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Pilgrimage to Rouen-les-Essarts


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#1 Racer.Demon

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Posted 04 September 2000 - 21:31

Me and the family are off to Normandy next week and we have planned a visit to the Rouen-les-Essarts track - or better, its sad remains. I know the grandstands and the pit buildings have been torn down and that Nouveau Monde has recently been asphalted over (%#!%#&$|%#^) but inspired by Don's all-time favourite Grand Prix photograph I'd still like to see and feel what those famous sweeps are truly like.

Problem is: I don't know where to look. I go to Rouen, drive south of the city, but then what?

Can anyone who has been there before give me the general directions - or preferably detailed ones! Rouen is a big place... Thanks in advance.

BTW, I'd like to hear your stories about the classic tracks you visited. Any more pilgrims out there?

I guess everyone could use some directions to other great places...

Cheers,
Mattijs


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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 04 September 2000 - 22:09

Which one do you want me to start with, Racer?
Lobethal I have covered many times, I think, it was the greatest. Wirlinga was the last, I saw it for the first time in April, very plain, very dangerous, not a great circuit, but most interesting as a snapshot of what they sought to race on those days... narrow gravel straights with humps and hollows in them, tight corners, dust, temporary stands.
Bathurst I saw when it was still bumpy and primitive, but it's still there and you can largely see what it was like if you have some pictures and stand on the spot...

Just to give you an idea of what roaming about these old circuits can bring to you, if they grab your heart, a story I wrote about Lobethal:

Closed Circuit: Lobethal (South Australia) (copyright)

THERE is no pretender to Lobethal's crown. When we look at the circuits that have seen racing in Australia, we might place Bathurst at the top of the list, or Phillip Island, or Gnoo Blas or some other. But they’re all on a different list to Lobethal. As a circuit, in its magnitude, in its mystery and in its innocence, always alone.

I FIRST SAW the name in Bill Tuckey’s book. Scene of the 1939 Australian Grand Prix - 60,000 spectators in the hot sun. That was all, because Bill hadn’t seen it. Then, during the running of the 12-hour race at Surfers Paradise in 1966 I was talking to Doug Whiteford, and I asked him what circuit he thought was our greatest. “Lobethal!” No hesitation, no questions - just a raft of comment about the inadequacy of the circuits of our day.
On October 8, 1972 I drove a Datsun 180B SSS round Lobethal to begin an obsession. I had seen some of the great ones. Longford and the fabulous 1965 Grand Prix, Bathurst, even Southport and the striking Victor Harbour could not hold a candle to Lobethal. I had seen it.
Rising from somebody’s dream in 1937, Lobethal township in the hills East of Adelaide was the focus of motor racing activity after the awakening brought about by the Centenary GP through Port Elliott the previous year. Today the originator of that dream has been forgotten, though it may have been Claude Black, a local car dealer, or possibly another local who saw the benefits racing brought to the community at Victor Harbour.
There had been hillclimbs at Lobethal in 1936 and 1937, but these were on a metalled track out of town in the opposite direction to the circuit that was to come. When the movement to a race began, a group called Lobethal Carnivals was formed, and the Sporting Car Club of South Australia together with motorcycle racing people collaborated to make a reality of the first all﷓sealed road circuit in Australia.
Reality. That’s a word that comes to mind with Lobethal. The reality of 8.65 miles of high-crowned bitumen roads wandering through the farmlands to converge on this pretty town. The reality of roads so dauntingly fast that - more than anywhere else in Australian racing history - they rewarded the ones who combined skill with bravery.
Analyse the figures. At Nuriootpa, Whiteford in Black Bess lapped at 73.47mph, but Lobethal saw him lap at 86mph two years earlier, despite the blind brows, the two hairpins and that mad downhill dive into town. Jim Gullan drove the Ballot Olds in both races to finish four and a half minutes behind Whiteford at Nuriootpa, and lapped in times that would have put him over seven minutes behind Whiteford at Lobethal over the same distance. And he was no slouch, with very consistent times and the handicap winner of both these races - 68.39mph and 76.81mph being the respective average speeds No slouch, but not as brave nor as skilled as Whiteford, so while Black Bess gained 13mph, the Ballot Olds got only a portion of that.
When I spoke to Whiteford, he described a hump-backed bridge followed by a curve, more of a kink, and from the start of the race this was the first little trick in the circuit. On this long, very fast leg of the circuit, roughly parallel to the railway and the Onkaparinga River, it was mostly flat and mostly flat out Just six or seven gentle sweeps or kinks and the crowd at the hotel in Charleston to keep the drivers interested as the tachos showed top revs for almost three and a half miles.
Then carne Kayannie Corner, a sharp intersection with an included angle of about 60 degrees, with a gentle downhill rush across the river then a climb to the brow of the hill overlooking the town. Here it got interesting as a sharp brow led into the esses, downhill esses that were tight enough to claim a lot of cars and provide plenty of spectators with a great view. The straight that led into town came from the last left hander fairly level, but then the road simply dropped away and heavy braking was the order of the day as the T-intersection with the main street was reached.
The circuit then climbed again, with a dip towards the end of the shopping centre before swinging right and beginning the roller coaster ride that sorted the men from the boys. It’s this section that defies adequate description, the three miles of ups and downs, of blind brows, of fast curves between the dairy farms that made Lobethal a legend. The Charleston section tested the engines, the run to town tested the brakes and handling, but like nowhere else in Australia - and I include McPhillamy Park, the Needle’s Eye, and every other fast corner - this stretch tested the commitment of the drivers.
It staggered me that the lap speeds recorded were possible, so I asked the 1939 AGP winner how they could have done it. “With those comers following so soon after the blind brows,” I asked, “you can't turn a corner with your wheels off the ground, and you had to be airborne . . ?” His response defied the capacity of a wheel rim to contain the overstressed wire spokes, the very thought that there was a conscious perception of risk. “We turned the car before we got airborne.” Forty years later he still remembered how it was done, but no way could he do it.
Alan Tomlinson was the youngest man to win the AGP, and in his fifties he returned to Lobethal during a trip from Sydney in a Ferrari 308. “I know this road,” he told himself as he decided to ‘have a bit of a go.’ He scared himself very quickly.
His times in the MG have left a trail of mystery that attracts and defeats people with similar cars. Ross Hodgson is acknowledged as one of the fastest drivers in Historic racing today, and Ross looked at the prospects. He measured and analysed the maps, the car’s potential performance, the sheer difficulty of lapping the place that fast. With stop watches, brave passengers and a Falcon V8, he tried to see where the speed came from. With fried brakes and smoke from the front tyres they gave up, determined that it was the watches, not the MG, that was supercharged.
But nobody there that day questioned either the times or Tomlinson’s bravery. Nor Barrett’s or Kleinig’s or Saywell’s as they demonstrated what could be done with the right car. In 1938, when racing first came to Lobethal, it was the K3 MGs that set the pace on what was our first completely sealed road circuit. Spectators caught the train direct to the spectator areas at Kayannie Corner or the Grandstands at the start finish area at the Mt Torrens end for just 5/- return. Notices in the papers advised those driving of the best routes to take, and grandstand seats were 2/4 (23c) more than the general admission - a figure we don't know - with programmes 6d (5c).
The raw speed was what they wanted to see, and the Alta of Englishman Alan Sinclair was expected to provide it. Instead the K3 of Lyster Jackson set the initial practice pace at around 6:56, eclipsed in the second session by Colin Dunne’s K3 with a 6:36. By race day the times were really tumbling as Dunne got down to a 6:02 and Reg Nutt in the Day Special broke six minutes to come close to an 89mph lap average. The legend had begun.
One can wonder today what impact this and the later Bathurst AGP meeting had on Alf Barrett and his Morris Special, a Lombard radiator sitting in place of the passenger's seat to add cooling capacity. A year later he was back with the Alfa Monza (bought for L950!) and ready to show some real pace, and Kleinig's legendary Hudson along with the 2.9 Alfa of Jack Saywell were out to beat him. With an ever more competitive bunch of cars, this was to be the fastest road race run in Australia in the pre-war years despite a shortage of suitable tyres for the sustained high speeds.
Oh, to have been there, perched in the paddock above the esses, or on Schubert's farm watching the faster cars fly through that stretch. On these downhill swoops there were many cars reached higher speeds than they were capable of touching on the run to Kayannie. And just picture the sight through the township as the exhausts echoed from the shopfronts - and Colin Dunne mounted the footpath to pass one slower car!
This was the longest circuit ever raced on in Australia, and it begs comparison with the Spa Francorchamps of the same era. The same length, the same lap speeds for comparable cars, the same number of slow corners, more of the fast ones and less straight road.
But while Spa was part of a circle of tracks visited by professional teams in the course of their annual competition, Lobethal was a remote outpost visited by gentlemen participants in a sport in its infancy, a vestige of a time long past, a dream of an enthusiast and a creation of enthusiasm. 60,000 saw its one truly great race meeting - by 1940 the clouds of war were gathering as the racers returned.
Kleinig had engine trouble (little wonder as his splash-feed Hudson engine tried to push the MG chassis as fast as a pukka Grand Prix car!) and Saywell was missing, so Barrett was easily quickest. But these were handicap races, and it was Tomlinson again starring as he tried to overcome the much greater time deficit he'd been given after his big win in ’39. That year he spent three weeks at the circuit, perfecting lines and approaches corner by corner, preparing to meet an unknown foe. In 1940 there was ten days practising and walking the circuit before the meeting, then a pit stop to richen the mixture - now running 80% alcohol compared to petrol in ’39 - added to his determination.
While Barrett was eight seconds slower, the MG went quicker - maybe twenty seconds quicker than the 6:22 of 1939. Apart from the fuel, the car was further developed and all restraint was lifted - “We had no further use for it, we’d go for broke!” Tomlinson recalled forty years later, recounting how he even managed to take one corner flat that he’d not been able to in the Grand Prix.
It was a left hander at the bottom of a hill near Schubert’s Farm, surrounded by big trees “that had claimed a number of victims, mainly on bikes,” he told me. The combination of going into shadow and overcoming the psychological barriers had made him lift momentarily before, but not during this drive. But it ended in the esses, when he’d been unable to avoid Jack Boughton’s strange Morgan monoposto limping back to the pits.
Tomlinson made a big impact on his time in Lobethal. Crew member Bill Smallwood took down the Ostler’s bell at the hotel where they stayed and hid it. The manager told him to put it back so he did. Later it arrived in Perth in the post. Smallwood also tacked a lightweight trotting horse shoe onto the dash of the car, and it went missing after the crash. A spectator picked it up and kept it, having heard Tomlinson had died. In 1979 he was watching the Wanneroo AGP presentation and saw that reports of Alan’s death were exaggerated, so he sought him out and sent it to him.
Many were missing from the final meeting, New Years Day, 1948. Some had died in the war, some found other things to do, some had cars that weren’t ready. But new faces emerged to find the magic of this place Tony Gaze, Ron Edgerton, Norm Andrews, Steve Tillett, Harold Clisby and a young Peter Manton. Gavin Sandford-Morgan ran a C-type MG and found the length of the circuit made a driver seem lonely at times. Lex Davison was coming up to pass Gavin just out of Lobethal in practice and went to the right. Gavin did too, as the organisers had adopted a pass on the left rule, with Lex finishing up with a very bent TC (leading to its rebuild as a Special) and a hospital stay.
Fast man of the meeting was Doug Whiteford, the winner Jim Gullan. Spectacular was Norm Andrews in the big Stewand, so spectacular it lost a rear wheel in the esses, the wheel bowling a policeman, the knock-on indenting the head of a young spectator. In 1985, Barry Lake was at the GP Rally and struck up a conversation with a man in his fifties. The subject of Lobethal seemed clear in this man’s mind, so Barry asked “. . . how come you know so much about this?” The answer was given by displaying the dent in his head.
During this meeting there was a lot of trouble with grasshoppers. “Most cars had flywire over their radiators,” Gavin Sandford-Morgan recalls, and I well remember how it felt when one hit you in the face, and they made some parts of the road quite slippery.” In addition to this hazard, the youthful Gavin had taken lots of advice on how to prepare his car from experts - tyres highly inflated, dampers wound up tight - then a loose nut in the steering column added to his woes. Later they realised the front axle was in back to front, further compounding the problems .
Though the pace of the fastest cars didn’t match that of the pre-war maestros, there was still fireworks. Gullan, after winning, had some celebrating to do and went on a buying spree at the local fireworks shop. After firing a few rockets in the air he started aiming them up the street from a launching position that was formerly a bench in the park.
They were certainly different days. Cars pulling up in front of one of the two pubs - one at Charleston and the other in town - and various passengers imbibing as other cars kept on practising. Spectator control so lax that John Crouch remembers aiming his Alfa at the crowd encroaching on the road so they’d move back and give him a chance at his line. One competitor stirred things up by taking a shortcut from Charleston to the top of the hill heading into Lobethal to set a demon time!
One driver had a penchant for arson at a pre-war event. Occasionally he’d pull up during practice and flick open his cigarette lighter and apply it to the strawbales!
And apart from bravery, discretion was sometimes shown. Local engineer Bill Jolly had a well-developed Morris Minor which was over-reaching its braking capacity. Down the hill into town he realised he wasn’t going to make it, so he climbed down under the scuttle and “waited for the accident to finish.” This car he later rebuilt with a Bedford engine and made his own disc brakes to pre-date the Dunlop items - it still races as the Bedmor.
Naturally there were some nasty accidents as well as some lucky escapes. 1938 passed free of injury, though Moulden’s Sunbeam crashed on the downhill run into town after persevering with only first and third gears from the start. In the confusion, Bob Lea-Wright lost his Hudson, with his passenger hanging dangerously out the left hand side as he skated to a halt. A police officer held up the passenger’s head to stop it dragging on the ground, a spectator leapt for the safety of a blackberry bush (and tore his shirt,enraging his wife!), and all the while the passenger was screaming to Bob to “keep going!” A bent wheel ended their run. In the AGP, however, Vern Leech died in his MG, possibly at Schubert’s. Lex Davison’s rollover was the main damage in ’48, although the Itala Mercury lost all its loveliness as it scattered itself in a paddock. Legend has it that driver Seeliger was still sitting strapped in his seat and holding the steering wheel - and the remains of the rest of the car were elsewhere, with the chassis and body so badly damaged that owner Dennistoun gave them to the landowner! Ron Uffindel, a handicap winner before the war, put his MG through a fence.
Two months prior to this meeting there had been an event held just a few miles closer to Adelaide at Woodside, round the Army camp and through the village, and providing funds which built a children’s playground and maintained it at least into the 1980s. This three mile circuit was to continue in use until 1952, alternating with a new one at Nuriootpa, which had backing from the Barossa winegrowers, until the Sout Australian Government banned racing on public roads. This had to come, of course, with the uncontrolled crowd behavior of the day a real danger. Tomlinson recalls looking ahead at people crossing the road. “They were miles away, and you’d think it was alright, but at 120mph you’d be on top of them before you knew it!” Echoing John Crouch’s comment, he also recalls crowds coming onto the edge of the road en masse. Whiteford, too, mentioned the spectator risk, particularly to those sitting on the roadside with their legs dangling in the gutter just after that hump-backed badge. “They couldn’t move to escape if a someone lost it there - there would have been dozens lose their legs or be killed.” he said.
But the main point of Lobethal is that you have to see it to appreciate its magnificence - to have your own obsession. It’s still there, even though the roads have been somewhat improved. Daunting, charming the enthusiast, whispering into your mind the thought that some brave men raced here, what it might have been like to have been there. Heroic deeds in an era long gone, and all the more heroic because of that special beckoning this piece of road had for those willing to take up its challenge - a challenge few pieces of road are able to issue.

LOBETHAL sleeps today. It will not be woken by those who read this and go to visit, nor by those who find it by some other means. It’s like a grave that has been visited by a doting family a thousand times, getting older, but only returning the love of those who hold it dear in their imaginings. The coming of each New Year adds another year since its quiet end, when nobody knew it would slip into an eternal sleep. The echoes of exhausts from Woodside soon ended, but fabulous Lobethal will remain alone in the Adelaide Hills, the envy of every place any racing car has ever been driven, the dream of anyone who’s been there.


LAP RECORD
The lap record is almost an anti-climax to this story:
1938: Colin Dunne (MG K3), 6:02 (86.022mph)*
I938: Reg Nutt (Day Special), 5:58 (86.983mph)*
1939: Frank Kleinig (Hudson Special), 5:54 (87.966mph)
1939: Jack Saywell (Alfa 2.9), 5:45 (90.261mph)
1939: Alf Barrett (Alfa Monza), 5:40 (91.588mph)

Barrett only recorded a 5:48+ in 1940, Whiteford being quickest in 1948 with 6.02. Times given for Dunne and Nutt*) are presumed from published reports, which gave only lap speeds for the then﷓assumed lap distance of 8.75 miles.
My thanks to John Crouch, Alan Tomlinson, Clem Dwyer, Alf Barrett, Barry Lake, and particularly Reg Nutt and Gavin Sandford-Morgan for material required to complete this story as accurately as possible.
+ Later Jack Nelson informed me that newspaper reports he has been through credit Barrett with a 5:40 again in 1948.


Ray Bell

This is the ‘uncut version’ of the story published in the Sept/Oct 1997 issue of Motor Racing Australia[p][Edited by Ray Bell on 10-18-2000]

#3 Darren Galpin

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 06:50

Posted Image

From http://www.silhouet....acks/rouen.html.


#4 Ray Bell

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 06:56

That reminds me, Darren, I've got to get on the case to get you some maps of Australian circuits.... take my time, don't I?

#5 Barry Lake

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 08:09

It was 1986 when I went to Rouen. That autoroute already had sliced through it, but what was left looked pretty much as I expected it to. I can't remember if Nouveau Monde was still cobbles or not but I do know it looked right to me when I was there. You could picture Fangio going through the downhill sweepers and up the other side on opposite lock.
Using the map shown, I didn't have any trouble finding it. You just need to follow the road numbers.
I think that both of the link roads shown on the map have been used at various times for lesser races than grands prix. The straight road was blocked by closed gates when I was there and it was a hassle getting involved with the traffic and the autoroute at the top end, but the place was well worth a visit.
I have a story and photos I did for Modern MOTOR magazine but not readily accessible at the moment.
I also need someone to teach me how to get pics onto this forum.

#6 Ray Bell

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 10:51

Send them to me as jpegs and I will put them on...

#7 Racer.Demon

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 21:52

Darren, thanks for pointing me to the GEL track section: I guess I will have to admit that those general directions have been under my very nose all along.

Still, with the N138 (the old back stretch at the top of the map) now turned into a dual carriageway, with a fly-over created to and from the N238 (which contains the sweepers through along the Orival hilltop), it was quite hard to trace the track on my large-scale Michelin map - also as there are actually *two* villages by the name of Les Essarts in the Foret de la Londe... And apparently, if today's map is correct, the road going east at L'Etoile before curving just alongside the Autoroute seems to have been turned into a closed forest road.

On the subject of track pilgrimage in general: is anyone able to top Ray's loving account of mysterious Lobethal? Who has been to disused grown-over public-road circuits such as Solitude? Or Clermont-Ferrand?


#8 Ray Bell

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 23:32

My apologies to all those who had to suffer the many "﷓" inclusions in the story, but that's what happens, apparently, when you copy a hyphen from Word to here.
I haven't been to Lobethal since 1986, but the time is coming and I will reaquaint myself. I'd love some company - is there anyone in Adelaide or surrounds who would like to be there too?
Woodside, of course, comes as part of the package. I really should post some photos, but on a circuit of this scale, and with the lack of facilities for taking 'overall' type photos, those of Lobethal would merely dim the sensations. I did post a couple of Woodside a few months ago... now what thread are they in?

#9 Darren Galpin

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 06:57

Been to both Solitude and Clermont-Ferrand, but I simply can't describe them well enough!

#10 Ray Bell

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 10:12

Don't be shy, Darren... who was it a while ago was going to be headed to Solitude, by the way? They started a thread asking about it...

#11 Racer.Demon

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Posted 07 September 2000 - 23:01

Yeah, Darren, share your experience. With the French lorry drivers and farmers turning their country into chaos (for, what is it, the fourth time in as many years) with their nation-wide blockades over fuel prices, I might need an alternative destination very, very soon...

(We were planning to drive down to Normandy this weekend but it seems our holiday has been put off by those hot-tempered French. Would you believe it? This was going our first real vacation for a very long time. Just our luck. Oh well...)


#12 Ray Bell

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Posted 07 September 2000 - 23:20

Take a rowboat...

#13 Racer.Demon

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Posted 07 September 2000 - 23:28

And row, row, row down the Seine!

Hmm, I guess it would fall over with all the baby stuff we're carrying...

And I can't imagine me walking through those Rouen sweepers. I need some faster transport than that!


#14 Darren Galpin

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Posted 08 September 2000 - 07:18

Here goes with some fairly dodgy recollections from memory....


Solitude
--------

An impressive track, and not one I would wish to do in the rain. To give you an idea, imagine Spa, but with a slightly narrower track and the trees lining the edge of the road. That is what the track is like today, and as it was then.

I will start from the Buesnau part of the track, as that is where I lived and worked for a year and know best. You head downhill, turning down and right in front of a hotel, and very quickly coming up to a left-hand hairpin. This hairpin is actually very tricky, as it seems to be off cambered. There is a ditch either side of the road, and it gets very slippery in the wet and in winter - it is not unusual to find road cars in the ditches. The road then continues to drop downhill towards a junction, with a sharp turn to the left. You have to give way to the traffic on todays roads.

The next section of road is impressive, as it is a succession of tree lined sweepers which continually goes downhill, and the corners can be deceptively sharp. A road car on one side of the road doesn't do it justice, but even at 40-50mph you can feel the car wanting to understeer out. Gives an idea of what the racing drivers must feel when taking this at over 100mph, and if you get it wrong you will slide straight off in to trees. The road does straighten a bit into a series of gentler curves, and these can be taken at speed. Eventually you burst out into an open area, where today you will find an ADAC Fahreruebensplatz, where learner drivers can take their parents cars onto a set of practice roads without the need for a licence. On the other side of the road is a big open partially concreted area - the old paddock.

The track then bears left past the hotel Glemseck, now the favourite haunt of bikes, who's racks of parked bikes on the weekends provide a noisy backdrop. The road then disappears up through the woods, again passing some tight corners all lined by trees, before coming down to another junction where you turn left back onto the road from Sindelfingen/Magstadt. This bit gently curves and undulates, and could remind you of a tree-lined Mulsanne Straight. It certainly felt that way given the speed of the cars which used to overtake me when I cycled on this bit. It gets nasty in the wet though, as the trees hem in the spray and make the track dark, depressing and forbidding. You then arrive back at where you started.




Clermont-Ferrand
----------------

This was tricky to follow, as the local Government has been busy resurfacing the local roads, and possibly building new ones. It looks as though they have tried to make the new Charade track entirely self contained, and have built a new road which runs parallel to the track until you get to the roundabout where you can go to the village of Charade, or go round the rest of the track. The new track looks very impressive (for club meetings that is), as it drops down (or rather plunges) the side of the extinct volcano, before climbing up the other side and switchbacking around. It looks rather narrow for larger races.

The bit of track I drove was extremely open and fast, with the trees comfortably set back compared to Solitude, and it was to this bit I was largely confined. If you do visit here, get a new map of the area, as it may show the changes and the circuit better. My map is some six years old, and not big enough. What did strike me there was the silence, which created this impressive aura, and lent the imagination some extra power when trying to picture Stewart, Hill and co driving the roads you were on. There was nothing to disturb the illusion.

#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 September 2000 - 08:03

A great pastime, isn't it Darren?
Your description of the risks in the wet at Solitude underscore what Jenks wrote about that race between Clark and Surtees. The cat and the shelf of Dresden China...

#16 Racer.Demon

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Posted 08 September 2000 - 10:55

It seems an agreement is imminent so it looks like we'll be going after all.

Darren: you just managed to have me pencil in Solitude for next year!

What about the Bremgarten track? Anyone know what state that's in?

Chimay seems like a good idea as it should provide a great scenery.

A trip to the South of France would also be a good idea. You have St. Gaudens and Pau in the Pyrenees, and then there are the street tracks of Albi, Nice, Angoulême and Nîmes and Marseille. Apart from Monaco of course.

What about Miramas? I read that Williams-BMW tested with Jörg Müller at Miramas last year but is that the same track as it used to be? It's not on Darren's World Track Database...


#17 Darren Galpin

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Posted 08 September 2000 - 11:07

Missed one...... I'll have to see if I have it in the long list of updates I should have posted a week or two ago but haven't got around to yet.


#18 Racer.Demon

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Posted 08 September 2000 - 12:02

A trip to sunny Spain or Italy should also allow for some great pilgrimage. To Pedralbes and Montjuich, Pescara of course, the park tracks of Turin and Naples, or the Garda or Mugello Circuits.

On Sicily, you'll have Syracuse, Madonie (the long version and the "short" one) and Parco Favorita, used for the Targa Florio. Does anyone have experience of the former Targa tracks?

I have this mental image of a sensational black-and-white picture of Nino Vaccarella blasting through this little Sicilian town in a ridiculously overpowered Ferrari sportscar (or is it the Alfa T33 he shared with Hezemans?), the locals at the roadside shouting on their home-grown hero at a time the event was way past its sell-by date.

The picture has the warmest hue over it and is crystal clear, the Ferrari looking as if it stands still, the spectators meticulously frozen in their frenzy by the photographer. There is total silence in this picture, yet at the same time you can easily imagine the sheer noise of the thundering sportscar as it hammers down through two walls of car-crazy Sicilians. An eighties Acropolis Rally looked safe compared to this "tableau vivant".

Does anyone know the author of this photographic masterpiece?


#19 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 September 2000 - 12:21

While at Nimes you can check out the arena, another Roman edifice, but in better shape than the one in Rome. It's still used for bullfights today, right in the middle of town. Built about 60BC. Just a bit older than Pont du Gard, which is an aqueduct on its upper level, a road bridge on the lower, and you can still drive over it. Popular picnic spot, not far from Les Baux, a little outcrop-top city in the ancient manner, with walls around the perimeter and looking down into a valley with orchards in abundance. It's the place that gave bauxite its name.

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#20 Leo

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Posted 08 September 2000 - 13:42

Racer.Demon: you don't have to wait until next year to drive the Solitude track. If you have GPL (the game) you can download Solitude from http://www.gplea.org and drive it rightaway. The GPL version is already breathtaking (even better than the original tracks from the game!), so the real thing must have been downright scary to drive.

#21 Marco94

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Posted 08 September 2000 - 14:54

Leo,

You absolutely right about that. Once, when I was driving my bicycle I reached 50 km/h!!! ;-)

RD, I'll post some hints about where to go soon.

Marco.

#22 Racer.Demon

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Posted 08 September 2000 - 15:30

Marco: good idea, since now the plan to go to Rouen is off again...

After the good news of this afternoon the bad news is that the lorry drivers themselves don't agree with the agreement and will continue. They have now built up road blocks at virtually every border crossing with Belgium so we can't get into the country in the first place!

Oh, well, there's no place like home.

Leo: I agree that driving the GPL track will be as close as a driving experience I'll ever get - especially since on GPL one doesn't have to keep to the right side of the road nor does one come across road crossings where you need to give way to multiple BMWs and Audis!

But I doubt the surrogate experience will come anywhere the atmosphere that only reality will bring. I imagine that the feeling of standing in the middle of a damp, silent, dark, deserted forest, with a light drizzle falling on your head, while pondering Ireland's famous win there, Innes dangerously skidding through those downhill curves, isn't included in the GPL package...

Apologies for the drivel but at 31 I've turned into a silly old romantic already!;)


#23 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 September 2000 - 18:39

At 31 and having discovered the wonders of parenthood... yes, easy to become a romantic.

#24 Leo

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Posted 09 September 2000 - 20:06

RD: I completely understand the feeling.

A couple of years ago I went to Spa with a friend. Our motorcycles were heavy from the holiday luggage, tents and stuff, but still we tried some fast laps (well fast that is compared to the cars-with-caravan on the Kemmel straight, but frustratingly slow compared to the locals fine-tuning the suspension set-up for their Fireblade or Duc;)). Of course we liked the track better with every lap, but then it suddenly started raining like it was 1966 all over again. The track was a river within seconds! Still we carried on for two more laps and 'fun' wasn't really the correct word to describe the experience anymore. But looking back it was probably the best part of the day, really getting into the treacherous conditions race drivers have to cope with so often in the Ardennes. We stopped at a local bar and instead of complaining about our soaking wet leathers, we had a lengthy discussion about pre-load and rebound values, tyre pressure, and so on with some locals. But thank God for hot coffee in big cups!

#25 Ray Bell

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Posted 10 September 2000 - 11:49

What a great experience? Do you recognise the corner on the 'circuits I know and love' thread from your laps?

#26 Don Capps

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Posted 10 September 2000 - 13:26

Several weekends ago, I drove the original Watkins Glen circuit and came to the conclusion that they were very Brave Men back then! The course was laid out over roads in the neighborhood and varied little from a circuit such as Rouen, Pau, or any other true road course.

The start was in front of the Court House on Franklin Street (!) where you went past the State Park and turned right onto the uphill section of Old Corning Road. You keep right at Townsend Road Corner passing the the Seneca Lodge (where I stayed) and going uphill and through the White House "S" and then under the Railroad Underpass (which Mike Argetsinger's brother J.C. did at 120mph or so Friday in the Allard J2 Cad that won the 1950 race! I was impressed!!) which leads up into a flat out bend and then at School House Corner plunges into a wicked series of twists and turns then crosses the Stone Bridge with a nice fast section then into another twisty part which leads to another righthander at Archy Smiths' Corner (this section was dirt in the early day!!) and onto the Railroad Straight where you go through the Railrod Crossing and then into Friar's Corner which is where the steeeep downhill section starts for the appropriately named Big Bend which leads you back into town and a two part left-right section starting with Milliken's Corner and then back onto Franklin Street and back past the Courthouse... In its original form, the circuit had road surfaces of macadam, cement (Big Bend), oiled gravel (the top section), and dirt!

The wonderful thing is the circuit is still there and you can drive around the 6.6miles and see it pretty much in the same form as it was, albeit that it is now completely paved. The circuit is marked and not very difficult to follow. I did it rather sedately in my Honda Odyssey and on the second lap went a tad quicker but could only marvel at those who raced there.

I strongly suggest that when in the area to drop by and drive the circuit, it is Something!!!

#27 Ray Bell

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Posted 10 September 2000 - 14:24

For me, Don, it wouldn't be a case of having a look around if I happened to be in the area... more like I would be in the area because it was there to be looked at.
I added Nowra and Wirlinga to my list in April, the total trip was just on 3500kms. I did very little else, other than visit a friend or two on the way down and my daughter on the way back.

#28 Racer.Demon

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Posted 18 September 2000 - 00:06

We went after all and got our money's worth. Just returned home and here are some first impressions (pictures will follow).

Rouen-les-Essarts is indeed a great track. Even when keeping to the right side of the road, those sweepers are magnificent, especially the last one which has a sort of double apex catching you off guard before you will also need to put on the brakes for the hairpin (asphalted over now). The run up to l'Etoile is just as breathtaking and tricky. After that, it's just a shame that the autoroute created the rather boring shortcut to the start-finish straight.

As far as the state of the "track" is concerned: you won't know if only for some small details still left. The connection road is now a forest road with lots of parked cars at the side, their drivers wandering off into the woods with all kinds of dogs. The grandstands have been comprehensively torn down, with only the first wooden guardrail still standing. Opposite, the paddock area is overgrown with weeds while the pitlane entry and exit are cut in half by a newly dug trench. Two more years and the area will be cleared of every memory, I'll tell you.

But the roads are still there and impossible to take away...


#29 Racer.Demon

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Posted 18 September 2000 - 00:07

P.S. Compared to Darren's ghost-town pictures of Reims (excellent job, D.) mine will show a wasteland.


#30 Barry Lake

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Posted 18 September 2000 - 14:20

[i]But the roads are still there and impossible to take away...
[/B]

Racer
I wouldn't bet on that. Modern man and his earth-moving equipment can wreak havoc in no time flat.

#31 Racer.Demon

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Posted 18 September 2000 - 20:18

Well, they form the main roads between South Rouen and the large town of Elbeuf, so I suspect the sweepers will remain in place, Barry. But in a sense you're totally right, since your graphic description of man-made disaster perfectly fits what happened to the connection road, the grandstands and above all the paddock and the pitlane. They serve no modern function so let put the shovel in...


#32 Racer.Demon

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Posted 19 September 2000 - 23:27

And here's a modest page set up on my visit to Rouen: http://www.racer.dem...gear/rouen.html (pictures included).



#33 paulb

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Posted 20 September 2000 - 00:20

It would be very enlightening if there were images posted of these tracks like Solitude and Lobethal. It's surely one thing to read a description, another to see the course layout, yet another to walk the pavement, but best of all to drive it quickly with the wind in your face.

Thanks.

#34 Marco94

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Posted 20 September 2000 - 06:51

paulb,

Search this forum for Solitude. There are some links to pictures posted before.

Marco.

#35 Darren Galpin

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Posted 20 September 2000 - 07:07

Posted Image

Last track.

Posted Image

1950-54 circuit.

From http://www.silhouet....cks/tracks.html

#36 Witt

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Posted 23 September 2000 - 03:53

Rouen was much before my time, but it is my favourite cirucit to play on GP2, and i'm saddened to hear that anything slightly resembling the circuit has been removed. I've always wanted to visit these old great circuits, and i still plan to one day, i just hope that by the time i get there, i can still recognise something from what i've seen in photo's. By the time i get there, the great photo's Racer.Demon has showed us will probably be to old to use as a reference point. :) As long as those downhill sweeps remain, i'll be happy.

#37 Martijn

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Posted 30 September 2000 - 02:42

Hello

As I made the Solitude track for GPL, I have done some historic research about the track. Its amazing what stories and photos people come up with, it seems that the Solitude track is still very alive in the memory of those who visited it, even when they were only 8yo kids.

Anyway, a small part of the old pictures I have posted here:
http://home.wanadoo.nl/~m.keizer/pics/
(together with a few screenshots of Solitude in GPL)

As it is, I have about 160 more modern day pictures of Solitude, and 30 or so old ones. Here's the one I like best. No wonder they could store 400.000 people around the track, as the crowd you see here, sits around the entire (4 km) Mahdental section in this fashion. Notice the absence of any guardrails or other things to keep from cars going into the crowd (well, except from telegraph poles).

Posted Image

Also about 100 modern day pictures of Clermont from my recent trip. As described before, that track is partly modernized (with graveltraps, kerbstones and other no-nos). What struck me was the awesome banking in many of the turns, easily as much as 20% in some tight hairpins.

I could however very much use some old pictures of Clermont, as I am unsure of the exact course of the track in some sections (mainly the lowest part at Carrefour de Gravenoire). So if anyone got some more pictures of the scenery there.. please..

one picture of the current pitarea... the startbuilding has been demolished and work is underway to create a new tower and boxes. The tiny old grandstand is still in place.

Posted Image

more if you want...

Martijn

#38 Ray Bell

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Posted 30 September 2000 - 13:52

paulb.... for years I have felt that I was a voice calling in the wilderness about Lobethal... now the word pops up in this forum so often, nice to know there is an interest. Just had a chat via ICQ tonight with someone in Adelaide (non-racing contact) and mentioned Lobethal... they spoke of the current Christmas lights display they have there... I said it was a shame such a good circuit was wasted on tourist buses taking people to look at Santa Claus.
Have you been there?
Martijn... is that pic from 1961?

#39 pinchevs

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Posted 02 October 2000 - 13:22

Martijn,
According to the Motorsport article, that grandstand is not the original one. Look closly at some of the photos I e-mailed you. Send me your address and I'll send you a copy of the Motorsport article.
Soon I hope to have more info on Clermont. I was also reffered to the Micheln headquarters that are near the track. I'll try to get a detailed map from them. Cross your fingers.

Moshe Pinchevsky

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#40 Jhope

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Posted 02 October 2000 - 17:34

Martjin, if you have anymore pictures of both tracks, can you post them on here or send them to me via E-mail?

#41 Martijn

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Posted 02 October 2000 - 20:16

Jhope, well yeah i do have many more pics, as I said. However, most arent scanned yet, so that takes some time. I scanned a few ones (the best ones), but Im a bit hesitant to clog this entire forum with pics. maybe in a separate "pics of Solitude" thread?

I would like to scan and post them for someone who makes a nice website about ie. Solitude "then and now", but atm I am in no position to do that myself. I heared from a few others they have plans in that direction, but havent seen something concrete yet. Anyone knows?

There is a site with much stuff about Solitude, including current day pictures, old program texts ("Solitude is on of the safest tracks, both for drivers and spectators") and aerial maps. http://my.bawue.de/~matthead/solitude/

Ray, do you have a map somewhere of Lobothal? i'm sure there are people interested if its such a great track, to make it "real" in ie. GPL, if there is enough information about it available. Problem is always to get enough info together, a very detailed map, and many many picturs to see scenery and elevations.
(and I dont know for sure whether the Soli pic is from 1961 - i didnt really pay much attention to things other than the track surroundings)

Pinchevs, nice to see you again :-) Ill have a closer look at that grandstand in "Grand Prix", and on my pictures and so on. thanks for your help so far :-)



#42 Jhope

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Posted 03 October 2000 - 02:53

thanks for the link Martijn. that site offers great pictures of the track. WOW!!! it makes me wanna go there with my Golf GTI and drive the hell out of that track. OH!!! what it must have been like to drive these wonderful tracks. On etrack that looks more inviting than solitude, is Clermont Ferrand....It's a track i love driving in GP2, and i'm looking forward to seeing it in GPL if it's possible.

again thanks.

#43 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 October 2000 - 12:00

The Lobethal map is a bit meaningless without the pics, but I'll see about posting it some time. I once discussed with someone about doing the circuit for GP2, but it is limited to about 5 miles or something... GPL has the Nurburgring, so I guess it's not so limited.
Would the car variations include tightening the friction dampers?

#44 Marco94

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Posted 04 October 2000 - 07:46

Jhope,

Be very carefull with you GTI! In the Mahdental section, were Martijn's picture is taken, you'll find numerous crosses dedicated to some one who killed himself. Some are _very_ recent. But have fun anyway. I did.

Marco.

#45 Marco94

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Posted 04 October 2000 - 07:54

Moshe,

I go back to Holland in about a month, live very near Martijn and have the article as well. It saves you some money and trouble if I would loan it to our personal GPL artist.

Marco.[p][Edited by Marco94 on 10-04-2000]

#46 pinchevs

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Posted 04 October 2000 - 13:50

Marco,
Thanks man!

Martijn,
Let me tell you that a week ago I came back from a vacation with my wife in Paris. I went to a huge motorsport books store to find what ever they had on Clermont Ferrand even in French. The owner checked his catalogues, but could not find anything on this track. I was very disappointed so I bought a book on the track in Morocco, a book on the Vanderbilt Cup and a book on Novulari.
There is still a chance that there will be old pics and info in some of the books that are on the way to me from Amazon UK. I also have some pics at home which I need to scan and send you.
I hope that this weekend I'll get to write Michelen to help with some info.


#47 Ray Bell

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Posted 05 October 2000 - 16:57

Surely the only answer is to take a lap of the circuit and video it yourself?
I have a lap of Lobethal on video somewhere....

#48 Jhope

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Posted 06 October 2000 - 07:47

Marco94: it's only a dream for now, as I live in Canada, an no way can i make it there now on a student salary. damn it!!!

maybe one day though....


#49 Marco94

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Posted 06 October 2000 - 07:54

Well, you are very lucky. Since the Solitude is now a very important part of the road system in the Stuttgart area, it will be there for some time to come. Lets just hope they don't modify the Mahdental section to much.

Marco.

#50 Barry Lake

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Posted 06 October 2000 - 15:49

pinchevs
Can you give me more information on the book on the track in Morocco please? I haven't heard of that one.