Honda website
Honda website

MARCH 2, 1998

Ricard sale to attract F1 teams?

THE Circuit Paul Ricard near Toulon, in the south of France, is up for sale, following the death of the drinks magnate who built the track in 1969. Ricard, who died in November at the age of 88, left five children and according to French law his assets must be split equally between them. As none of them seem to be interested in holding on to the racing circuit it is up for sale with a price tag believed to be as much as $10m.

While Paul Ricard may be attractive to both car manufacturers and tire companies, it is also possible that a number of the Grand Prix teams may be interested to buying the track, in order to use it as a permanent test and development facility in much the same way as the Ferrari team now uses the old Mugello racing circuit.

In recent years Grand Prix teams have had increasing problems finding available time at circuits where the weather is good in the winter months. There is considerable pressure on bookings not only from rival teams but also from competitors in other formulae, from racing schools and from companies organizing corporate events.

The major drawback with Paul Ricard is that the track conditions and lap times can change dramatically from hour to hour because of the Mistral wind which blows regularly across the area. While being close to the sea, Ricard is also 1500 ft. above sea level, which means that temperatures can be rather low in the winter, which means that teams struggle to get temperature into the tires when testing. As a result other facilities in the area have been bought up before Paul Ricard. Goodyear owns the Mireval circuit near Montpelier, while BMW owns the Miramas testing facility near Marseilles.

The big advantage of Paul Ricard is that it is next door to an airfield capable of handling small business jets, which allows team bosses and drivers to come and go with far greater ease than other racing circuits.