This track was built in 1969, financed by Paul Ricard, the drinks magnate, who lived nearby. The circuit is located around 10 km north of the village of Le Castellet and had facilities which were years ahead of its time.
The track was dominated by the mile-long Mistral Straight which was followed by the flat-out Signes corner. Frenchman Patrick Tambay recorded a speed of 225 MPH down the Mistral in 1983, at the wheel of a Ferrari turbo. Despite the frightening speed, for many years this track was considered to be the safest motor racing facility in the world.
Paul Ricard held its first French Grand Prix in 1971, a race dominated by Jackie Stewart. The 1980s resulted in two popular French wins, Arnoux triumphing in 1982 and Prost the following year, both in Renaults. The track was the home of a Winfield Racing School which produced some of the best French drivers of the time, including Tambay, Pironi, and Prost.
The tragic death of Elio De Angelis in 1986 provided an excuse to move the French Grand Prix to Magny Cours, a decision which had much to do with French provincial politics and little to do with safety. Following De Angelis' death, the circuit length was cut down considerably, with additional turns added to reduce speeds.
Last used for F1 in 1990, the track was sold in May 1999 to Bernie Ecclestone following Paul Ricard's death. The circuit has since been completely rebuilt and is currently being used as an F1 test track. The track also hosts the international "Bol d'Or" motorcycle race.