Travel: There’s No Better Place To Watch These Future Classics Race Than At Paul Ricard

There’s No Better Place To Watch These Future Classics Race Than At Paul Ricard

Nat Twiss By Nat Twiss
August 3, 2016
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Photography by Nat Twiss

Imagine this scenario: wake up in your St Tropez home, grab an Ubercopter to Le Castellet airport (yes, those actually exist), and get in your GT3 car…and then race. That’s not only my personal life goal, but for some it’s an achievable reality: right next to the airport is the beautiful Circuit Paul Ricard. With the foothills of the alps in one direction, and the coast not far in the other, I’d say it’s in almost the perfect place. And the actual track isn’t bad, either.

Built in 1969 by the eponymous Paul Ricard, it’s a mix of incredibly high speed sweepers, as well as technical braking zones. Perfect for testing every facet of a race car, and a decent test of driver ability, too. Eventually, that’s what Paul Ricard became known for: testing. Formula 1 tested and raced here from the ’70s to the ’90s, and it was owned by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone for a period. These days, you’ll see an array of GT machinery and motorcycles racing here, as well as more recently, the Paul Ricard 24H.

The first thing you see are the stripes. They’re hard to ignore: as blue as the sky on the inside and outside of the track limits, switching to a deep red on the final layers by the barriers. They’re not just a striking design choice; they’re an abrasive mix of paint and metal, designed to slow down a car if it loses control, but also to penalize a driver who pushes the track limits or runs wide. It’s a clever solution to a problem that’s plaguing a certain series right now. Everyone has different tastes, but as the sun goes down and the stripes begin to glimmer and sparkle, it’s hard to deny that you’re in quite a special place.

These are the scenes I captured of modern GT racing at the circuit during the recent 24 hour race. Have you been to Paul Ricard?

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