati drivers swapped places lap after lap, corner after corner and the race was eventually won by Englishman Mike Hawthorn in a Ferrari, just ahead of Fangio and José Froilán González in Maseratis.
Fangio won again in 1954 and Hawthorn's close friend Peter Collins won in 1956, the race was scheduled to run in 1955 however it was cancelled after the Le Mans disaster. In 1958 Hawthorn won again but the race is remembered for the death of his teammate Luigi Musso. More British success was achieved in 1959 with victory for Tony Brooks while Australian Jack Brabham won for Cooper in 1960.
Another famous French Grand Prix happened at Reims in 1961 where Giancarlo Baghetti achieved a remarkable result by winning for Ferrari on his F1 World Championship debut. The race only returned to Reims twice after this, with Jim Clark winning in 1963, and in 1966 Jack Brabham won the first victory ever for a driver in a car of his creation, and the first victory with a Repco engine.
The race started to slip off the international map with safer and more modern facilities opening, and Reims held its last ever motor race in 1969.
The original circuit was roughly triangular, making sharp right turns at the Gueux town square, at the La Garenne straight (RN31) and at the Thillois intersection.
The circuit changed in 1952, bypassing the village of Gueux, and increasing the circuit length from 7.815 to 8.348 km. A new section with some fast, gentle corners was added, making the La Garenne straight 50% longer and resulting in higher average speeds, but adding a new hairpin at Muizon.
Before the 1954 Grand Prix, the hairpins at Muizon and Thillois softened and smoothed out, shortcutting the brick roundabouts used at each corner. This changed the track length to 8.302, and upped the average speed by about 10 mph.
Most of the circuit returned to public roads and with the old grandstands, garages and control tower out of use they slowly started to crumble and become overgrown. But a group of enthusiasts restored the buildings directly around the start line, and have held meetings there with special guests like Jean Alesi and classic cars.
The buildings have been used in photoshoots and car launches and can be driven past and enjoyed today.
But the last half mile before the Thillois hairpin no longer exists, to prevent weekend warriors from running illegal laps at speed. That section of road has been literally plowed under by the landowner.
The following is a list of Formula One World Championship events held at the Reims-Gueux circuit:
|Year||Event||Winning Driver||Winning Constructor|
|1950||French Grand Prix||Juan Manuel Fangio||Alfa Romeo|
|1951||French Grand Prix|| Juan Manuel Fangio|
|1953||French Grand Prix||Mike Hawthorn||Ferrari|
|1954||French Grand Prix||Juan Manuel Fangio||Mercedes|
|1956||French Grand Prix||Peter Collins||Ferrari|
|1958||French Grand Prix||Mike Hawthorn||Ferrari|
|1959||French Grand Prix||Tony Brooks||Ferrari|
|1960||French Grand Prix||Jack Brabham||Cooper-Climax|
|1961||French Grand Prix||Giancarlo Baghetti||Ferrari|
|1963||French Grand Prix||Jim Clark||Lotus-Climax|
|1966||French Grand Prix||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Repco|
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