Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours

Magny-Cours, France | C.1960

Photo Credit: Sébastien Cordat

With its winding asphalt ribbons cutting through flourishing French fields, this timeless racing circuit’s story begins 238 miles away: in Reims.

Observing a race through the old roads of the Champagne region’s capital city in 1954, Jean Bernigaud, a mayor of the small town of Magny-Cours, was inspired to bring racing to rural France. While finding that running a Grand Prix through his village was not feasible, the young politician was determined to make his mark on the racing map. Building a small track with seven turns amongst fields outside of Magny-Cours, Berniguad’s dream would be realized in 1960 with its inaugural Karting race. Noticing the growing popularity of motorsports in France, Bernigaud went ahead and built a motorcycle racing track on the land as well – cementing the course’s long history with racing on both two and four wheels.

Though Bernigaud passed away in 1971, his course continued to grow and transform, and in 1989 it would host its first-ever Formula One French Grand Prix race. The premier international racing class, Formula One included the track at Magny-Cours until 2008. While noted as an “uneventful” track due to its turns making overtaking racing positions quite difficult, it was popular with at least one international racing superstar. The French circuit became a favorite spot of famed driver Michael Schumacher, due to being victorious on the track over eight times (the most in his career).

Today, the historic circuit has traded competitive ventures for the “classics.” At the end of April, spectators from all over France huddle in the stands to watch “Classic Days” at the course, where over 2,000 vehicles of various shapes and sizes rumble around the old track. Celebrating various eras of automobiles and racing cars, it’s of a more leisurely fare compared to the days of Formula One. However, it’s a parade of colors and cars that Jean Bernigaud would surely be proud of.

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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