CIRCUITS: DIJON PRENOIS

Name: Dijon Prenois

The Prenois circuit was built in the early 1970s, on an escarpment to the west of Dijon, but overlooking the city. Under the management of Francois Chambelland it became an important facility in the mid 1970s, hosting its first French GP in 1974. The 2.0-mile track was not really up to F1 standards and with an entry of 30 cars the paddock was badly overcrowded. The organizers decided that only 22 cars should start and so eight failed to qualify. Attempts were made by FOCA to get the organizers to restrict the entry and this caused considerable discontent amongst the smaller teams. The race was won by Ronnie Peterson's Lotus.

The following year the track hosted a non-championship Swiss Grand Prix which was won by the Ferrari of Swiss Clay Regazzoni, although Jean-Pierre Jarier led half the race in his Shadow. In the years that followed the track was extended down the hillside with a 500 meter loop to a hairpin and back again and in 1977 the World Championship returned to Dijon and there was a classic battle between in the closing laps between John Watson's Brabham and Mario Andretti's Lotus. This was settled on the last lap as the American sneaked into the lead, crossing the line just ahead of Watson.

Two years later, in 1979, there was another classic race on the day that Jean-Pierre Jabouille won the first turbocharged victory in the history of the World Championship in his Renault. The battle for second place between the Renault of Rene Arnoux and the Ferrari of Gilles Villeneuve provided amazing footage as the pair disputed the second position, banging wheels and switching places all the way to the finish line. Villeneuve won the battle by two-tenths of a second. The race returned again in 1981 and there was another landmark: the first victory for a young man called Alain Prost. In 1982 Dijon held a second Swiss Grand Prix, this time a round of the World Championship and it was won by Keke Rosberg, the Finn's first F1 victory. The French GP stayed at Paul Ricard in 1983 and it was not until 1984 that the World Championship returned and Niki Lauda won for the McLaren-TAG team. By then Formula 1 had outgrown Dijon and although Formula 3000 races continued to be held until 1988, the track was fading although sportscars continued to visit the track on occasion and it remained an important track for the French national racing scene.

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