The Grand Circuit de Vitesse Automobile des Remparts (The Great Circuit of Automobile Speed of the Remparts), as it was originally called in 1939, was immediately given the nickname “Circuit des Remparts d’Angouleme, the name which has continued to this day. The then mayor of the city M. Guillon, along with the Municipal Council and the Prefecture, validated the original idea on the 2nd July 1939. The course measured just over 1.2km or about 0.8 miles and consisted of two short straights, three right angle bends, a large rapid corner and three hairpin bends. All created within the old city walls or ramparts – hence the name. The course is unique as it remains completely unchanged and together with Monaco and the grand prix circuit at Pau, is one of the few remaining city centre racing circuits.
Nine drivers joined the very first Circuit des Remparts d’Angoulême, (the original poster advertising the first race is shown opposite) and among them were some of the most well-known racing names of the day. One of these, Raymond Sommer, went on to win the race and set the best lap time at 1mn 10s in his Alfa Romeo. The race on the 1.279 km course consisted of two qualifying rounds of 40 laps each (with a total distance of 51.16 km) and a finale of 70 laps (with a total distance of 89.53 km). The cars included Bugattis, Delahayes, Maseratis and one MG K3!
A lot has happened since that first race. In 1950 Juan-Manuel Fangio participated and, as expected, won with a new lap time of 1mn 3 secs. Since then, a number of world famous racing drivers have participated, including Stirling Moss, John Surtees, Didier Pironi and more recently Derek Bell – in a blower Bentley no less!
1955 saw major changes to racing following the tragic accident at Le Mans and the fact that the cars were now becoming far too fast for tight urban circuits. Indeed, for a time, racing was stopped at Angouleme.
In 1978 the Circuit des Remparts was revived by the then mayor, Jean-Michel Boucheron. He organized the idea of retrospective historic racing with some 60 cars taking part. The event was opened by Juan-Manuel Fangio and was a huge success. However, the circuit lacked homologation and after great efforts this was achieved in July 1983. Since then, the event has kept its historic theme.
The Circuit des Remparts actually takes place over three days and is always held on the third weekend in September. The Friday evening is given to a concours d’elegance, where some 30 selected cars and their owners parade in front of the crowd in the main square.
Saturday is the Rallye. This is divided into two parts; an International Rallye and a Club Rallye. The International is, as the name suggests, given over to international entries, who complete a roughly 200 km course around the beautiful Charente countryside. They stop for a superb lunch at a local chateau.
The Club Rallye is to enable local classic and historic vehicle clubs to participate and is very well supported. If you don’t get your entry in early, you won’t get a place. (I do mine the week after the event for the following year!).
This year the Club Rallye was well supported by a number of MGs of various types and vintages including – yes, you’ve guessed it … T- Types.
One well known participant who has taken part over a number of years is Mike Inglehearn with his wife, Angie. Their TB (TB0457) is pictured below.
TB0457 was actually registered on 3rd September 1939, the day WW2 was declared. There is no evidence the car was responsible!
TDs were also well represented……
and……Ok, it’s not strictly a T-Type, but we are all well aware of the origins of the TD and anyway, it was a beautifully presented saloon.
Sunday is given over to the racing. There are a number of events or plateau as the French term them. 2018 saw the following;
Plateau Raymond Sommer: Racing grid of Pre-war cars of less than 1500 cm3 (FFSA race). Twenty-six cars on the grid.
Plateau Maurice Trintignant: Racing grid of Pre-war cars of more than 1500 cm3 (FFSA race). Twenty-six cars on the grid.
Plateau Marc Nicolosi: Racing grid of Bugattis, Types 13, 37, 35, 51 and 59 (race FFSA). 26 Cars on the grid, of all cylinders, from 1910 to 1939.
Plateau Archibald Frazer Nash: Racing grid of Frazer Nash (FFSA race). Twenty-six cars on the grid.
Plateau Louis rosier: Racing grid of Prototype category Le Mans and Mille Miglia (FFSA race). 24 Cars on the grid.
Whilst they are all fantastic grids – where else would you see 26 original and very expensive Bugattis being raced? – and I do mean thrown around the circuit with no quarter given! – the one that interests the T- Type enthusiast is Trintignant with no less than six MGs racing. Three TBs, a TA and two K3s.
Above: Some Ts weren’t necessarily “standard” engine configuration. Below: Luke Baker’s TB having its picture taken.
Cockpit of Luke Baker’s TB
More info at:- https://www.circuitdesremparts.com
2019 marks the 80th anniversary of the Circuit des Remparts. It’s also the 80th anniversary of the TB. The organisers are well aware of this and depending on the number of TBs that come to Angouleme – not necessarily to race – I think they would like to put on a little something special for them.
It’s worth coming just to see the cars and the racing on the Sunday. Where else would you see a Bugatti line up like this? Seats in the stands are quite reasonable from 49 Euros. You get a wrist band to wear and this entitles you to entry into the pits which is a great experience. Not one that can be enjoyed at other historic racing venues.
The site does have an English translation and for those who wish to enter there is a telephone number for an English helpline. You’ll get through to Teresa – don’t upset her she’s a good friend of mine and I want to take part in 2019!
Ed’s note: Thank you John for an informative article. Last pic shows the Baker TB in the line-up.