Pau Grand Prix

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Pau Grand Prix
Circuit de Pau-Ville
Carte circuit de Pau.png
Race information
Number of times held 71
First held 1933
Most wins (drivers) United Kingdom Jim Clark (4)
Most wins (constructors) Italy Dallara (11)
Circuit length 2.760 km (1.714 mi)
Race length 91.1 km (56.562 mi)
Laps 33
Last race (2014)
Pole position
Fastest lap
Pau Circuit
Carte circuit de Pau.png
Location Pau, France
Time zone GMT +1 (DST: +2)
Major events Formula Two, F3 Euroseries, WTCC
Length 2.769 km (1.721 mi)
Turns 15
Lap record 1:08.60[1] (Andrea Montermini, Forti Corse Reynard-Cosworth, 1992, Formula 3000)
Brazilian driver Átila Abreu drives the picturesque Pau Circuit in 2005

The Pau Grand Prix (French: Grand Prix de Pau) is an auto race held in Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, southwestern France. The French Grand Prix was held at Pau in 1930, leading to the annual Pau Grand Prix being inaugurated in 1933. It was not run during World War II.

The race takes place around the centre of the city where the streets are closed to form a circuit, and its 68 runnings have variously conformed to the rules of Formula Libre, Sports cars, Grand Prix, Formula One, Formula Two, Formula Three, Formula 3000 and Touring cars.


The race is run around a street circuit laid out round the French town, and is in many ways similar to the more famous Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. The race cars are set up with greater suspension travel than is typically utilised at a purpose-built racing circuit to minimise the effect of running on the typical undulating tarmac of the street circuit.[2]


Circuit du Sud-Ouest 1900

In 1900, the newly created Automobile-club du Béarn held a race on a 300 km road circuit, called the Circuit du sud-ouest (Pau-Tarbes-Bayonne-Pau), the name of this race was the same as the circuit. It was won by René de Knyff.

Grand Prix du Sud-Ouest 1901

In 1901, the Automobile-club du Béarn held the same race on the same circuit but not with the same title, the race name changed from Circuit du Sud-Ouest to Grand Prix du Sud-Ouest and this was the first event ever to be called Grand Prix in motor racing; it was the ancestor of the Pau Grand Prix. Some anglophone sources wrongly list a race called the 'Pau Grand Prix' in 1901. This may stem from a mistranslation of the contemporary French sources such as the magazine La France Auto of March 1901.[3]

The Grand Prix du Sud-Ouest comprised four prizes for the different classes of entrants.

[n 1]

La France Automobile, March 1901 reports the results for the 'Semaine de Pau'. There were two discrete events, the 140 km Course des touristes from Pau-Peyrehorade-Pau and the second edition of the Grand Prix du Sud-Ouest on 17 February 1901 around the same 300 km road course as 1900.

The Course des touristes, one of this meeting's support races, comprised six prizes for the different classes of entrants. The Prix de la Presse was won by Barbereau (De Dietrich); the Prix du Commerce Palois was awarded to Henri Farman (Darracq); the Prix des Cercles was awarded to Rudeaux (Darracq); the Prix de l’Automobile Club Béarnais was won by 'Bergeon' (De Dietrich); the Prix de l’Automobile Club de France was awarded to Demeester (Gladiator) and Edmond (Darracq) and the Prix de Palmarium was awarded to Cormier (De Dion).(Autosport, The Nostalgia Forum, Robert Dick quoting (translating) from La France Automobile, March 1901

In L’Histoire de l’Automobile/Paris 1907 Pierre Souvestre described the 1901 event as : “... dans le Circuit du Sud-Ouest, à l’occasion du meeting de Pau... ” ( the Circuit du Sud-Ouest, at the meeting in Pau...)[5]

French Grand Prix 1930

The French Grand Prix was held at Pau in 1930, leading to the Pau Grand Prix being inaugurated in 1933.

Starts of the Grand Prix de Pau

Map of the Pau circuit in 1933
Nuvolari wins 1935 Pau Grand Prix

In 1933, the Grand Prix de Pau was held in the snow (February) on a circuit in the streets of the city, the race was won by Marcel Lehoux in a Formula Libre.

There was no Grand Prix in 1934, and in 1935 the event returned with a modified route that bypassed Beaumont Park - the route that is still in use today - and the location of the pits are moved. In 1937, the regulations were changed and Grand Prix cars were restricted to 4500 cc. In 1938, the Pau Grand Prix was the scene of a symbolic duel between French René Dreyfus (Delahaye) and the German Rudolf Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz). In 1939, another duel took place between two Mercedes teammates, Hermann Lang and Manfred von Brauchitsch; Lang won the race.

The race took place regularly with a race almost every year, except during World War II, with a return to the calendar in 1947. The 1947 and 1948 editions were successful because they kept the public in suspense from start to finish. In 1948, the young Nello Pagani won, defeating many of the famous drivers of the time, such as Raymond Sommer, Philippe Etancelin and Jean-Pierre Wimille.

1950s and early 1960s

In 1949, Juan Manuel Fangio won by dominating the Grand Prix de Pau. As in the previous year he started in pole position, achieved the fastest lap and gained victory in 1950 which saw the creation of the FIA Formula One World Championship which excluded Pau from the calendar. In 1950 there was alternatively a Formula Two and non-championship Formula One. The French Jean Behra won in 1954, before a record crowd on a Simca-Gordini as a result of a duel with Ferrari driver Maurice Trintignant while many French manufacturers were no longer present at the GP. During this decade, many Italian manufacturers such as Ferrari, Maserati or Scuderia Lancia raced both in Formula One and Formula Two.

On 11 April 1955, the Italian Mario Alborghetti died in a racing accident, the Maserati driver is an all-right corner of the station which proved fatal; his death was announced to spectators after the race.

The 1956 edition was cancelled following the tragic accident of 1955 Le Mans disaster which caused the cancellation of any racing in 1956. Safety arrangements were made for the 1957 edition, due to the increased power and speed of vehicles, the circuit lined with trees and homes, must resolve to accommodate the categories of race less demanding. However, limiting the capacity to 1500 cm3 Formula One in 1961 allowed the Grand Prix de Pau back on the spotlight ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix. Although off-fought championship, the event dedicated to the glories of Pau time: Jack Brabham, Maurice Trintignant and especially in 1961, Jim Clark that it is his first victory in Formula One.[6]

Formula Two period (1964-1984)

Jacques Laffite in F1 roadshow in Pau (1982)

In 1964, after Formula One, Formula Two stayed and Jim Clark won the Grand Prix for the second consecutive time before relapse the following year. In 1967, drivers like Jean-Pierre Beltoise or Henri Pescarolo make their debut at Pau, in the year Jochen Rindt won his first Grand Prix de Pau before beating again 1969 and 1970. In 1968, Jackie Stewart wins with Matra Sports.

This time show severals former and future world champions like Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme, Ronnie Peterson, Emerson Fittipaldi and young French drivers like Johnny Servoz-Gavin, Henri Pescarolo, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Patrick Depailler, François Cevert and foreign pilots known as Reine Wisell and Peter Gethin .

In 1973, the Pau race is threatened by problems of homologation of the circuit is immediately brought up to standard by the personal intervention of the mayor André Labarrère, in office since 1971. François Cevert wins on the route from Pau.

Drivers such as Jacques Laffite, Patrick Depailler and René Arnoux wins in Pau but many F1 drivers at the time continue to engage in Formula Two on this occasion, just to compete in the Grand Prix which has a solid reputation. In 1980, the 40th edition of the Grand Prix was won by the French Richard Dallest. At that time, the Formula Two is neglected by the media in favour of Formula One and the increased costs will change the situation.

Formula 3000 (1985–1998)

In 1985, the Formula 3000 replaces the old Formula Two and less popular in Europe as the "second-division" championship of Formula One and the Grand Prix de Pau continues to be part of the European championship. That same year, Alain Prost becomes co-organiser of the race.[7]

In 1987, a little hurricane located on the paddock falls on stands facilities and a tree falls in the middle of the paddock that place anyway. In 1989, Jean Alesi took his first victory in Formula 3000 after a turbulent start (the starting procedure is executed 4 times because of successive problems on the grid, with a spectacular crash).

In 1994, French driver Nicolas Leboissetier is victim of an spectacular accident spectacular on the Virage de la gare ("train station corner") into a tense following the death of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger in Imola during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

The Pau-born driver David Dussau participated in the race in 1996, well positioned on the grid, he was forced to abandon because of a crash.

Colombian Juan-Pablo Montoya won the race twice, in 1997 and 1998.

At the end of 1998, it was decided that the races will now be organised exclusively as the curtain-raiser of Formula One European Grand Prix.[7]

Formula Three (1999-2006)

Following the disappearance of the Formula 3000 race in Pau, the FIA organises the new European Formula Three Cup in 1999. Formula Three was, however, already come to Pau with the French championship as a support race of F3000. The Grand Prix format changes completely: the race is shorter (40 minutes instead of 1 hour and a half in F3000).

The start of the F3000 for less discipline raises an outcry from the passionate spectators because at that time the European Cup Formula Three is not sufficiently recognised in the middle of motorsport. The first edition of the European Cup is won by Benoît Tréluyer. This race also included the commitment French Formula Three Championship, and served as a non-championship race.

In 2000, the European Cup is stopped and replaced by the new championship Formula 3 Euro Series, fusion of French and German championships. The Grand Prix became over the years, a very important race in the calendar of Formula Three. 2001 the race was won by Anthony Davidson from Pole position driving a Carlin Dallara Honda. Davidson went on to win the Euro F3 series. The 2005 edition saw the victory of the young Lewis Hamilton, world champion in Formula One three years later.

In 2006, Formula Three is back on the calendar but within the British Championship the two races were won by Romain Grosjean that was not a regular competitor in the championship.

The most important support race, the GT race was a mixture with FFSA GT Championship amateur category and the British GT Championship.

Changing category with the WTCC (2007-2009)

Yvan Muller in Seat León at the 2007 Pau Grand Prix

From 2007 to 2009, the discipline changed to touring cars by hosting the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) for the Race of France. F3 Euro Series returned to support the WTCC during the 2008 edition which saw the Brazilian driver Augusto Farfus (WTCC) involved in a crash in the Foch Chicane.

In 2009, after a number of incidents on the opening lap of the second race, the decision was made to deploy the safety car. However, the 'SC' boards informing the drivers of a safety car period had only just been displayed when the safety car driver drove onto the track without being given the order to do so. Franz Engstler, leading the race at the time, was in the process of slowing down when he came around the first corner and had a heavy collision with the safety car which was nearly stopped in the middle of the track. The FIA sanctioned the officials in charge of the safety car at the event.[8]

The 2009 edition featured the Formula Renault 2.0 West European Cup; the French Formula Renault had last raced at Pau in 2006.

Following a decision taken by the municipality for financial reasons, the Grand Prix was suspended in 2010, and the WTCC was no longer a participant going forward.

Return of Formula Three (2011–2012)

The event was revived in 2011 with the return of Formula Three with the International Trophy as the main event. However, the event was shorter than in previous years and only had fifteen drivers on the entry list, causing crowds to be small. In addition, the only French driver, Tom Dillmann, retired on the fourth lap of the race, which was won by the German Marco Wittmann.[9]

One of the most important support races of the weekend was the first electric Grand Prix, run with Andros Trophy cars with full electric drivetrains. The category included mostly French drivers as Soheil Ayari, Franck Lagorce and Olivier Panis. Also, the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps first visited Pau.

In 2012, the organisers announced that in addition to the International Trophy there would also be a meeting of the British Formula Three Championship round. But on March 9, 2012, the World Motor Sport Council of the FIA announced that it would be part of a new European Formula Three Championship, revived from the previous series which ended in 1984. The Italian Raffaele Marciello won the Grand Prix after dominating qualifying and the race sprint. This victory made him one of the youngest winners of the Pau Grand Prix at only 18 years of age. There were no French drivers in the event

The Porsche Carrera Cup France was also added to the program for 2012 and one of the drivers was Sébastien Loeb and his team Sébastien Loeb Racing. The Alsatian dominated all meetings of the weekend and impressed when he won both races with leads of over ten seconds.

At the second Grand Prix de Pau electric, the two races were won by the same winners as last year, but in reverse order; the first race was won by Adrien Tambay, the second by Mike Parisy. The participants included the Canadian driver Marc-Antoine Camirand (from Quebec) who, with his car in the colours of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, was present to pay tribute to the Formula One driver Gilles Villeneuve and to bring the electric GP to Trois-Rivières.

The 2012 edition received between 22,000 and 23,000 spectators, 10 to 15% more than in 2011.

Formula Renault 2.0 Pau Trophy (2013)

The 2013 edition took place on 18, 19 and 20 May at the Whit Monday (holiday, historical tradition of Pau Grand Prix). The headliner should have been the British Formula Three Championship, but this series, with a lot of concurrence with the European Formula Three Championship, was forced to reduce its calendar to 4 events and cancel many rounds including Pau. It would therefore take place within a non-championship "special" race from Formula Renault 2.0 open to several European championships teams and drivers: the Formula Renault 2.0 Pau Trophy.

At end of January 2013, the organisers announced that Sébastien Loeb and Jacques Villeneuve will be present in Pau in the Mitjet 2L category.

Return of European Formula Three (2014–present)

Since 2014, the Pau Grand Prix is headlined by the European Formula Three Championship. The Formula Renault 2.0 Alps also returned to Pau in 2014.

Support Races

Historic Grand Prix

2012 Historic Races, view from the grandstand

Since 2001, historical cars races are held one week before or after the "modern" Grand Prix. The plateau consists, among others, former Formula One in the 1960s.

Notable racing Grand Prix Historique de Pau since 2001:



  1. By the turn of the 20th century the term Grand Prix had become common parlance in France, having been used since the Grand Prix de Paris horse race in 1886 (e.g. the Grand Prix de Paris for Cyclists in 1895) (New York Times, July 18, 1895, Grand Prix de Paris for Cyclists). Thus in the Anglophone world the main winner's prize (Grand Prix de Pau) subsequently became synonymous with the event.(Leif Snellman (2002-05-27). "The first Grand Prix". 8W. FORIX. Retrieved 2011-01-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>)


External links

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