1979 French Grand Prix

Dijon-Prenois, July 1st

On alternate years the Grand Prix of France takes on a green and pleasant atmosphere, when it is held at the little Autodrome near Dijon, in the Bourgogne region. The pleasant countryside which surrounds the circuit is in direct contrast with the arid, dusty countryside which surrounds the Paul Ricard Autodrome, the other home of the Grand Prix of France. The Dijon-Prenois Autodrome does not have a lot to offer, but what it does offer is good; there are two very fast corners, one falling away downhill at its end, the other diving down into a dip and climbing steeply out of it, while the main straight is long enough to get fully wound up, but is hard work as it is approached by quite a steep hill, so that engine torque is more important than engine power. The pits are spacious enough but are set so far back from the main straight, with a vast grass area between, that passing cars are of academic interest to those in the pits and team personnel have to do a lot of running to-and-fro. As far as spectators in the main grandstands are concerned the pits might just as well be non-existent. However, the undulating part of the circuit is so well provided with natural banks, and so much of the action can be seen, that the vast majority of spectators throng this area.

There had been the usual tyre-testing sessions some time before the event, and with the lull caused by the cancellation of the Swedish Grand Prix all the teams were well armed and ready for battle. The Lotus, Ligier and Shadow teams had four cars apiece, while Tyrrell, Brabham, McLaren, Ferrari, Renault, Williams and Arrows had three cars each, all of which meant that space was at a premium. There were some new faces in new places and some old ones as well, for Hunt and Daly had opted out of the Formula One scene, the former to go and play squash and the latter to return to Formula Two until such time as a better car than the Ensign came his way. Depailler was totally out of action after a hang-glider accident so this meant that three replacement drivers were needed. The Finnish driver Keijo Rosberg took over the Wolf vacated by James Hunt, while the Ensign team were offered the French driver Patrick Gaillard. After much speculation about who would drive the second Ligier the offer went to Jacky Ickx, the very experienced Belgian who opted out of Formula One some time ago because he could not stomach the razz-me-tazz and commercialism of Formula One in the Seventies. Everyone else was in their rightful place and after a four-week lay-off from the actual business of racing as distinct from testing and experimenting, interest was running high. The Renault team had attempted two full-length, 80-lap, sessions on the Dijon-Prenois circuit with their twin-turbo cars, and were quietly confident that they were going to be competitive. Team Lotus had a Mark 2 version of the Lotus 80 and appeared to be making progress with its aerodynamics, though Reutemann had lost all interest in the new car and was sticking to the Lotus 79. The Tyrrell team had built a brand new 009 to replace the one crashed at Monaco by Pironi, and Ferrari had built another T4, number 041, which Villeneuve was to use, Scheckter retaining the car with which he won at Monaco. The Ligier team were out in force, with four cars, and the Arrows team were proudly displaying their two brand new cars, the A2 models, which were different from everyone else though not necessarily better. Merzario’s injured hand had mended and Giacomelli was looking happy in the works Alfa Romeo.

Race Results

Qualifying

Circuit - Dijon-Prenois

Country

France

Location

Prenois, Burgundy

Type

Permanent road course

Length

2.361 (Miles)

Record

Klaus Zwart (Jaguar R5-Cosworth), 1m04.876, 131.013 mph, Boss GP, 2012

First Race

1973 Dijon 1000Kms

3,420

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