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Thread: A Caterham in France - A Visit to Magny-Cours and Dijon-Prenois

  1. #1
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    Default A Caterham in France - A Visit to Magny-Cours and Dijon-Prenois

    In the latest installment of me exploring different circuits in a Caterham, last week saw me in France for track days at Magny-Cours and Dijon-Prenois in a Caterham R300 with Bookatrack. I try to do a few of these events each year to sample different circuits. While Magny-Cours was a bonus, I really wanted to try out Dijon given its history.

    The rental Caterham is similar to the one I have used in the past – R300 race car. Full cage, no road gear, standard 2L Duratec with 6 speed gearbox and CR500 tires. There is a fine process for damage – over revs $100 per 100rpm over 6800rpm, fine for putting it in gravel and of course find the wall you are repairing it. Other than that it is fully maintained and supplied with fuel. The car had 291 track miles on the engine before I got my hands on it and the gearbox was showing signs of needing a rebuild as it was baulking into 3rd which is the classic early warning for the synchros on a Caterham 6 speed box. Its perfect for exploring these tracks in a fun way.

    Magny Cours
    Located in central France in the Burgundy wine district roughly 160 miles from Paris.



    It was built in 1960 by Jean Bernigaud and was home to the prestigious Winfield racing school (École de Pilotage Winfield), which produced drivers such as François Cevert and Jacques Laffite. However, in the 1980s the track fell into disrepair and was not used for international motor racing until it was purchased by the Regional Conseil de la Nièvre. In the 1990s the Ligier (and, after Ligier was bought, Prost) Formula One team was based at the circuit and did much of its testing at Magny-Cours. It had hosted the French Formula One Grand Prix from 1991 to 2008.
    To me it’s the type of circuit which has had its original essence tinkered with to manage Formula 1 races to avoid them being boring and as a result they became boring. The map bears that out as it feels like a sprint between a series of tight hairpins. One thing is clear, make a mistake and you will be getting towed out of a gravel pit!

    For all that it was a good fun circuit to play on for a day. Some photos:

    At Adelaide hairpin:



    Weaving through Nurburgring chicane:





    Turning into Chateau d'eau

    Last edited by Croc; 06-12-2018 at 06:43 PM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  2. #2
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    Some track video to give you an idea of the circuit

    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  3. #3
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    Dijon-Prenois

    This is what I really came for. After we had finished the day at Magny-Cours most people had to drive the 3 hours cross-country through rural France to Dijon for the night. So began an entertaining drive along some scenic country roads avoiding cows, deer, tractors, 2CVs and generally anything that was hostile to me driving a German-plated rental car.

    Dijon-Prenois is a 3.801 km (2.362 mi) motor racing circuit located in Prenois, near Dijon, France. The undulating track is noted for its fast, sweeping bends. Opened in 1972, Dijon-Prenois hosted the Formula One French Grand Prix five times, and the Swiss Grand Prix in 1982. The non-championship 1975 Swiss Grand Prix was also held at Dijon.
    Of course the Swiss GP was held there as the Swiss Government banned all motor racing in the wake of the 1955 Le Mans tragedy.








    The map really does not covey the terrain changes here – some of the most extreme I have experienced after Spa-Francorchamps and Mt Panorama. The track sets up some significant G forces as you weave your way around it. It is also one track where it seems like every corner wants to trick you in to turning in early – late turn in is required on nearly every corner.




    Why did I want to experience Dijon circuit? Well it was because of this race back in 1979:



    Probably one of the most incredible finishes with the scrap for 2nd place by Giles Villeneuve and Rene Arnoux.

    The track flows well, it responded well to using just 4th and 5th gears and it encourages bravery in order to be fast. I was conscious that bravery would mean that if you goofed then you would find the gravel pits very quickly.

    One surprise was the surface when it got wet – a brief shower was all it took for the surface to suddenly have no grip. The transition point of grip was extremely sudden – one corner you would be good but by the next you would be screwed.
    Last edited by Croc; 06-12-2018 at 06:47 PM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  4. #4
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    Some photos:

    In the Parabolique:



    Exiting the Parabolique:





    Just before the Parabolique:




    Some track video to give you a taste of the circuit. Like all videos it really does not show the level of vertical terrain change although it does show how I am being thrown around from the cornering forces.




    So was it worth it? You bet! Dijon is one of those little gems of a circuit which just suits a seven so well. After lunch I had one session where I did 40 laps in a row just hammering happily around the circuit. I would go back in an instant.

    Next up is Spain in September to visit Barcelona and Valencia circuits.
    Last edited by Croc; 06-12-2018 at 06:46 PM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  5. #5
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    Arkansas and . . .
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    Bravo, Mike! Thanks for sharing! Of course, with all those French names, Suave is drooling again.
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