A treat this month: it’s many years since the fast Reims-Gueux circuit hosted racing. Luckily, photos can sweep us back there
Any professional photographer would be thrilled to have these images among their portfolio, yet Michel Mathieu says he is just “a passionate person who loved motor racing”. Michel’s father lived in Gueux and attended every race from 1926 to 1969. Michel recalls that in 1939 his father saw Caracciola’s Mercedes crash, and then collected some of its exotic fuel: “He was surprised he could not set fire to it!” In 1959 his son joined him, with camera, and from then until racing ceased Michel recorded the atmosphere and the spaciousness of this flat, open triangular circuit with its brake-boiling hairpin.
Michel retains particularly clear memories of the 1963 French GP. “We could see in the distance the exit of the little wood that marked the start of the downhill run towards Thillois. A little green car appeared – a Lotus, a BRM, a Brabham? – and then an eternity. Had there been an accident? No, that was the gap behind Jim Clark…”
Last year Reims-Gueux celebrated its 90th anniversary and many of the original pit buildings are famously extant (and also now partially restored, to help preserve them against the elements). If you are in the area, head west from Reims on the N31. When you see La Garenne restaurant to your right, filter to the left and you’ll be on the old pit straight – the perfect time to switch on your imagination.