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2023 Circuit des Remparts – Angoulême

A weekend of vintage nostalgia in Charente, France

A Bugatti exits the final hairpin in qualifying.
A Bugatti exits the final hairpin in qualifying.

The Charente area of South-Western France is mostly a sleepy, quintessentially French area, a land of gently winding rivers and rolling hills studded with vines, famed for the Cognac associated with the region. At the start of autumn each year, the ancient town of Angoulême reverberates to the sound of historic race cars, which compete around a 1.279km circuit which winds through the historic center of the town.

The sequence of hairpins in the final sector see the cars climb high above the town.
The sequence of hairpins in the final sector see the cars climb high above the town.

51 years of Circuit des Remparts

The Circuit des Remparts was conceived in 1939, where it hosted a race for Grand Prix cars and Formula Two Voiturettes, before the war curtailed any further use until 1947, when the Formula Two Championship incorporated the circuit into the calendar for five years, until 1951, where drivers such as Raymond Sommer, Maurice Trintignant and Juan Manuel Fangio tackled the Charente circuit, in legendary cars such as the BMW 328, Maserati 4CLT and Ferrari 212. Today, the circuit remains unchanged from that used in the period, the only noticeable difference is that armco has replaced the hay bales around the outside of the circuit in parts. It offers an intimidating glimpse into the racing of yesteryear, as large parts of the circuit run along the roadside, where the photographer access is on the pavement, with no protection between the live circuit and yourself. Indeed, the fastest section of the circuit, as the cars pass through Lower Carnot, and onwards to La Ligne Droit, there are often only a handful of inches between these speeding machines and your legs. As a photographer who has visited many race tracks, Angouleme presents you with the most vulnerable and exposed situation of them all.

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