Motor sport

In memory of Dijon, the imaginary place of Sebastian Vettel’s French GP

The truncated Dijon was used again the following year, for the non-championship Swiss GP, and an additional loop was incorporated in 1976, before the return of the French Grand Prix the following summer. Jenks: “A magnificent ascent of 511 meters, and some 14 seconds on the clock! For all its smallness and “circus village” feel, the end result was quite enjoyable, especially if you’ve never experienced anything better. For Formula 1 racing in France this was more or less adequate and any shortcomings were more than made up for by the onset of summer in the very pleasant countryside of Burgundy.

Mario Andretti took a legacy victory for Lotus in 1977, after John Watson’s Brabham dried up in the final moments and crossed the line with a dead Alfa flat-12, and there would be only four more greats left world championship prizes thereafter: three French (1979, 1981 and 1984) and a Swiss (1982, when Keke Rosberg won the only victory of the year of his coronation).

One of them, however, was among the biggest in world championship history. He is best known for the emotional duel for second place between Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari) and René Arnoux (Renault), whose approach to the task at hand would today have led to a fortnight of post-race investigations. . From where I sat watching the highlights on a small portable television in Cheshire, it looked like two guys capitalizing on abundant car control and boundless mutual trust to illustrate just how exciting racing could be – and my feelings about it have never changed.

Arnoux (left) and Villeneuve (right) will provide the fireworks fondly remembered in 1979 as Jabouille claimed victory


Up the road, meanwhile, Arnoux’s teammate Jean-Pierre Jabouille was edging his way to a comfortable victory. Two years after Renault’s first Grand Prix start of the modern era, it was clear that its turbocharged V6 was not the dead end some rivals had predicted, but a wake-up call, a pointer to the future. technical direction of Grand Prix races.

Dijon’s place in Grand Prix history was therefore brief but significant. Liberty Media is unlikely to heed Vettel’s suggestion, but if it did, it would be wise to sit down, sample a few bottles of local produce and leave the circuit untouched.

It’s good like this.