Your article on the Chimay circuit (December issue) brought back memories of that same 1972 meeting. Although you didn’t mention Formula Ford, there was an FF race there that year, and I took my Crossle Mk20 and stayed in a nearby village above a butcher’s shop.
There was no circuit map with your article, and I recalled setting off for first practice having no idea which way the road went I drew a diagram for my logbook afterwards and enclose a copy (below).
It was such a joy to find oneself driving a singleseater on the public road, that for the first couple of laps, I drove round admiring the scenery. As soon as one pressed on a bit, though, it became clear this was a place that demanded respect.
The road was narrow and lined with telegraph poles, trees, ditches and buildings. The most daunting part was the rush down into the outskirts of Chimay. You tore through several winding sweeps, at 130mph plus, between tall buildings barely removed from the road’s edge, with the dodgy stillcurving braking area coming up fast (marked by a zebra crossing at a petrol station).
The circuit’s long straights made for superb slipstreaming. Danny Sullivan was in this race and no doubt the experience served him well years later in oval racing. On the downhill run after the chapel I could get 600 extra revs in a good tow off Danny and others, an increase of nearly 15mph.
The track was not without its problems, however. During practice, I had to swerve for a dog that was trotting along the track. Another driver was surprised to encounter an old man on his bicycle. The braking for the downhill approach to the corner in Salles might have been left later were it not for the spectators lined across the escape road. The paddock was a sticky, muddy field. The loos were even worse than the old Nurburgring ones.
But everyone was friendly and the organisers were carrying on a great tradition.
It was sad that, largely I think due to a saloon car fatality that year, the circuit was changed and later races were not the same. Apart from the Targa Florio course, which went on for a few more years, Chimay was the last real road circuit and I feel privileged to have driven on it.
I am Yours, etc, Mark Litchfield, Boxley, Kent