Pau Grand Prix - Racing on the streets since 1930
The Pau Grand Prix is one of the oldest street races in Europe and one of the key moments of the season in the lower ranks of formula racing.
Since 1930, the streets of the city in the French Pyrenees are the venue of exciting motorsport spectacle that each year attracts huge attendance. This event is often compared with the famous Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix which was held for the first time in 1929.
First motorsport events in the region were held at the beginning of the 20th century on the roads around the Pyrenees but the first Grand Prix, in a form that is still present today, for the first time was held in 1930.
Actually, it was European Championship French Grand Prix, while the Pau Grand Prix for the first time was held in 1933. Interestingly, the Grand Prix that year was held at snow! In 1935 the present course was established and since then remained almost unchanged.
Challenging layout, almost unchanged since 1935
Nowadays it is 2.769 km long counter-clockwise track with 15 turns, located around the Parc Beaumont in the heart of the city. The spectators are very close to the action and could enjoy in one of the greatest motorsport spectacles in the world. With the combination of twists and turns, camber changes and kerb-ridden chicanes, drivers and their cars are put on a real challenge.
A remarkable feature of the track is the grandstand which lines the start-finish straight. The grandstand that overhangs a river which runs alongside the circuit is assembled each year from a kit of concrete and metal beams.
Over the years, the layout of the circuit was changed several times while many stars of that time, like Tazio Nuvolari, Rene Dreyfus, Hermann Lang and Rudolf Caracciola, participated regularly. During the World War 2 the Pau Grand Prix wasn’t held. In 1947 the race returned to the calendar and still was very popular among both drivers and fans. One of the Pau Grand Prix winners was Juan Manuel Fangio, who triumphed in 1949.
Formula 2 and Formula 3000 years
When the FIA World Championship of Drivers was established in 1950, the Pau Grand Prix wasn’t included in the championship calendar but over the years was one of the F1 non-championship races, as well as part of the Formula 2 championship. Many famous drivers won the race at Pau.
Jim Clark scored his maiden victory driving a Formula 1 car there in 1961. Jack Brabham, Maurice Trintignant, Jochen Rindt, Jackie Stewart, Peter Gethin, Eddie Cheever, Jacques Laffite, Mike Thackwell, and Rene Arnoux also were among the winners of Pau Grand Prix Formula 2 races, while many other legends, including Graham Hill, Denny Hulme, Emerson Fittipaldi, Henri Pescarolo, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, and Francois Cevert participated in the period from the 1960s to mid 1980s.
When Formula 3000 replaced Formula 2 as the feeder series to Formula 1, the Grand Prix of Pau remained a part of the European Championship. Until 1998, the Pau Grand Prix still was the action-packed events with many spectacular accidents and incidents. Many future stars participated with the various success – Juan Pablo Montoya won the race twice while Jean Alesi also was among those who won the prestigious event.
Formula 3 and the WTCC races as the main events
In 1999 Formula 3000 was replaced with the newly-formed European Formula 3 Championship. That year the race was shortened to 40 minutes instead of 90 minutes. Until 2006 it was one of the most important races of the Formula 3 Euroseries and again many future stars reached the top spot on the podium – Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre, Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean.
The format of the race again was changed in 2007. Until 2009, it was Race of France, part of the World Touring Cars Championship. Augusto Farfus and Alain Menu won the race twice while Andy Priaulx and Rob Huff won once.
The municipality late in 2009 decided to cancel the race for financial reasons, so the Grand Prix was suspended in 2010, and the WTCC was no longer a participant going forward.
The race was revived in 2011 with the return of various formula racing categories and the FIA Formula 3 International Trophy as the main event and with Formula Renault 2.0 Series, French F4 Championship and other minor series as the supporting events. Future DTM champion Marco Wittmann won the race that year.
Historic Grand Prix
Since 2001, historical cars races are held one week before or after the “modern” Grand Prix. The visitors have a great opportunity to see various racing cars from different periods – from the 1950s and 1960s Formula 2 cars, old GT and touring race cars, Mini Coopers, Grand Prix cars before WW2 and many other oldtimers.
Over the years Pau Historic Grand Prix has become one of the highlights of the historic racing calendar in the world and one of the few opportunities to sample such cars on a track unchanged from their original era.
Video – A lap around Pau Grand Prix circuit
Address: Circuit de Pau-Ville, ASAC Basco Bearnais, Palais D’Aragon, Bd D’Aragon, Pau F-64000, France
Phone: +33 5 59 27 31 89