Paul Ricard, 1971
With the Grand PrIx of France taking place on the newly built multi-million-pound Paul Ricard circuit alongside the Castellet aerodrome, about equidistant from Marseille and Toulon, it was natural that the circuit was the main topic of conversation.
Before anyone else credits or blames me with the following opinion, and it was being done in the paddock before the meeting was over. I must quote Robin Herd, the March designer, on the subject of Monsieur Paul Ricard’s 1970 monument to motor racing. Herd said he thought It was rather sad to think that when we are on our way to the 1987 Monaco Grand Prix we should take time to turn off the autoroute after Aix-en-Provence and drive into the hills, to stand In the quietness of the scrubland and look at the great crumbling, disused stadium, all broken down and overgrown, and recall where Amon once spun off and Stewart had a slight accident, and then continue on our way to Monte Carlo. That was Robin Herd’s opinion of the whole vast and extravagant affair of the Paul Ricard circuit and all I can say is that he said it before I did. There have always been monuments and follies built by man in his enthusiasm to create things, some of them artistic, some of them political and others of a sporting nature. In Spain you can see the Sltges banked track, in England the Brooklands track, in North Africa the Mellaha concrete wonder at Tripoli, in Northern France the Reims circuit, in Southern France the Miramas autodrome, and so it goes on.
In Germany you can still visit Hitler’s stadium at Nurnberg, in England you can visit Stonehenge, all wonders of the world created by that ever-ingenious animal known as Man. My overall feeling about the Paul Ricard circuit is that while the man’s philanthropy is admirable I am not sure that European motor racing is strong enough, or rich enough, to afford such a luxury or to keep it going. Yours DSJ
Denis Jenkinson was our famous Continental Correspondent for 40 years