A Brief History of Charade

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by Franck Rive

In 1954, The "Association Sportive de l'Automobile Club d'Auvergne" (ASACA), based in Clermont-Ferrand and headed by Jean Auchataire (who died in 2002), decided to create a street circuit in the city, with first race scheduled for July 1955

The proposed street circuit in Clermont-Ferrand
The proposed street circuit in Clermont-Ferrand

However, following the Le Mans disaster of 1955, all the french car meetings were canceled, including Clermont-Ferrand. The following year, The French Federation asked Jean Auchataire to create a mountain track, a "french Nürburgring". The famous driver Louis Rosier assisted Auchataire in finding a possible track close to the famous Puy de Dome mountain, located around two extinct volcanoes; the Puy de Charade and the Puy de Grave Noire (“small black stones”). The circuit also passed through the hamlet of Charade (means "riddle" in French)

The track suggested by Louis Rosier
The track suggested by Louis Rosier

But it was impossible to install the pits and grandstands on this track, so Jean Auchataire planned an extended track using the best parts of Rosier's proposal, but now passing through the villages of Thèdes and Manson.

The extended track planned by Jean Auchataire
The extended track planned by Jean Auchataire

Whilst visiting the area, Raymond "Toto" Roche, the director of the picturesque Reims circuit,commented:

"Forget the idea of passing through the 2 villages of Manson and Thèdes, you will not have the right to race through them. Build a specific road between the Tertre de Thèdes and the village of Charade and you will have a wonderful track."

The track finally adopted with the specific section suggested by Raymond Roche
The track finally adopted with the specially built section as suggested by Raymond Roche

The inaugural meeting of the new 8.055 km long Charade circuit was held in 1958, the first "Trophées d'Auvergne". Innes Ireland won the race with his 1100cc Lotus Eleven. Sadly, Louis Rosier never saw this first race, having died following a crash at Montlhéry in 1956.

The following year in 1959, Stirling Moss contested his first race at Charade. Most impressed, he declared: "I don't know a more wonderful track than Charade". Tragically former Le Mans 24 hour winner Ivor Bueb died following a crash at Gravenoire. He was the only driver to have lost his life at the circuit. Also this year, The French Motorcycle Grand Prix was held at the circuit for the first time and would continue to host this race periodically up until 1974.

In 1965, Charade hosted the French Formula 1 Grand Prix. The race was won by Jim Clark (Lotus Climax), who dominated the event from start to finish. The Grand Prix returned four years later, with the race this time been won by Jackie Stewart's Matra MS 80. When plans to hold the Grand Prix at Albi in 1970 fell through, the race returned for the third time to Charade, with Jochen Rindt (Lotus 72) victorious.

The final Grand Prix was held at Charade in 1972. Jackie Stewart (Tyrell 003).was triumphant once again, with the outright lap record been set during this event by Chris Amon's Matra MS120D at a fabulous 2m 53.9s - 103.614mph / 166.751km/h! Unfortunately, during this race Helmut Marko received a flying stone in one eye which put an end to his racing carreer. These small sharp stones were a great problem of the Charade circuit, falling from the mountain on both side of the track. Drivers who didn't respect the two white lines bordering the track would send stones flying in the middle of the road and over the cars.

In 1980, three marshalls were killed at the left curve after Manson when two cars in the "Coupe de France Renault 5 Elf" crashed at this corner.

The long Charade course was abandonned in 1989 when a new track was developed which was shorter (4.05 km) but safer and easier to control. A nice track but can't be compared with the previous one.

The actual track used since 1989
The actual track used since 1989

 In 2002 a compromise was reached with the local neighbours of the track. Only 7 days of racing are now permitted each year, and new installations have been installed. The entire circuit is now closed to ordinary traffic.


Maps and text  ©Franck RIVE. Reproduced here with kind permission. No unauthourised reproduction is permitted.