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Forgotten racetracks of France: Circuit de CharadeFrance is full of faded, once-great racetracks. Carfection took to the road in a Maserati Quattroporte GTS to rediscover them.
[MUSIC] We're here in France in a rather beautiful Maserati [UNKNOWN] GTS visiting some of France's more iconic race circuits. These are venues that were really once the cradle of European motorsport, but today they're a little bit off the beaten track. So we're here to visit them and have a little bit of fun in this rather fabulous car. [MUSIC] The other reason I'm taking so long to talk to you right now is because I'm trying to avoid having to pay for fuel, as Darrell fills that rather thirsty 80 litre tank. Mate, can you get me an ice cream from the shop? Luckily for us, early motor racing was held largely on public roads. And if you know where to look, there's still some fun to be had. First stop, a volcano. [MUSIC] [NOISE] [MUSIC] [SOUND] So here we are in the Sharon Circuit in the Auvergne Mountains of Central France. A circuit which is actually carved into the side of an extinct volcano. It's pretty spectacular. All that's left today are for modern racing is this short and very interesting track here. The history of this place lies in the mountain behind us where they used to run Formula 1 back in the day. Contrary to common belief, it's mostly geology that makes motor racing interesting. The Nurburgring, Isle of Man, Spa, all places with big changes in elevation. Places where it's said that God sculpted the scenery, but the devil laid down the tarmac. [MUSIC] [NOISE] The mountainside that this circuit is built in to, the French call a puy, which is a dome-shaped mountain which you can see dotted around the landscape here. And is caused by the viscous extrusion of molten lava. Erupted about 6,000 years ago. I mean it's a fantastic sort of geography that the track designers had to play with. Amazing amounts of innovations, and changes and turns. I think there's 48 turns and the longest straight is only about 650 meters long. So, it was just a fantastic thing to go and watch. The drivers absolutely hated it. And in 1969, Jochen Rindt came in and said it was the worst circuit he ever drove because he just couldn't get into a rhythm. And one of the strange peculiarities about this particular circuit is that some of the drivers, such as Jochen Rindt, would wear open-faced helmets. Now, that's pretty dangerous stuff because you could get debris and all sorts flying up off the track. [MUSIC] But they did it because they suffered from motion sickness. These endless curves, endless elevation change, big braking. And it made them spew. This isn't particularly glamorous stuff, I know. No. But that's what happened. [SOUND] It's often called the French [UNKNOWN]. But with walls much closer, and lumps of volcanic rocks strewn everywhere. It's much more dangerous. In fact, it's really unpopular with the drivers. Perhaps one of the reasons that top flight racing here ended in '72 when Helmut Marko lost an eyeball. As a To the 70s I grew up watching, perhaps the fastest, most dangerous era of motorsport. Yet these racers would do anything to prove themselves against their peers. There's no logic in racing here. Nothing tangible to be won, except kind of madness, and I'm hooked on it. The heroes back then seemed somehow bigger, more colorful Pole. It's impossible to cover every heroic scrap that happened here. But perhaps my favorite is the very last Formula 1 race. Jackie Stewart won the race but it was the performance of the Kiwi, Chris Amondous stood out. He qualified on pole. He suffered a puncture from one of the many lumps of rock litter in the play Race. In fact ten drivers suffered punctures. Arman fought back from last to third in is Matra. It seems that Matra, yet another forgotten example of France's influence in Formula 1. They only got into F 1 in 1968, and they won the championship in '69. So that came from nowhere to win it within 12 months. And you just don't see that kind of innovation and underdog in F1. So I think the only recent example. Well you might be thinking of Braun but they sort of inherited a team. Second-hand Honda, absolutely. [MUSIC] [SOUND] So you're in the hot seat for this circuit. How would you rate the car? The car is absolutely Certainly fantastic. Now, it's important to point out as I'm winging it round these tight hairpins, that this is not a sports car. This is a 1900 kilo executive luxury car. So we can mess around with the jumpers And switch it into sport mode. Now I've got a bit of a theory that sport mode in many cars is what I call a placebo button. You press it, looks good, truth is, you didn't really do a great deal. Certainly not for the ordinary driver. In this, you can feel it's a little bit tighter and a little bit firmer. And this car needs to be. It's a big car and we're on a very tight, super twisty, hilly section So, it all works very very well together. Not to ramble on about the Ferrari's source [INAUDIBLE] liter V8, you can look up all the stats on the net. What you cant get is this fantastic feeling as you blow from corner to corner. But I'm rambling on, you want a review I'll give you a short review, I'll give you a review in eight words. [INAUDIBLE] in the front, Berlusconi in the back. Hello. [BLANK_AUDIO] Well as we steam down into yet another very [INAUDIBLE] not quite enough runoff for my liking. You can't quite make it out on the camera, but down here is a little slick road. now those in the noble tell you that this joins onto the public road, which forms the greatest part of the original loop that was the F1 circuit. [SOUND] The Gerard Circuit is the most exciting track I have ever driven. It's how race tracks should be. Built not to satisfy some third world government or Bernie's pocket, but in harmony with nature's roughest edges. [MUSIC] It really is criminal that this place just isn't better known about and more used, really. It is a forgotten racetrack, but of course you can still visit here. Get on the net and check out Jerez Circuit. There are occasional track days and events here. And check it out, you don't need something as hot as our Maserati to enjoy it. Don't forget also that the surrounding roads here is the exact Same circuit that was used in '72 in Formula One. Same turns. Same corners. Same incline. And it is great fun. It is a fantastic place to visit. Vive la France. [MUSIC]