As the second in our new series, courtesy of Herman Liesemeijer of CircuitsofthePast.com, we look at the circuit of Reims-Gueux, which hosted the French Grand Prix and also a high-profile 12-hour race won by drivers such as Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Pedro Rogrigues and Guy Ligier:
Reims-Gueux – A Popular High Speed Triangle
The Reims-Gueux Circuit was located in Northern France and used for the first time in 1926, for the Grand Prix de la Marne. The original version of the street circuit was 4.865-miles long, with a section through the village of Gueux. It was a high-speed circuit with mostly fast corners and long straights.
In 1932, Reims-Gueux organized its first French Grand Prix, which was won by Tazio Nuvlari in an Alfa Romeo Tipo-B P3. Six years later the French Grand Prix returned with Mercedes winning in 1938 and Auto Union a year later. After the war the French Formula One Grand Prix was held eleven times at Reims-Gueux, from 1950 through to 1966.
In 1952 it was time for a change to the layout when a new section was introduced to cut off the section through Gueux. A year later the circuit was extended to give it a length of 5.187-miles and in 1954 there was another change, when the hairpins of Muizon and Virage de Thillois at the ends of the longest straight were made faster.
Even though Reims-Gueux was a true power circuit, it contained some very fast and challenging corners that made the circuit very popular by the drivers and spectators. Over the years, permanent pit and grandstand buildings were installed, complete with a rotatable scoreboard that was visible from all of the start/finish area.
After the loss of the French Grand Prix, the final race was held in 1966, Reims-Gueux was used for national races. However, the facilities became obsolete and the circuit became too dangerous, with the last race run on June 11th, 1972.
The local mayor ordered the demolition of the buildings to start on the Monday after the last race, but fortunatly there were elections and a new mayor came, who stopped the demolition plans. However, it was too late for a part of the pits which was already destroyed.
In the years that followed the circuit buildings were left abandoned and fell into decay. The windows of the pit building had been vandalised and the place became overgrown. New plans were made to restart the demolition and build a luxury residential area on the site.
However, the story has a happier ending. Since 2002 the foundation “Amis du Circuit de Gueux” (Friends of the Reims-Gueux Circuit) has worked on restoring the old buildings, and obtained a guarantee that nothing would be demolished.
The rirst time I visited Reims-Gueux was in 2005, during a revival that was organized by the foundation. They just finished the removal of all the weeds on the site, although most of the buildings and other structures still looked abandoned and rusty.
When I came back ten years later I was surprised how much it had changed. The pit building looked great, in the style of the 1950’s, and the rusty score board and petrol tower were repainted. But there was still a lot of work to do and a building in the old paddock was a ruin.
When I went to the top floor of the pit building I risked my life on a scary staircase without a railing. If that was not dangerous enough, there was also a lot of junk on the stair, and once at the top floor I saw a huge gap in the roof.
My most recent visit to Reims-Gueux so far was in 2018. I had just bought myself a drone and I thought it would be very cool to fly it around the old circuit buildings and film what I could.
The first flight was over the pit building and I could see the gap in the roof was gone. They replaced the broken roof by a new one, had also cleared the dangerous stairs and installed a railing. Good job “Amis du Circuit de Gueux”!
Also, the ruined building in the paddock now looked like new, after only three years, with an office inside now. I saw the remains of the old Reims-Gueux circuit change from a ruin to a memorial of a bygone circuit of the past.
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French Grand Prix Winners at Reims-Gueux:
1932 Tazio Nuvlari (Alfa Romeo Tipo-B P3)
1938 Manfred von Brauchitsh (Mrcedes-Benz W25B)
1939 Herman Muller (Auto Union D)
1948 Jean-Pierre Wimille (Alfa Romeo 158)
1950 Juan Manual Fangio (Alfa Romeo 158)
1951 Luigi Fagioli/Juan Manual Fangio (Alfa Romeo 159)
1953 Mike Hawthorn (Ferrari 500)
1954 Juan Manuel Fangio (Mercedes-Benz W196)
1956 Peter Collins (Lancia-Ferrari D50)
1958 Mike Hawthorn (Ferrari Dino 246)
1959 Tony Brooks (Ferrari Dino 246)
1960 Jack Brabham (Cooper-Climax T53)
1961 Giancarlo Baghetti (Ferrari Dino 156)
1963 Jim Clark (Lotus-Climax 25)
1966 Jack Brabham (Brabham-Repco BT19)
Formula One Lap Record: Lorenzo Bandini (Ferrari 312) 2m11.3s (141.435mph)