Circuit Dijon-Prenois doesn't deserve to fall into oblivion
The Circuit Dijon-Prenois was once a racing spot which hosted top events like the French Formula 1 Grand Prix but over the years its importance and glory faded.
Ambitious plan never had a proper financial backing
The circuit located near the city of Dijon, in the Burgundy region, was opened in 1972, after three years of construction which progressed quite slow due to constant lack of money. Interestingly, the designer of the track was a former wrestler and a rugby player Francois Chambelland who wanted to establish Dijon as one of France’s leading motorsport centers. Famous French drivers Francois Cevert and Jean-Pierre Beltoise were also involved in a project as consultants.
The result was 3.289 km long track with only 8 turns, but with big and unusual elevation changes and long start/finish straight. The initial plan was to build much longer racecourse but it didn’t happen due to lack of funding. However, this circuit was attractive and challenging, good enough to host the Formula 1 French Grand Prix. In 1976, the circuit was redesigned and lengthened to 3.8 km with 9 turns but still it was steep and hard to tame, but again with many spots suitable for overtaking.
The Formula 1 Grand Prix was the main event
The first race held at Circuit Dijon-Prenois was for 2-litre prototypes and the winner was Arturo Merzario. Next year, the World Sportscars championship race was held at Dijon and the winners were Henri Pescarolo and Gerard Larrousse in Matra-Simca.
Finally, the first Formula 1 Grand Prix was held in 1974. The Lotus’ driver Ronnie Peterson won the race but in 1975 the French Grand Prix was moved from Dijon. When the track was lengthened, the race returned to the redesigned circuit in 1977. A total of five French Grand Prix races were held at Dijon-Prenois, while in 1982 this circuit was the host of the Swiss Grand Prix. In that race Keke Rosberg scored his maiden victory, driving a Williams-Ford. The last Formula 1 race at Circuit Dijon-Prenois was held in 1984 and ended with a Niki Lauda’s win.
Epic battle between Arnoux and Villeneuve at Circuit Dijon – Prenois
One of the most epic battles in the history of Formula 1 was seen at Circuit Dijon-Prenois. It was in 1979 when the French driver Jean-Pierre Jabouille scored the maiden victory for turbo-powered Renault, but in the center of attention was a battle for the 2nd place between another Renault driver Rene Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve in Ferrari.
Video – Arnoux and Villeneuve battle at Circuit Dijon – Prenois
Slow disappearance from the international stage
When Formula 1 definitely left Dijon for Circuit Paul Ricard, endurance races of the World Sportscars and FIA GT Championship became main happenings. Formula 3000, European and World Touring Cars Championship races were also held at Dijon circuit, as well as one round of DTM in 2009. Despite the fact that almost 25.000 spectators turned out for that race, the series never returned due to financial problems.
Lack of funding led to disappearing of Circuit Dijon-Prenois from the international motorsport stage. Today, this venue holds many national events as well as Swiss championship events, club racing, historic races, and also karting races at the state of art circuit built in 2001.
Getting to the Circuit Dijon-Prenois
The nearest international airport is Lyon – Saint Exupery, around two hours drive to the south from the circuit. There is also a small airport Dole – Jura which is available for scheduled passenger flights. It is located to the southwest, around 50 minutes drive from the circuit.
You can also use the train if you want to visit this circuit. The nearest station, around 25 minutes drive from the circuit, is Dijon-Ville which has TGV connections with Paris, Strasbourg, and Nice.
A lot of different accommodation types are available in Dijon and near the circuit. There is also a well-equipped camping site Lac de Panthier, around 25 minutes drive from the circuit.
Address: Circuit Dijon-Prenois, 21370 Prenois, France
Phone: +33 3 80 35 32 22