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Circuit de Charade: Bandini at the 1965 French GP

This lovely photograph of Lorenzo Bandini in his Ferrari 158 gives a superb impression of the challenging complexity of the Circuit de Charade public road circuit where the June 27, 1965 French Grand Prix was held. Four times between 1965 and 1972 the French Grand Prix was held at the Charade open road course which is located in the volcanic and steeply mountainous area near Clermont-Ferrand (home of Michelin) in the Auvergne region of central France.

Charade, originally called the Circuit Louis Rosier, was always referred to as a mini-Nürburgring, in those years some 5.1 miles long with numerous blind corners and substantial changes in elevation. The 1965 race, won by Jim Clark in a three year old spare Lotus 25, had Clark, Jackie Stewart and Bandini on the front row. Bandini was helped by having the Ferrari's newer and more powerful 1.5 liter flat 12 in his car, while john Surtees, no doubt courtesy of Ferrari's Italianate team manager Eugenio Dragoni, had to do with the prior V8.

Clark quickly took the lead over Bandini who was then overtaken in a few laps by Stewart, Dan Gurney and Surtees who then passed Gurney. Poor Bandini fell further down the order until he slid into a bank which damaged the rear suspension and eventually caused a wheel to part company with the car.

The original Charade course was lined with stout trees, ditches and steep banks with the added difficulty in many corners of plunging at high speed from bright sunlight into deep shade. It was eventually concluded that it was just too dangerous for F1 cars. In later years Charade was shortened by 50% but still retained its character. Today it is used primarily for historic racing events.

Photograph by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection

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