We asked the driving experts at Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro, Gers about motorsport here in France. This is what they had to say.
How has motor racing progressed in France?
Historically, France is a stronghold of world motorsports and still retains a strong influence to this day. For instance, the headquarters of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) is in Paris and its president, Jean Todt, is French. Both the World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series are organized by the ACO (Automobile Club de L’Ouest), and the most prestigious endurance race in the world is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition, the world’s leading organiser of GT races is SRO (Stéphane Ratel Organization). We also have some great drivers in the flagship categories with Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon and Romain Grosjean with the Renault team in F1, Fabio Quartararo and Yohann Zarco in MotoGP and the Tech3 team, also in Moto GP.
However, motorsports suffer a bad reputation in France because of the ecological aspect, even though it’s better than many of our European neighbours. On the contrary, countries like Spain and Great Britain have a real motorsport culture. Although ecological awareness has put the brakes on motorsport popularity it can also be an opportunity for future development. Circuits and motorsports can help with this transition by testing new systems for integration into every vehicle.
Today, French motorsport is more orientated towards a reduction of costs and a reduction in the environmental impact by using less “guzzler” engines…
Racing lines are becoming more eco-friendly for sure.
Do I need to join a club?
As with any sporting activity, joining a club is compulsory when taking a license. The club acts as the link between the license holder and the Federation, advises on the type of license to take and offers many advantages. Here at Nogaro, which is the second largest club in France behind the ACO, these include reduced rates on club days, reductions at the circuit shop and with our partners. Members also receive free entry to all our events organized by the Association Sportive Automobile and Motocycliste Armagnac Bigorre, as well as participation in the club championships.
Do I need a license?
Motorsports are dangerous activities and the license is important to cover yourself and other users in terms of insurance. Then, whether by motorbike or car, there are two main licenses: training and competition. The training license allows license holders to ride on track days. For those wishing to participate in a race, a competition license is required. There are different types of license depending on the level of the races: regional, national, international.
What will I learn on a circuit?
Obviously there is a huge difference between driving on a circuit and driving on the open road. A good circuit course won’t be performance orientated. Instead, vehicle control and safety should be core to the learning experience, whilst drawing a parallel between the advice given on the racing circuit and experiences on the road. Many aspects can be transposed such as the driving position, eye orientation, recognising and understanding trajectories, learning to anticipate, braking techniques and visualising dangers, etc.
Can I drive at Nogaro?
Anyone with their own car or motorbike can drive on the circuit and experience racing lines. As well as riding on club or private days they can also take a driving course.
Apart from being able to drive a vehicle, no specific experience is required for the driving days, which are based on a driver’s level of experience, including beginners on moto days. Auto days are classed by vehicle, such as Sedans, Sport Sedans, Various (prototypes), and Single. Driving and sporting licenses are not compulsory but we do recommend a driving course first to gain familiarity with the track and to receive advice from an instructor.
As the oldest driving school in France, we have a track record in helping drivers to stay safe. Accompanied by experienced instructors and in complete safety, those attending the driving course can choose from a range of vehicles including Clio RS, Megane RS, Single-seater, Caterham and Porsche, each of which will have passed rigorous mechanical and safety checks. Courses for motorbikes can also be arranged.
Anyone over 16 years of age can take part. Depending on the level of experience and expectations, the instructor adapts to help drivers to gain confidence, improve their driving, or to learn to drive on the track, etc.
First published in the Dec 2020 and Jan 2021 issue of The Local Buzz
Images: Circuit Paul Armagnac, Nogaro