Pau Grand Prix

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Pau Grand Prix
Circuit de Pau-Ville
Carte circuit de Pau.png
Race information
Number of times held 71
First held 1933
Most wins (drivers) United Kingdom Jim Clark (4)
Most wins (constructors) Italy Dallara (12)
Circuit length 2.760 km (1.714 mi)
Race length 91.1 km (56.562 mi)
Laps 33
Last race (2017)
Pole position
Fastest lap
Pau Circuit
Carte circuit de Pau.png
Location Pau, France
Time zone GMT +1 (DST: +2)
Major events Formula Two, F3 Euroseries, WTCC
Length 2.769 km (1.721 mi)
Turns 15
Lap record 1:08.60[1] (Italy Andrea Montermini, Forti Corse Reynard-Cosworth, 1992, Formula 3000)
Brazilian driver Átila Abreu drives the picturesque Pau Circuit in 2005

The Pau Grand Prix (French: Grand Prix de Pau) is a motor race held in Pau, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department of southwestern France. The French Grand Prix was held at Pau in 1930, leading to the annual Pau Grand Prix being inaugurated in 1933. It was not run during World War II.

The race takes place around the centre of the city, where public roads are closed to form a street circuit, and its 68 runnings have variously conformed to the rules of Grand Prix racing and Formula One, Formula Two and Formula 3000, Formula Three, Formula Libre, sports car racing, and touring car racing.


The race is run around the street circuit "Circuit de Pau-Ville" laid out round the French town, and is in many ways similar to the more famous Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. About 20 km to the west of the city, there is a 3 km long club track named Circuit Pau-Arnos.

The race cars are set up with greater suspension travel than is typically utilised at a purpose-built racing circuit to minimise the effect of running on the typical undulating tarmac of the street circuit.[2]


Circuit du Sud-Ouest 1900[edit]

In 1900, the newly created Automobile-club du Béarn held a race on a 300 km road circuit, called the Circuit du sud-ouest (Pau–Tarbes–Bayonne–Pau), the name of this race was the same as the circuit. It was won by René de Knyff.

Grand Prix du Sud-Ouest 1901[edit]

In 1901, the Automobile-club du Béarn held the same race on the same circuit but not with the same title, the race name changed from Circuit du Sud-Ouest to Grand Prix du Sud-Ouest and this was the first event ever to be called Grand Prix in motor racing; it was the ancestor of the Pau Grand Prix. Some anglophone sources wrongly list a race called the 'Pau Grand Prix' in 1901. This may stem from a mistranslation of the contemporary French sources such as the magazine La France Auto of March 1901.[3]

The Grand Prix du Sud-Ouest comprised four prizes for the different classes of entrants:[n 1]

La France Automobile, March 1901 reports the results for the 'Semaine de Pau'. There were two discrete events: the 140 km Course des touristes (Pau–Peyrehorade–Pau), and the second edition of the Grand Prix du Sud-Ouest on 17 February 1901 around the same 300 km road course as in 1900.

The Course des touristes, one of this meeting's support races, comprised six prizes for the different classes of entrants. The Prix de la Presse was won by Barbereau (De Dietrich); the Prix du Commerce Palois was awarded to Henri Farman (Darracq); the Prix des Cercles was awarded to Rudeaux (Darracq); the Prix de l'Automobile Club Béarnais was won by 'Bergeon' (De Dietrich); the Prix de l'Automobile Club de France was awarded to Demeester (Gladiator) and Edmond (Darracq) and the Prix de Palmarium was awarded to Cormier (De Dion).[3]

In L'Histoire de l'Automobile/Paris 1907 Pierre Souvestre described the 1901 event as "... dans le Circuit du Sud-Ouest, à l'occasion du meeting de Pau... " (" the Circuit du Sud-Ouest, at the meeting in Pau...").[3]

French Grand Prix 1930[edit]

The French Grand Prix was held at Pau in 1930, leading to the Pau Grand Prix being inaugurated in 1933.

Starts of the Grand Prix de Pau[edit]

Map of the Pau circuit in 1933
Nuvolari wins 1935 Pau Grand Prix

In 1933, the Grand Prix de Pau was held in the snow (February) on a circuit in the streets of the city, the race was won by Marcel Lehoux driving a Bugatti.

There was no Grand Prix in 1934, and in 1935 the event returned with a modified route that bypassed Beaumont Park – the route that is still in use today – and the location of the pits are moved. In 1937, the regulations were changed and Grand Prix cars were restricted to 4500 cc. In 1938, the Pau Grand Prix was the scene of a symbolic duel between French René Dreyfus (Delahaye) and the German Rudolf Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz). In 1939, another duel took place between two Mercedes teammates, Hermann Lang and Manfred von Brauchitsch; Lang won the race.

The race took place regularly with a race almost every year, except during World War II, with a return to the calendar in 1947. The 1947 and 1948 editions were successful because they kept the public in suspense from start to finish. In 1948, the young Nello Pagani won, defeating many of the famous drivers of the time, such as Raymond Sommer, Philippe Etancelin and Jean-Pierre Wimille.

1950s and early 1960s[edit]

In 1949, Juan Manuel Fangio won by dominating the Grand Prix de Pau. As in the previous year he started in pole position, achieved the fastest lap and gained victory in 1950, same year that saw the creation of the FIA World Championship of Drivers which did not include Pau in the championship calendar. In 1950, in addition to the Formula One championship races, there were also Formula Two and non-championship Formula One events.

The French Jean Behra won in 1954, before a record crowd, driving a Simca-Gordini. His win was a result of a duel with Ferrari driver Maurice Trintignant while many French manufacturers were no longer present at the GP. During this decade, many Italian manufacturers such as Ferrari, Maserati or Scuderia Lancia raced both in Formula One and Formula Two categories.

On 11 April 1955, the Italian Mario Alborghetti died in a racing accident, the Maserati driver apparently mistook the pedals after being distracted and crashed against some hay bales which proved fatal; his death was announced to spectators after the race.

The 1956 edition was cancelled following the tragic accident of 1955 Le Mans disaster. Safety arrangements were made for the 1957 edition, due to the increased power and speed of vehicles – both in terms of the safety of the event and the comfort of competitors and spectators.[5]

After being run to Formula Two regulations in 1958–1960, limiting the capacity to 1500 cm3 Formula One in 1961 allowed the Grand Prix de Pau back in the spotlight ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix. In early 1960s, the event was won by such famous drivers as Jack Brabham, Maurice Trintignant, and Jim Clark (who achieved his first victory in a Formula One car in Pau Grand Prix in 1961, and went on to win the Pau Grand Prix three more times in 1963–1965).

Formula Two period (1964–1984)[edit]

Jacques Laffite in F1 roadshow in Pau (1982)

In 1964, after switching the format of the Grand Prix again from Formula One to Formula Two, Jim Clark won the Grand Prix for the second consecutive time before repeating in for the third time in a row the following year. In 1967, drivers like Jean-Pierre Beltoise or Henri Pescarolo made their debut at Pau, in the year Jochen Rindt won his first Grand Prix de Pau before winning it again twice in 1969 and 1970. In 1968, Jackie Stewart won with Matra Sports.

During this period, several former and future world champions raced in the event: Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme, and Emerson Fittipaldi. There also appeared young French drivers like Johnny Servoz-Gavin, Henri Pescarolo, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Patrick Depailler, François Cevert, as well as foreign pilots such as Reine Wisell and Peter Gethin, who won the Grand Prix in 1971 and 1972 respectively.

In 1973, as the Pau race was threatened by problems of homologation of the circuit, it was immediately brought up to standard by the personal intervention of the mayor André Labarrère (who was in office since 1971), and François Cevert won that year.

Drivers such as Jacques Laffite, Patrick Depailler and René Arnoux won in Pau, as many F1 drivers at the time continued to race in Formula Two on this occasion, just to compete in the Grand Prix which had a solid reputation. In 1980, the 40th edition of the Grand Prix was won by the French Richard Dallest. At that time, the Formula Two was neglected by the media in favour of Formula One.[citation needed]

Formula 3000 (1985–1998)[edit]

In 1985, Formula 3000 replaced Formula Two as the "second-division" formula below Formula One and the Grand Prix de Pau continued to be part of the European championship. That same year, Alain Prost became co-organiser of the race.[6]

In 1987, a small tornado in the paddock fell on stands facilities and a tree fell in the middle of the paddock.[citation needed] In 1989, Jean Alesi took his first victory in Formula 3000 after a turbulent start (the starting procedure was executed 4 times because of successive problems on the grid, with a spectacular crash).[citation needed]

In 1994, French driver Nicolas Leboissetier had a spectacular accident at the Virage de la gare ("train station corner"), reviving the climate of tension that followed the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

The Pau-born driver David Dussau participated in the race in 1996. He was well positioned on the grid, but was forced to abandon because of a crash.[citation needed]

Colombian Juan-Pablo Montoya won the race twice, in 1997 and 1998.

The French Supertouring Championship was a support event from 1993 to 2000.

At the end of 1998, it was decided that all Formula 3000 races would be organised exclusively as the curtain-raiser of European-based Formula One Grand Prix,[6] and thus the event in Spa could no longer be run as a Formula 3000 race.

Formula Three (1999–2006)[edit]

Following the disappearance of the Formula 3000 race in Pau, the FIA organised the new European Formula Three Cup in 1999. Formula Three, however, had already come to Pau before as part of the French championship and a support race of F3000. The Grand Prix format also changed completely: the race became shorter (40 minutes instead of 1.5 hours in F3000).

The switch to a more junior formula raised an outcry from the passionate spectators because at that time the European Cup Formula Three was not sufficiently popular in motorsport.[citation needed] The first edition of the European Cup is won by Benoît Tréluyer. This event also included the French Formula Three Championship race, which was a non-championship race.[citation needed]

In 2000, the European Cup is stopped and replaced by the new championship Formula 3 Euro Series, fusion of French and German championships. The Grand Prix became over the years a very important race in the calendar of Formula Three. 2001 the race was won by Anthony Davidson from the pole position, who was driving a Carlin Dallara-Honda. Davidson went on to win the Euro F3 series that year.

The 2005 edition saw the victory of the young Lewis Hamilton, who went on to become a Formula One World Champion three years later.

In 2006, Formula Three was back on the calendar but within the British Championship, and the two races were won by Romain Grosjean who was not a regular competitor in the championship.[citation needed]

The FFSA Silhouettes was a support event from 2001 to 2004, whereas the FFSA GT Championship raced in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005. The British GT Championship visited Pau in 2006 with a few FFSA GT guests.[citation needed]

WTCC (2007–2009)[edit]

Yvan Muller in Seat León at the 2007 Pau Grand Prix

From 2007 to 2009, the discipline changed to touring cars by hosting the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) for the Race of France. F3 Euro Series returned to support the WTCC during the 2008 edition which saw the Brazilian driver Augusto Farfus (WTCC) involved in a crash in the Foch Chicane.

In 2009, after a number of incidents on the opening lap of the second race, the decision was made to deploy the safety car. However, the 'SC' boards informing the drivers of a safety car period had only just been displayed when the safety car driver drove onto the track without being given the order to do so. Franz Engstler, leading the race at the time, was in the process of slowing down when he came around the first corner and had a heavy collision with the safety car which was nearly stopped in the middle of the track. The FIA sanctioned the officials in charge of the safety car at the event.[7]

The 2009 edition featured the Formula Renault 2.0 West European Cup; the French Formula Renault had last raced at Pau in 2006.

Following a decision taken by the municipality for financial reasons, the Grand Prix was suspended in 2010, and the WTCC was no longer a participant going forward.

Return of Formula Three (2011–2012)[edit]

The event was revived in 2011 with the return of Formula Three with the International Trophy as the main event. However, the event was shorter than in previous years and only had fifteen drivers on the entry list, causing crowds to be small. In addition, the only French driver, Tom Dillmann, retired on the fourth lap of the race, which was won by the German Marco Wittmann.[8]

One of the most important support races of the weekend was the first electric Grand Prix, run with Andros Trophy cars with full electric drivetrains. The category included mostly French drivers as Soheil Ayari, Franck Lagorce and Olivier Panis. Also, the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps first visited Pau.

In 2012, the organisers announced that in addition to the International Trophy there would also be a meeting of the British Formula Three Championship round. But on March 9, 2012, the World Motor Sport Council of the FIA announced that it would be part of a new FIA Formula 3 European Championship, revived from the previous series which ended in 1984. The Italian Raffaele Marciello won the Grand Prix after dominating qualifying and the race sprint. This victory made him one of the youngest winners of the Pau Grand Prix at only 18 years of age. There were no French drivers in the event

The Porsche Carrera Cup France was also added to the program for 2012 and one of the drivers was Sébastien Loeb and his team Sébastien Loeb Racing. The Alsatian dominated all meetings of the weekend and impressed when he won both races with leads of over ten seconds.

At the second Grand Prix de Pau electric, the two races were won by the same winners as last year, but in reverse order; the first race was won by Adrien Tambay, the second by Mike Parisy. The participants included the Canadian driver Marc-Antoine Camirand (from Quebec) who, with his car in the colours of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, was present to pay tribute to the Formula One driver Gilles Villeneuve and to bring the electric GP to Trois-Rivières.

The 2012 edition received between 22,000 and 23,000 spectators, 10 to 15% more than in 2011.

Formula Renault 2.0 Pau Trophy (2013)[edit]

The 2013 edition took place on 18, 19 and 20 May at the Whit Monday (holiday, historical tradition of Pau Grand Prix). The headliner should have been the British Formula Three Championship, but this series, with a lot of concurrence with the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, was forced to reduce its calendar to 4 events and cancel many rounds including Pau. It would therefore take place within a non-championship "special" race from Formula Renault 2.0 open to several European championships teams and drivers: the Formula Renault 2.0 Pau Trophy.

At end of January 2013, the organisers announced that Sébastien Loeb and Jacques Villeneuve will be present in Pau in the Mitjet 2L category.

Return of European Formula Three (2014–present)[edit]

Since 2014, the Pau Grand Prix is headlined by the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. The Formula Renault 2.0 Alps also returned to Pau in 2014. The GT4 European Series joined the event in 2016.

Support Races[edit]


Historic Grand Prix[edit]

2012 Historic Races, view from the grandstand

Since 2001, historical cars races are held one week before or after the "modern" Grand Prix. The plateau consists, among others, former Formula One in the 1960s.

Notable racing Grand Prix Historique de Pau since 2001:



  1. ^ By the turn of the 20th century the term Grand Prix had become common parlance in France, having been used since the Grand Prix de Paris horse race in 1886 (e.g. the Grand Prix de Paris for Cyclists in 1895) (New York Times, July 18, 1895, Grand Prix de Paris for Cyclists). Thus in the Anglophone world the main winner's prize (Grand Prix de Pau) subsequently became synonymous with the event.(Leif Snellman (2002-05-27). "The first Grand Prix". 8W. FORIX. Retrieved 2011-01-28. )


  1. ^ Le palmarès du Grand Prix de Pau –
  2. ^ "Track Reveal #4:Pau". n.d. Retrieved 2009-03-29. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Autosport, The Nostalgia Forum, Robert Dick quoting (translating) from La France Automobile (March 1901), and from L'Histoire de l'Automobile by Pierre Souvestre (published in Paris in 1907)". 2003-09-06. Retrieved 2017-03-10. 
  4. ^ Etzrodt, Hans (2013-06-09). "Grand Prix Winners 1895–1949: Part 1 (1895–1916)". Retrieved 2017-03-10. 
  5. ^ "La domination italienne en grand prix: 1947–1959" [Italian domination in the Grand Prix: 1947–1959]. Archived from the original on 2009-03-04. Retrieved 2017-03-10. 
  6. ^ a b [F3000 Generation: 1985–1998]
  7. ^ "Safety car shouldn't have been on track | WTCC News | May 2009". Crash.Net. 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  8. ^ "F3 : 2011 Pau – Marco Wittmann wins FIA Formula 3 International Trophy race". FOSA cc. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°17′33″N 000°21′47″W / 43.29250°N 0.36306°W / 43.29250; -0.36306