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French Racing Passions Past and Present Live on Outside Paris

by Sam Jemielity

The Autodrome de Monthléry, located outside of Paris, has seen better days. The huge concrete bowl in the town of Montlhéry, about 20 miles south of Paris, was one of the first purpose built circuits when construction finished in 1924. Over the decades, the course had several high speed fatalities, and the track was last certified for racing in 2001.

But it still sits, gathering dust, waiting for the team at Carfection to put a new Maserati Quattroporte through its paces on the incredibly high-banked track. At its most extreme, the slope reaches 51 degrees, so a car needs to be going at least 90 miles per hour to stick at the top. To put things in perspective – the famously daunting banks at the Daytona Speedway are 31 degrees.

They also unearthed some classic archival black-and-white footage from the Autodrome’s heyday. Right before the start of World War II, as tensions mounted between France and Nazi Germany, the Autodrome played host to a time trial with a prize of 1 million French francs, pitting France against the German Mercedes. A Frenchman René Dreyfus won in a Delahaye, a French vehicle. Adding insult to injury for the Nazis, Dreyfus was Jewish.

The Autodrome played host to numerous motorcycle races in its day; today, Parisian bikers can race at Circuit Carole. Built near the Charles de Gaulle airport, the track was constructed by the French government to honor a motorcyclist named Carole, killed in a bike accident, and to give motorcycle enthusiasts a safe place to race. Bikers can attend track days at the Circuit, often for free. Vive la racing in France.

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