I was interested to read the article in January’s Motor Sport about Ron Tauranac. The photo of Dan Gurney winning the French Grand Prix of 1964 brought back memories of the splendid Rouen-les-Essarts circuit, where the event was held, not at Clermont-Ferrand as stated in your caption, where the event was held the following year.
The French GP was held at Rouen in 1952 (on a shorter circuit), 1957, 1962, 1964 and 1968. The circuit was 4.06 miles long and had a lap speed just two or three mph lower than Silverstone’s and was then considered to be a medium-speed circuit. It was famous for its series of fast downhill curves leading to ‘Le nouveau monde’ hairpin.
I wonder how today’s GP cars would perform at Rouen? Silverstone was lapped in just under I m 06s with the Woodcote chicane by Keke Rosberg in the Williams-Honda in 1985. The chicane had added three to four seconds to lap times when introduced in 1975 and today’s cars are quite a bit quicker than the Williams-Honda. I reckon that we would be seeing 58/59second laps at Silverstone if it had not been altered, a lap speed of 179mph. The equivalent at Rouen would be 1m 22.5s, 177mph. The thought of Woodcote or those curves at Rouen being taken at 200mph-plus makes the mind boggle!
While I can understand that 4g 200mph cornering in relative close proximity to pits and spectators is not possible today, I do think that it is pity that fast circuits with open spaces are no longer used or have been emasculated by chicanes. Extrapolating the Silverstone lap time, Monza without chicanes would now have a lap time of 1 m 03s, 205mph, and Reims 1 m 28s, 211 mph. There would be plenty of slipstreaming and overtaking and IndyCar racing has shown that high speeds are not inherently unsafe.
While on the subject of ‘might have beens’, I do recall that the 1964 victory of Dan Gurney at Rouen occurred after Jim Clark had retired from the lead, as also happened there in 1962 when Gurney’s victory was in a Porsche; but for these retirements, Clark would have been World Champion in those years as well as 1963 and 1965, but then Dan Gurney’s luck was generally awful, so he certainly needed a break occasionally.
Richard de la Rue, Wigston Magna, Leicester.