France’s most picturesque racing circuit, le Mas du Clos, 50 miles west of Clermont Ferrand, is under threat from the Conseil d’Etatwhich has ordered it to close on ‘safety’ grounds.
The circuit belongs to Pierre Bardinon, one of the world’s foremost collectors of Ferraris who constructed the 3.1km track adjacent to his family home in the 1960s. Described as a technical circuit with a superb variety of bends, a French Cadwell Park, le Mas du Clos lies at the foot of the Massif Central in the kind of lush countryside that is so typical of France.
The eclectic Bardinon – he also had Jaguar’s Competition Department build him a unique lightweight E-type – soon found his circuit was a popular rendez-vous, much in demand for testing by the likes of Ligier, Alpine and Matra as well as Dunlop. Jim Clark drove there and reputedly told Bardinon it was perfect and not to make it any bigger.
The track has never seen competition as such, being mostly used for track days and marque club gatherings. Today managed by Bardinon’s son Patrick, the circuit is virtually as it was constructed, with no facilities for crowds or mass participation.
This is at the root of the problem with the French authorities which want the track substantially upgraded with vast run off areas and grand prix scale spectator barriers. An initial ban prevented any use at all in 2007-8, but in 2009, Patrick Bardinon reinstated open track sessions on the entirely reasonable basis that these were strictly non competitive.
A further ban in December 2010 has now excluded all ‘asphalt track use.’ To comply with the authorities’demands, vast expenditure would be required, and the essentially rural nature of the site would be spoiled.
Enthusiast and classic car circles in France are naturally up in arms against a government mindset which not content with its heavily repressive policing of French highways, ‘now seeks to asphyxiate circuit motor sport as well.’ A petition has been launched and Octane readers are encouraged to sign on line.
Both Spa and the Nürburgring have had to see off similar threats: we would hope le Mas du Clos can too.