In central France near the industrial town of Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne region was a circuit called Charade, to many a somewhat miniature French equivalent of the famous Nürburgring in Germany. Using mostly public roads, the circuit was just over eight kilometers long and ran up and down the steep mountain inclines in the area. The longest straight was about 600 meters which gives some idea how sinuous it was. But Charade, also called the Circuit Louis Rosier, was not a tight restrictive track – the fastest lap average speed in the race described here exceeded 90 mph.
In 1965 Jim Clark, seen above with his Lotus 25/33-Climax V8, was at the height of his powers and on June 27th the French Grand Prix was held at Charade for the first time, a change from its long tenure at Reims. Although the circuit was new to several drivers, including Clark, it had the character of one at which Clark would excel, fast with marked elevation changes and 48 corners over its length. After various technical problems in practice, Clark finally led qualifying with his older spare car by a half second from Jackie Stewart’s BRM who was followed by the two Ferraris of John Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini back by another 3/10ths of a second. The Brabhams of Dan Gurney and Denis Hulme were next.
At the start Clark got away first with Bandini behind him who acted as a sort of high speed chicane for the first two laps as others worked their way past him. Clark then stayed where he was, taking it easy on his perhaps questionable car, but he ran straight through to the end with Stewart behind him but 26 seconds back and Surtees with a sick Ferrari third. Of 17 starters only eight were classified as finishers, the last being Bandini as a non-runner having bashed his car and lost a wheel.
Charade was probably even more dangerous than the Nürburgring with trees lining the road and many steep drops. The last F1 race at Charade was in 1972 when concerns over safety became paramount. After a series of fatalities in subsequent years, the original circuit was shortened in 1989, retaining the start/finish area at the top of the circuit but shortening its overall length by half.
Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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