Angoulême, Circuit des Remparts – the 80th Anniversary

Circuit des Remparts

The Circuit des Remparts in Angoulême is an event that we have been attending since the late 90’s. It is a firm favourite of ours, if you have yet to experience it, then let us set the scene; picture a beautiful city in an elevated position overlooking the meandering Charente river. Visitors and participants attending the event fill the bars and restaurants which line the streets. The anticipation ahead of the weekend’s events are palpable. The soundtrack is provided by the burble of unsilenced race cars weaving passed the crowds en route to the paddock ready for race day.

Bugatti in the Circuit des Remparts paddock
Bugatti in the Circuit des Remparts paddock
Circuit des Remparts
Vintage cars line the streets in Angoulême
Circuit des Remparts
Moss – a previous participant

In 2019 it was the 80th anniversary of the Circuit des Remparts. The concept for the event was born in 1938 by the local car club and ratified by the mayor of Angouleme. The first race happened in 1939, Some of the most prestigious pilots of the time were entered into the first edition of the Angoulême Circuit des Remparts: Maurice Trintignant, Jean-Pierre Wimille, René Bonnet or Raymond Sommer who won the race and scored the fastest lap with 1 minute 10 second lap at the wheel of his Alfa Romeo 308.

When the Second World War was announced two months after the Circuit des Remparts first edition, the events were suspended from this point for eight years. The second edition of the Angouleme race took place in June 1947.

There is so much history of the race during the period of 1947 and 1955, it is worth reading on www.circuitdesremparts.com/en/history. In 1955 the laws were changing about racing on street circuits. Then the catastrophic accident at Le Mans that year put pay to street racing, for the most part, for years to come.

The event was revived in 1978 although the rules about running timed events restricted what the organisers were able to put in place. The true revival was in 1983, with real racing back on the streets. That year Stirling Moss, John Surtess and Didier Peroni were all guests at the event. In 1990 the Circuit des Remparts adopted the format we know today, with the Concours d’Elegance/d’Etat, the Saturday rally and racing on the Sunday. To this day the circuit layout remains as it did in 1939.

Our 2019 tour started in Portsmouth on a Tuesday evening, for the overnight sailing to Caen. We then travelled down via the d-roads for breakfast in Putanges, followed by a fascinating visit to the chateau that Steve McQueen stayed in during the making of the movie Le Mans. Our first overnight stay was in the charming town of Loué, at a hotel also linked with the movie Le Mans. There was plenty of time to relax, explore and unwind before an excellent dinner.

The sun and sea air welcomed us on day two, as we arrived on the West Coast at les Sables d’Olonne. There was once again plenty of time for a stroll along the sea front ahead of drinks in the bar and dinner. From the coast it was a delightful run under beautiful sunshine into Angouleme. We arrived at our central hotel and parked the cars up in their dedicated spaces for the weekend. Thanks to our early arrival we set out on foot to give our customers (all first timers in Angouleme) a walking tour of the city. With bearings well and truly worked out the group took up position in a central bar to soak up the special atmosphere.

Tour managers Thomas and Richard, both long running supporters of the event found this edition to be the best yet. Commenting that the atmosphere was better than ever with real care and attention paid to the additional anniversary features; from the Exhibition in the Angoulême museum detailing the history of the Circuit des Remparts, through to the images of the drivers that have competed at the event over the year, displayed in the streets.

The International rally was a highlight for many of our guests. They were blown away by the crowds that come out to cheer the participants on as they drove their classics through the Charentais countryside.

On Sunday the paddock came alive as the racers and mechanics prepared themselves and their cars for action. Each grid head out onto the circuit during the morning to set their qualifying times and grid position for their race in the afternoon. The GT category saw Mini’s, Mini Marcos, Alfa Giulia’s and E-Types to name but a few. In the Vintage classes there were numerous Austin 7 specials, Frazer Nash and of course a whole grid of Grand Prix Bugatti’s. The Edwardian cars we something else, dating back to 1902, these thundering beasts looked right at home on the historic street circuit. Last but not least the sight and sound of the 700 brake horsepower Corvette will live with us for some time!

There is no event like the Circuit des Remparts, it has to be seen to be believed and without doubt one to tick off your list of events to attend. See you there in 2020. https://traveldestinations.co.uk/motorsport-events/circuit-des-remparts-angouleme-tour/