Automotive racing has a long history in many countries, but France was the first to hold a Grand Prix race. The small town of Pau hosted the event in 1901 on the short 1.7 mile course that runs through the town. The town is about 50km from the Spanish border and is known as a resort area set among beautiful rolling hills. It took them until 1933 to set up an annual Grand Prix race for the town, but ever since then its people have been enamored with racing.
This past weekend saw a change for this town and its racing heritage. Instead of roaring loud Formula 3 cars tearing up the race track, 12 drivers took electric race cars out for this new event. It must have been an odd sight considering that these petrol heads are used to the sounds associated with Formula racing and thrive upon the excitement, but this sleepy little French town was hardly even disturbed by the low hum emitted from these new race cars.
Full story after the jump.
One spectator described the race as, “Its pleasant – and odd, It lacks the charm of F3.” These sentiments were echoed by die hard racing fans around town, but heads of the electric racing companies found some hope among the clamor as well. Exagon Engineering is part of one of the racing teams that came to the event and Luc Marchetti of the team said, “You need to give it time to develop but I think we’re giving things a helping hand with the car races.” Many other innovators in the electric car field feel the same way and are hopeful that one day these electric race machines will be the dominant style of racing.
The racing history in the town is undeniable and interestingly enough the first Grand Prix race held there was actually part of a much larger event. The event held in 1901 was named Circuit du Sud-Ouest and it featured three different classes of cars. The name Grand Prix came from the different prizes awarded to winners of the respective classes. Hence the prize, Grand Prix du Pau was actually only awarded to the fastest driver in the “Heavy” class of cars. The race course is formed around the center of the city and multiple roads are closed off to from a large circuit.
Throughout history the course has changed very little and remains very similar to the Monaco Grand Prix races due to the geographical similarities.
Since 1933 onward the race has been called the French Grand Prix and the driver with the most wins at this track is none other than Michael Schumacher with 8 victories. Of the twelve racers in this year’s inaugural electric grand prix, several are famous for other things. Fabien Barthez is the goalkeeper from the legendary team that brought France the World Cup Championship in 1998. Another notable entry was Nicola Prost, son of Formula 1 Champion driver Alain Prost. These famous drivers were out sported by a local to the area by the name of Mike Parisy who ended up taking the checkered flag in front of home town fans.