RaceDepartment Historic Grand Prix Season 8 Round 6 Welcome back to Round 6 of the RDHGP S8, and Happy New Year to all our drivers. I hope we are all fit and refreshed after the mid season break. Round 5 at Brands Hatch was a fitting way to go into the holiday period, an excellent race on a superb track with pretty much every car having a race long dice. The race reports were all pretty much positive accounts, which is always gratifying. Round 6 moves us to a track which, in some ways, is the reason we are having this season in the first place, and – as you will see later – quite a fitting follow up to Brands Hatch. We first had a Club race at this venue about 2 ½ years ago using the Abarth, Jaguar & Elite, and it was one of those races that you enjoyed so much, it stays in your head long after it’s over. As soon as I got to plan a season with these cars, this track was – literally – the first venue pencilled in on my list. We hop a relatively local 385 miles South Southeast from West Kingsdown to Les Puids, just East of Aubusson, Central France, and the Circuit du Mas du Clos. Circuit Notes Situated between Limoges and Clermont-Ferrand, Les Puids is located in the La Creuse region of France. It was the brainchild and a labour of love for Pierre Bardinon, a local man whose family traces its roots back many generations in the region. The first Mas du Clos layout of 400m was opened in 1963, extended to an intermediate version of 1km in 1965, until in 1967 the final 3.1km layout that we will be racing was completed. The circuit was an immediate favourite, with one French Automotive journal stating “un nouveau Brands Hatch vient de se créer en Creuse” (A new Brands Hatch has just been created in La Creuse). Matra was the first team to test at Le Mas du Clos, followed soon by Ligier, Alpine and Dunlop. Multiple manufacturers racing clubs have Mas du Clos on their annual schedules, and this is a testament to the driver friendly and enduring nature of the circuit. Even Pierre’s overall philosophy about the circuit dovetails with the intent of the RDHGP, and makes it a perfect location for the gentlemen drivers:- “Une oeuvre pour les amis: Rien pour moi n’est plus grand que d’aimer des amis qui partagent votre passion. Des amis qui viennent pour se faire plaisir, pour nous faire plaisir, partager ensemble la même passion sans convoitise, sans jalousie” (A work for friends: Nothing for me is more than loving friends who share your passion. Friends who come for pleasure, to please us, all share the same passion, without envy, or jealousy.) A lap of Mas du Clos starts on the long S/F straight, which heads downhill before, flattens across and then climbs after the S/F line and is still heading uphill as you brake for T1R - Le Pieu. Le Pieu is a long right hand 180, blind until after the apex, where it crests and begins heading downhill. This is a superb corner to start a lap, the fast approach, uphill entry for late braking, blind apex, unsettling crest and downhill exit, allied to the generous width of the racing surface, allows for multiple racing lines and approaches. Trouble lies in wait for the overlate braker in the form of tyre barriers, and for the overeager accelerator on the outside surface of the exit, over the bumpy kerb and onto some slippery grass. Accelerating flatout downhill, T2L – Le Chalet – is barely a turn, more a gentle bend, but it needs to be taken on the correct line, because the high speeds involved will not give you much time to adjust for the next test that you will see rapidly approaching. T3aR & T3bL – Le S du Lac – is a high speed section, that starts to climb gently near the exit of T3bL, and you need to decide early where you want to wear your pain. Do you take T3aR easy and get a good exit to make T3bL easier, or do you carry all your speed from Le Chalet through T3aR, and then have to adjust for T3bL? I suspect that the answer you arrive at will depend on driving style, confidence and vehicle. Exiting S du Lac, you are going uphill on a short straight before you get on the brakes for T4R – La Musee. Almost a mirror of Le Pieu, you approach uphill, crest near the apex and exit downhill, but La Musee is much tighter turn. You can be fairly aggressive on the exit, but whether that is worth it is questionable, as you are pointing straight downhill on a very short section before getting hard on the anchors for T5L – La Meule. You cannot be late braking for the La Meule hairpin, as there is a nasty combination of hard tyre barriers, slippery grass, and track cut warning through the back of the entry. Brake early, wrestle the nose in nice and tight, and accelerate hard uphill on exit once you’ve got all your turning done. The next turn is situated after the rapidly approaching crest, so you will need to know exactly how your car is handling to know whether to brake before or after the crest. It probably will change over the course of the race as your rubber gets worn anyway. Over the crest and we enter the main complex of Mas du Clos, 4 tight corners, the first 3 of which are so close that there is barely any time between them. Certainly no time to get up to any kind of speed, and trying to do so may even slow you down more. T6R – Le Restaurant – is a tight right hander, with a fairly narrow track at this point, and with sand waiting beyond. Once through Le Restaurant, you are immediately upon the tricky T7R – La Piscine. This is an extremely tight hairpin, with the added complication of a very large and flat kerb on the inner radius that people want to drive across, but I will be enforcing the “2 wheels on track at all times” rule around this corner, and supplying some pictorial examples as to what and what isn’t acceptable, so there is no misunderstandings. Out of La Piscine, any dab of accelerator will need an even firmer dab of anchors for T8L – Le Pont. Take a tight line through here, under the bridge, and then, if you’ve got through tight, you have enough time to stamp on the gas. You only get a moment though, as you soon come up to T9R – La Tour. This is a fairly tight, but fairly standard righthander, but again it rewards a tight line and an early acceleration out onto the decent length straight that follows. You will reach a decent pace here, and you will then encounter T10aR + T10bL – Le S du Raccodrement. This is a diving Ess, both parts downhill, and fairly high speed, with a real risk/reward profile. It is a dab of brakes into T10aR, probably dropping into 3rd gear for most cars, and throwing the nose at the inner kerb over the crested entry. Don’t throw it too tight though, as that inner kerb is fairly high, and can unsettle the cars very badly. Negotiating T10aR successfully leaves you with T10bl and the enticing S/F straight laid out below your car, but be careful not to be too overeager on the accelerator, as it’s quite slippery through here, the downhill nature reducing any camber that may be present. Blasting out of T10bL, it’s flat out down the hill, past the pit entry, and across the S/F line for another lap of Le Mas du Clos.