Formula One drivers faced a grim choice at the French GP in the Sixties and Seventies: a face full of gravel or a helmet full of vomit. The Clermont-Ferrand track wound around an extinct volcano, with 48 turns in three minutes, or one every four seconds. Even the toughest blokes felt queasy here. So, despite the bits of lava being spat at their heads by cars in front, most ditched their full-face helmets for a pair of goggles and a thin balaclava. Better to be hit by grit than to throw up behind a visor. The risk paid off for some. But others weren’t so lucky, and the track was dropped after Helmut Marko was partially blinded by a flying stone in ‘72. But it wasn’t bulldozed. An abbreviated version is still here (now known as the Circuit de Charade), with the rest now forming a gnarly public road, set deep in the Auvergne Mountains. And I’m here in a car that should handle both.
Words: Dan Read
Photography: Lee Brimble
This feature was originally published in the May 2012 issue of Top Gear magazine