Circuit de Nogaro - The First Purpose-built Race Track in France
The Circuit Paul Armagnac, also known as the Circuit de Nogaro, is a race track located near the French town Nogaro, in the Gers department in the southwestern France. The race track was opened in 1960 and it was the first purpose-built race track in France at that time.
The original circuit was 1,752 meters long. The first extension came in 1973 when the length was increased to 3,120 meters. One more extension followed in 1989 when the 14-turn circuit gets today’s length of 3,636 meters. The major upgrade of the race track, without changing a length, was made in 2007.
Removing the race from the roads to the permanent circuit
The story about Nogaro Circuit started with road races in the Gers region during the early 1950s, organized by the Sports Association of Armagnac (ASA). When the road races became too dangerous, the club’s founder, Robert Castagnon considered to building a permanent circuit.
One of the most prominent racers from Nogaro at that time was Paul Armagnac. His father Jean was the owner of the aerodrome on the land outside the town and he was happy to give some place for the race track. Despite the antagonism from local authorities, Castagnon started to build in 1959.
Nogaro Circuit was renamed to Circuit Paul Armagnac in 1962
He announced the first race for September 1960, but after a slight delay, the opening race took place on October 3, 1960. The original U-shaped circuit was 1,752 meters long and the first winner there was Bruno Basini, who won the inaugural Nogaro Grand Prix, run to Formula Junior regulations.
The local racing hero Paul Armagnac lost his life on October 22, 1962, being killed in an accident during practice for the 1000-km race at Montlhery, Paris. After that, the race track was named the Circuit Paul Armagnac in his memory.
The track was extended in 1973
During the 1960s, Nogaro was hosting various national events both in car and motorcycle racing. The annual highlight since 1968 was the Easter Monday when the track was opened for both amateur and professional racers.
In 1971, the Department of Gers took the ownership in 1971 and the decision was made to extend the circuit in 1973. The original layout stayed as the Club Circuit while the Grand Prix Circuit had two new high-speed straights and its length was 3,120 meters.
Longer circuit attracted international competitions
The extended track started to attract international competitions. In 1974, the 19-year-old Alain Prost launched his stellar career with a victory in the Nogaro’s Formula Renault Europe race. The European Formula Two Championship came to Nogaro in 1975, with Patrick Tambay as the first winner. He repeated a victory in 1976, then Rene Arnoux and Bruno Giacomelli took the top podium spots in 1977 and 1978.
Another big competition came to Nogaro in 1978. It was the French motorcycle Grand Prix, the part of the World Championship. The winner in the premium 500cc class was Kenny Roberts. Four years later, the French Grand Prix returned one more time to Nogaro. The 1982 winner was Michel Frutschi.
One more extension of the track in 1989
During the 1980s, Nogaro was hosting few more international competitions, such were the European Formula 3 or the European Touring Car Championship. To avoid losing international status, the owner listened to FIA’s recommendation and started one more extension in 1989.
The circuit gets few more corners and the length increased to 3,636 meters. The pit garages, grandstands and the paddock were also significantly upgraded.
Four years of exciting F3000 races
FIA was satisfied with new standards, so it granted a place on the International Formula 3000 calendar from 1990. On October 7, 1990, the winner of the first F3000 race in Nogaro was Eric van de Poele. In 1991, the F3000 race at Circuit Paul Armagnac was the last round and a championship-decider. Christian Fittipaldi beat rival Alex Zanardi and took the title. In that race, Zanardi set the fastest lap time (1:20.160) which is still today the circuit’s track record.
Luca Badoer won the race in 1992, Franck Lagorce was the winner in 1993. In 1994, the F3000 calendar was shortened and the championship didn’t return to Nogaro. Since 1994, the European Truck Racing Championship and the BPR Global GT Series became the main competitions. The BPR Global GT Series was running only until 1996, after that the newly-formed French GT Championship was the main competition in Nogaro.
A major upgrade for Nogaro Circuit in 2007
To return on the international racing map, the circuit underwent major upgrade for 2007 season. The start/finish line was relocated and new pitlane with 26 places, modern garage facilities and impressive control tower were built. Some parts of the track were widened and realigned to create bigger run-off areas.
An effort was successful so the international racing returned to Nogaro. The FIA GT Championship came for the first time in September 2007. The overall race winners were Mike Hezemans and Jean-Denis Deletraz with Chevrolet Corvette C6.R. Nogaro was a venue of one more FIA GT event in 2008 and then returned in the 2012 FIA GT1 Championship. In 2013, the series was renamed to the FIA GT Series and then into Blancpain GT Series in 2014. Nogaro was on the calendar until 2015 and then dropped out in 2016.
The circuit is in use for more than 300 days annually
Currently, the European Truck Racing Championship is the main international event, but the track calendar is full of national events and competitions, such are French Superbike, French Drift Championship, Trophee Tourisme Endurance or various cup races.
The circuit is in use for more than 300 days annually, mostly for club events and classic/historic events.
Video : Onboard lap around Nogaro circuit
Address: Circuit Paul Armagnac, BP 24, 32110 Nogaro, France
Phone: +33 5 62 09 02 49
Official website: www.circuit-nogaro.com