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The Dijon-Prenois circuit is located in the countryside near Dijon, France. Constructed in the early 1970s, it has hosted races across various motorsport disciplines over its history, including five Formula One French Grand Prix races. While Dijon-Prenois may not host F1 anymore, it remains an important venue in French motorsport.

Spanning 3.8 kilometers in its current configuration, Dijon-Prenois is known for its elevation changes and sweeping corners that promote close, action-packed racing. It continues to host historic racing events like the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or as well as national championships.

Dijon-Prenois Circuit History

The Dijon-Prenois circuit was the idea of former rugby player and wrestler François Chambelland, who envisioned it as part of a plan to establish Dijon as an automotive hub. Choosing a wooded site in Prenois west of Dijon, Chambelland began formulating plans in 1967 and secured advice from racers Jean-Pierre Beltoise and François Cevert along with journalist José Rosinski on the layout.

Construction started in December 1969 on a challenging circuit routed through the surrounding hills. Despite funding issues and no support from the local government, Dijon-Prenois was declared complete in May 1972. The track was opened with former rugby colleague Guy Ligier driving the inaugural lap.

The first major race was a sports prototype event ten days later won by Arturo Merzario. This heralded visits from Formula One in 1974 and the World Sportscar Championship in following years. However, the original 3.3 km layout soon proved too short and congested for F1.

The Circuit Extension

An extension was vital if Dijon-Prenois was to remain viable for top-class racing. Building began in 1976 on a new portion of track leading to a fast hairpin and rejoining the old layout. This increased the lap length to 3.8 km.

Formula One returned in 1977, the French Grand Prix now alternating between Dijon-Prenois and Paul Ricard. Victory went to Mario Andretti’s Lotus after early leader John Watson retired. F1 visited again in 1979 for an iconic duel between Renault’s Rene Arnoux and Ferrari’s Gilles Villeneuve over second place, won by the Canadian as one of the best races in the f1 turbo era.

Further Formula One races followed in 1981 and 1984 before switching permanently to Paul Ricard. However, major sports prototype, touring car and truck events ensured Dijon-Prenois remained busy up until the 1990s. A state-of-the-art kart track opened in 2001 and run-off modifications were made in 2008 to meet newer safety standards.

Recent Times

The refurbished circuit succeeded in attracting the DTM German touring car series for 2009 but the event was not repeated in later years. Finances have proved a recurring issue for Dijon-Prenois.

In more recent times, Dijon-Prenois has concentrated on national French championships, local club races and historic meetings like the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or. International events are now rare at what was once a staple Formula One venue.

The Dijon-Prenois Circuit Layout

Despite its relatively short length, Dijon-Prenois is noted for its challenging layout full of sweeping uphill, downhill and off-camber turns along with unusual elevation changes.

Start/Finish Straight

The start/finish straight runs downhill between the last turn and into the first corner sequence. At just under 900 meters long, it provides a decent overtaking opportunity with the help of a slipstream.

Turn 1, 2 & 3

The downhill start/finish straight feeds into a quick right-left-right combination taken at around 190 km/h. Good traction out of Turn 3 is vital to build speed down the next straight.

Turn 4

This long, sweeping 150 km/h downhill left-hander begins the plunge down into the valley below. It’s intricately linked with Turn 5.

Turn 5

A slightly slower and trickier downhill right taken around 130 km/h feeds drivers into the tightest and slowest turn on the circuit.

Turn 6 Hairpin

The plunging track reaches the bottom here at a second gear 40 km/h hairpin before rapidly starting the climb back up the hillside.

Turn 7

Another critical complex begins here, an 80 km/h uphill right leading onto the winding back straight.

Turn 8

The fast, tricky uphill left is taken flat-out at over 220 km/h if conditions allow, placing huge lateral loads on cars and drivers as the corner winds back through nearly 180 degrees.

Turn 9

A lighter touch on the brakes is needed for this 120 km/h right-hand kink cresting the hill and feeding into Turn 10.

Turn 10

After the rise comes a sweeping plunge into this deceptive downhill left turn, winding past the old circuit to join the extension at over 180 km/h.

Turn 11

The fast downhill run funnels cars into a heavy braking zone for the Turn 11 and 12 pair.

Turn 12

The slowest corner on the extension is a tricky 65 km/h slightly banked hairpin leading back onto the winding start/finish straight.

Driving at Dijon-Prenois Circuit

Dijon-Prenois is a challenging track for drivers, especially the plunging downhill Turn 4 and 5 sequence. But the winding, 180-degree Turn 8 along with the extension hairpin are also both demanding corners requiring skill and bravery to take quickly.

The varied nature of the circuit places complex demands on setting up cars. Gaining maximum speed down the straights while maintaining stability under heavy braking and lateral loads makes finding an ideal balance difficult.

The sweeping downhill corners loaded with lateral G-forces contrast sharply with the tight hairpins requiring good traction. Teams must consider running higher downforce levels to allow quicker cornering or opt for lower levels to gain top speed.

Driver’s View

From a driver’s view, the characteristics of Dijon-Prenois promote close and spectacular racing but allow few mistakes. The downhill plunge into Turn 5 and rapid ascent from Turn 7 mean any errors are punished harshly.

But drivers who can harness the sweeping rhythm of the circuit to run inches from the armco barrier while braking late and powering early are rewarded. The stats show races at Dijon tend to have high attrition rates due to the fine margins involved.

Mastering the constantly changing cambers through the ever-winding corners is also critical to finding those precious tenths of a second.


The difficulty adjusting to the contrasting sequences of Dijon-Prenois increases physical and mental demands on drivers. Constant direction and elevation shifts require total focus and coordination.

Coping with lateral loads exceeding 5G through Turn 8 taxes necks and bodies. The rough track surface encountered in places like Turn 1 also intensifies vibrations and jolting.

Finding reference points around the windy track lined by trees and barriers is another challenge for drivers. And changing weather frequently causes grip levels to alter.

Major Dijon-Prenois Events

Although most top-class international racing has now moved away, Dijon-Prenois hosted many prestigious motorsport series during its history, especially from the 1970s to 1990s.

Formula One

Dijon first welcomed Formula One in 1974, the fast sweeps and varied cambers suiting the nimble F1 cars of that era well. But traffic issues on the short original layout prompted modifications.

After the ’76 extension, F1 returned for five bumpy French Grand Prix weekends up until 1984 that were often processional but sometimes explosive, like in ’79 when Arnoux and Villeneuve duelled wheel-to-wheel for second place, banging bodywork in the fight.

World Sportscars

The World Sportscar Championship first raced at Dijon in 1973 as interest from teams like Matra and Alfa Romeo ensured strong grids throughout much of the Group 5 and 6 eras. Frequently tragic high-speed crashes marred many events though.

The 1000 km format returned once more in 1989-90 featuring thrilling Group C prototypes battling on the limit around the wooded course and challenging new Parabolique corner.

Touring & Truck Racing

As well as the 1987 European Touring Car event won by Roberto Ravaglia’s BMW M3 and the 2009 visit of the DTM series for an action-packed sprint race, Dijon also hosted truck racing.

The European Truck Grand Prix took place eight times at Dijon between 1996-2001, huge 32-ton rigs hurtling around the 3-kilometer track creating an incongruous but popular spectacle.

Racing at Dijon-Prenois Today

While top-level racing may have largely deserted Dijon-Prenois, the circuit still sees plenty of national and local competition take place.

FFSA Championships

As well as the FFSA GT Championship for exotic GT3 and GT4 supercars, Dijon also hosts the light, winged Formula 4 single-seaters of the French F4 series at several points each year.

There is wheel-to-wheel touring car racing too in the form of the Ultimate Cup Series production machines along with the hot hatchbacks of the Renault Clio Cup France.

Historic Motorsport

The scenic Dijon-Prenois circuit provides a spectacular backdrop for historic races like the annual Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or event each June.

Everything from vintage pre-war Bugattis through iconic Group C sports prototypes to classic Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft (DRM) touring cars take to the track to demonstrate past racing eras.

Track Days & Testing

Track days allow amateur drivers to experience Dijon’s dips and climbs for themselves. The challenging layout lets them test their abilities while classes split cars by performance.

Official test days are also held for various championships, the (mostly) quiet country venue appreciated as an ideal testing ground away from the intensity of race weekends.

Dijon-Prenois Facts & Statistics

  • Dijon-Prenois spans 3.801 kilometers in its current Grand Prix Circuit form used for most major races.
  • The fastest ever F1 pole lap came in 1982 when Patrick Tambay lapped in 1:02.200 for Renault.
  • The outright lap record is 1:01.380 set by Alain Prost testing a Formula One Renault RE30 in 1982.
  • Gérard Larrousse and Henri Pescarolo won the inaugural World Sportscar Championship race at Dijon in 1973.
  • Alain Prost took victory in the 1981 and 1984 French F1 Grand Prix at Dijon-Prenois.
  • The circuit’s elevation changes 29 metres from its highest to lowest points.

Getting to Dijon-Prenois

Dijon-Prenois enjoys decent transport links being just a short drive from Dijon city centre. The nearby A38 and A31 motorways connect well for those driving.

By Car

Travelling from the centre of Dijon, head northwest along Boulevard de l’Université then Avenue Jean Bertin following signs for Prenois industrial estate. The journey takes approximately 15 minutes with parking at the circuit.

By Train

Frequent TER local trains run from Dijon city station out to neighbouring Bretenière station in just 9 minutes. From there a Kéolis bus service completes the last 3 km to the circuit entrance.

Where to Stay

A good option for those without transport is to stay in one of the many hotels close to Dijon’s main train station, most within easy walking distance. Choices range from budget chains like Ibis up to more upscale independent hotels.

Final Lap

Although Dijon-Prenois may lack the global prestige it once held, the scenic circuit nestled in the Burgundy hills remains an important and challenging fixture on the French motorsport calendar.

And with such names as Prost, Villeneuve and Tambay etched into its history along with memorable Formula One moments like the 1979 battle, Dijon-Prenois deserves recognition as much more than just a national-level track.

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