Paul Ricard – Milestones

Paul Ricard – Milestones 2018-09-03T16:47:56+00:00

A legendary track, mades by legends

After works that lasted less than a year the Paul Ricard circuit named after its sponsor was officially opened on 19th April 1970. Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo were among the drivers consulted to decide the 5.8-km layout.

The Paul Ricard circuit hosted its first French Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1971, followed by the French Motorbike Grand Prix in 1973, and after that all the major championships were held in the Var. The fourteenth and last French Formula 1 Grand Prix at Le Castellet took place in 1990. By now the track was outdated and Formula 1 headed for Magny-Cours.

In 1999, Bernie Ecclestone bought the site (circuit and airport). His aim was to make the Paul Ricard circuit a high-tech track dedicated exclusively to tests and communications operations. After hosting a final Bol d’Or the track closed its doors to the public.

Two years later in 2001 the circuit layout was modified: corners were revamped or removed and new ones created to provide numerous configurations. The Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track became a trail-blazer in 2002 with an innovative alternative to gravel traps. Large runoff areas were installed on the outside of the corners. These zones adopted the Blue Line concept: namely, abrasive lines that slowed the cars down. It set a new standard in terms of safety that was soon adopted by several circuits. It was also a deliberate choice which gave the site a new identity.

In 2007, the Paul Ricard HTTT circuit was designated First centre of excellence by the FIA Institute for safety in motor sport. It opened its doors to the public again in 2009 after the construction of a new grandstand. Since then it has hosted all the major championships.

In 2016, the return of the French Formula 1 Grand Prix to the Paul Ricard circuit (now owned by Mrs Slavica Ecclestone) was announced thanks to a 5-year contract starting in 2018 between the FOM and the GIP Grand Prix de France – Le Castellet. A year later in 2017 work began to make numerous modifications to the site and to the track itself.