Welcome to Who? What? Where? When? Why? on the World Wide Web. Your comments, criticism and suggestions: editors#8w.forix.com (replace # with @).
8W is forix.autosport.com's motorsport history section and covers the drivers, cars, circuits, eras and technology that shaped the face, sounds and smells of motor racing.

Rouen-les-Essarts: France's forgotten treasure remembered
1994-2000 – The desecration of a legend



Back to 90s index page

Following the closure of the track for the final time as a racing circuit in 1993, it went into a sad decline. The grandstands, pits and paddock had all fallen into disrepair before the track’s closure, and now vandals and the elements were left to do their worst on the site.

By 1996, it was agreed that the pits and the grandstand opposite were in a very dangerous state. These were fenced off from the public. However the timekeeper’s tower with its distinctive clock were still in a reasonable state. The permanent part of the track from 1972 had never been a public road, and it too began to fall apart due to its lack of use.

Luc Ghys and Alan Cox have kindly donated the following photos, which give a very good idea of the state of the track and its buildings during this time.

The Automobile Club Normand were now invited to draw up a viable proposal to save whichever buildings or parts of the circuit they wished to keep as a memorial to the great circuit. While the pit buildings and grandstand were too far gone and required demolition, the timekeeper’s box was certainly saveable. However the ACN failed to come up with a plan, and as a result the local authority had to make a decision on what to do. The authority announced that it had no alternative but to implement an agreement dating from 1954 between the State and the French equivalent of the Forestry Commission, which ceded ownership of the site back to that commission. Unfortunately, that decision meant everything had to go.

The lack of will and finance on the part of the ACN, coupled with the local authority’s decision to follow the letter of the law, meant demolition of every landmark was inevitable.

The demolition was carried out in the autumn of 1999. Every last trace of Rouen-les-Essarts grand history was destroyed. All the buildings including the pits, grandstands, paddock and timekeepers box were demolished. All the armco from around the circuit was ripped up. All signs advising of the track’s presence were taken away. Pit-lane itself was demolished. But the most cynical move of all was to rip up all the famous Nouveau Monde cobblestones and replace them with tarmac. The only part of the area that gave a clue to its former use that survived was the chicane at Six Frères. This was kept as a truck-stop or vehicle layby.

By 2000, you would never have known the French Grand Prix had been held on these very roads unless you knew already or had been told. The desecration was complete.

The timekeeper’s box

The second main-straight grandstand

The pits

Nouveau Monde

Nouveau Monde after it was asphalted

The main straight

The first corner

Welcome to Rouen-les-Essarts?

Main straight and pits

View of the pits from the paddock

View from the pit building

Automobile Club de Normand logo


Looking back to Nouveau Monde

The 1972 addition in sorry state

A sad photo – the track map which once proudly graced the timekeeper’s box wall, now dumped on the ground

View from behind the grandstand to the main straight

Frozen in time: The timekeeper’s clock