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Circuit de Reims-Gueux,
D27 Gueux to Thillois.
Fallen into disrepair after racing ceased at the circuit in 1970, a local society are slowly bringing the place back to life. All advertisements have been re-painted giving it a distinctive retro feel. It currently hosts occasional classic car rallies and is found just outside the village of Gueux about 7kms west of Reims. Whilst some of the track can still be traced it is really the long start/finish straight that is easily determinable. This has the added bonus of being the main road D27 taking you into the south-east of Gueux, directly off of the Route National RN31 from Reims. This is in turn served by the Motorway/Autoroute junction A26/E46.
You will find two grandstands opposite the pit garages and the pits have a three tier enclosed stand that would have been used by officials and the media. There is also a small pavilion at the end of the pit garages and some further buildings back in the “paddock”. A tunnel runs from behind the pit garages which takes you under the start/finish straight to the rear of the grandstands.
Constructed in 1926 by the Automobile Club de Champagne, based in Reims; this famously fast circuit soon became one of France’s premier racetracks’ hosting many French Grand Prix and sports car endurance races. The early days saw legendary battles between the likes of Nuvolari and Caracciola with Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Talbot-Lago and Delahaye the cars of choice until the all-conquering Silver Arrows of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union saw German teams dominate.
The track was triangular in shape, the start/finish straight (now the D27) ran between the villages of Gueux and Thillois. Racing downhill into Gueux, the track entered public roads, passing houses before turning right past a grocer’s shop where it began to climb through woodland which hosted some tricky fast bends. Exiting the woodland, the track then took the main road (Route Nationale) RN31 at La Garenne which is the main road between Reims and Soissons. Lastly, a right angled hairpin began the long, fast, downhill straight to complete the lap.
The track's heyday was in the 50's and 60's when it hosted the French Formula 1 Grand Prix in the inaugural World Championship season of 1950. This was won by none other than Juan Manuel Fangio, who won a total of 4 races at the circuit, racing firstly for Alfa Romeo and then Maserati. All in all, 14 French Grand Prix were hosted at the track. Other winners included Great Britain's Mike Hawthorn, Peter Collins and Tony Brooks, all with Ferrari. Italy's Alberto Ascari was another Ferrari winner in 1952. Jim Clark of Great Britain won in his Lotus in 1963 before the final Formula 1 Grand Prix was held at the circuit in 1966. This was won by Australia's legendary Jack Brabham in his own Brabham car, a feat unlikely to ever be repeated. With so many famous names and cars, it can certainly be said that this track enjoyed the halcyon days of Formula 1 and motorsport as a whole.
The track was also used for 12 hour endurance races between 1953 and 1967. Stirling Moss with Peter Whitehead were the inaugural winners for Jaguar, the team managing a famous 1,2,3 in 1954 with their D Type finishing in first and second and a C Type finishing 3rd. Great Britain's Graham Hill and Sweden's Joakim Bonnier were winners in the gorgeous Ferrari 250 LM (Le Mans spec) in '64 before the final race was won in '67 by the French pair of Jo Schlesser and Guy Ligier in their Ford Mk IIA.
With such great history, it is heart warming to know this track isn't going to be left to crumble. It is well worth a visit for motor racing fans or anyone interested in a bit of unique modern history.